When it comes to discussing influential movies of all time, I’d call you crazy if you did not mention 2001: A Space Odyssey. This film influenced science fiction of the future, so without this film there would be no Star Wars. This film influenced the style of future directors like Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott, whom are fantastic filmmakers. Not only is the film influential, it’s also a great movie in general. When it was first released in 1968, it was met with mixed reviews. People saw a vision that has not been seen before, and they had no idea what to think of it. I read reports of walkouts at the premiere that occurred and those who remained complained of boredom. The film is deliberately slow-paced, but my interest was held over the duration of the film. I loved the film very much, but there are so many complicated ideas. Your brain is meant to be put to use because of all these abstract ideas. I’ve seen the film three times already, and I’m still not sure if I fully grasped all the concepts of the film. But the bottom line is 2001 is more concerned about inspiring our awe, not thrills.
One of the big reasons why we are supposed to feel a sense of awe is the music itself. You know, originally the film had an original composition by Alex North. Director Stanley Kubrick had a back up soundtrack he used to help him with the editing process. The problem is (in North’s case) the music just worked too damn well with the film to not use it. He used various classical compositions such as The Blue Danube and Also sprach Zarathustra composed by Richard Strauss. The music played a huge role in the film. I feel as if it was used as the main dialogue. There is some dialogue of course, but the music tells the story and pulls the emotional strings. Kubrick’s film has no dialogue the first and final twenty minutes of the film. It is all music, and the placement is right on the money.
It’s hard to describe what this film is actually about. There is no single plot line. Instead, the film and its themes are about the evolution of mankind. There are four main segments to the film. The first part takes place in prehistoric times. A group of apes discovered this shiny black monolith which of course is made by intelligent beings of some kind. Somehow, the monolith convinced the apes were able to discover that bones could be used as weapons. The next section takes place a few millennia later, and this is where we have the famous docking scene played to the tune of The Blue Danube. We are given a sense of realism of the docking because of the deliberately slow pace. After the docking scene, we discover a second monolith which delivers us to the next segment involving the spaceship Discovery and its intelligent mind, HAL. The ship is on a mission of some kind, although we don’t glimpse many details. The final segment is the famous Stargate sequence featuring astronaut Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) as he travels through some wormhole to some unexplained space.
This is one of those rare films where acting does not matter. There are not many actors present after all. Sure, I guess you could call Dullea’s performance good, but he doesn’t seem to matter in the film. The computer system, HAL probably shows the most emotion of anyone in the film. His voice even sounds panicked when he realizes he is about to be unplugged for good. This is one of the early films to use the theme of man versus machine. HAL believes he has good intentions, but at the sake of the astronaut’s lives. He has been holding back information and later on in the minds of the astronauts, he is believed to be the bad guy.
Ah, now lets talk about the spectacle of the film. The visuals are amazing, even today after all these years. We are now in the digital age, where CGI looks consistently impressive (or in some cases, not at all). But the special effects, designed with the help of Douglas Trumbull, look very convincing because the film gives off an aura of being a documentary, and the effects follows suit. They just look very real for the setting they are in. The spaceship itself looks real and I loved the docking sequence. Towards the end, where we witness the vast amount of colors and the Star Child, I was basked in a glow of delight watching the effects come to life.
What I like about all of Kubricks film is that they ask us deep questions. For example, this film concerns mankind and evolution. The film asks us who we are and what is life about. Kubrick never gave in to tell us what the film is about. He opened the film up for interpretation and every idea is a plausible idea, according to Kubrick. We are just not skin and bones, but we are intelligence. We live not on planet Earth, but amongst the stars. These are just some of the ideas Kubrick was trying to convey. There are many themes to get out of the movie, being such an abstract film.
This is Kubrick’s most ambitious and most likely his greatest film he has ever made. I loved his previous film, Dr. Strangelove but he reaches news heights with this film. This is not a narrative story in the common sense so if you’ve never seen this film, just heed my warning. I love how the movie opens up for debate/interpretation and to this day, people debate about the themes and just how influential the movie is. Featuring amazing visuals and musical cues, 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the greatest, most influential movies of all time.
My Grade: A+