It’s going to be hard to say anything about this movie that hasn’t already been said. 2001 is a movie that has been examined and explored by everybody from casual viewers to established institutions of science and film and people still argue about what it means. It’s no secret that the technology used to make the film as well as the technology on screen were both light-years ahead of their time. 2001 marked a significant change in the world of sci-fi cinema since, for probably the first time ever, science fiction was taken seriously as a medium of expression far beyond catering to “nerds”. People were now seeing science fiction as a viable form of artistic expression, just as much as a cool way to show what happens in the future. Not only that, but 2001’s version of the future was so startling and real (it was shot on 70 mm to present the highest definition possible on film) that audiences had never seen anything quite so vivid before and thus, the face of cinema was altered indelibly and all without the use of any major actors to help sell the film. That’s quite an accomplishment.
Personally, when I first saw 2001 about 5 years ago, I was a little put off. I thought it was just an overlong experiment that didn’t really work as a film and that it was quite overrated. It wasn’t until years later that I looked back and realized how truly brilliant this film is. The slow pacing, the lack of dialogue, the long, empty shots of space, are all part of the appeal. The vastness of this movie is only indicative of the vastness of our own universe. Despite saying very little, this movie says quite a bit. I think a lot of screen-writers, many of which have a knack for over-writing (I’m looking at you, Christopher Nolan) could learn something from the softly spoken 2001. It’s a movie about human evolution. It speaks volumes about where we’ve been, where we’re going and not only the triumphs we’ve made, but also the mistakes as well. The dastardly HAL 9000 represents man’s often cold, calculated cruelty while the towering monolith represents the strides we’ve made in pushing ahead from Neanderthals to where we are now. Interesting to note too, is that the monolith’s first appearance occurs just prior to a monkey creature deciding to take a bone and beat a rival to death, signalling the dawn of man; not with a towering accomplishment, but with gritty violence. Man was born not of his will to overcome violence, but rather from his capacity for it. It’s always been the main thing separating us from animals and Kubrick shows us our humanistic shortcomings for what they are. It’s not an optimistic film. It’s a realistic film, despite its inaccuracies.
2001 is a film that presented a grander vision, not just of the world, but of film as well. It pushed the boundaries of what film could accomplish and most importantly, it did that while never actually preaching to the audience once. I suppose that’s what makes it so brilliant. When no one is told what to think, then everyone thinks something different. Everybody walks away with a different interpretation. Not just that, but the same person returning to the film several times can develop a unique interpretation on it each time. That’s the mark of a great film; something that’s so unique and personal that everybody has their own view of it. That’s basically the definition of art. Some people will love it. Some people will hate it, but you can be damn well sure that no two people see it exactly the same way. And if you ask me, that’s a pretty cool way to make a movie, and Stanley Kubrick would later employ that style of film-making in well, everything he ever made. Seriously, that’s one of the many reasons why he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, but out of all of his films that I’ve seen, I’d have to say I like 2001: A Space Odyssey the most.
So, what’s left for me to say? Not much, other than the fact that 2001: A Space Odyssey is both entertaining and ground-breaking and well deserving of a spot on just about any favourite films list. It’s complex, but quiet, like that guy that you don’t talk to, because you think he’s weird, but then when you do talk to him you realize he’s actually a pretty cool guy. There was a guy in the training class at my last job like that. His name was Kevin. So yeah, 2001 = awesome. Even though the actual year contained terrorism and kind of sucked. Anyways, stay tuned for more reviews and other nonsense. Keep it locked and loaded.