“Open the pod bay doors please, HAL”

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self portraitI’m afraid procrastination got the better of me again (Damn you, laziness!), which is why this piece is a little late. But it’s also late for another reason; this is probably the hardest article I’ve ever had to write. Why? Well, let me tell you…

2001

Where do I even begin with this film? There’s nothing I can say that will convey how strange, beautiful and affecting this film can be. It’s also the most confusing and ambiguous piece of film I’ve ever seen, but still, I love it. It’s based on a short story by Arthur. C. Clarke called ‘The Sentinel’ and the script was written by Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, the director. You hopefully know of Kubrick, he was, without a doubt, one of the finest directors in cinema. He directed films such as ‘Full Metal Jacket’, ‘The Shining’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ (A satirical black comedy about a nuclear crisis, which very nearly made it onto this list). So you can see from that list that he definitely made an impact on the industry, and created some of the most respected films ever made. However, for me, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is the cream of the crop. It’s an epic, science-fiction masterpiece that Steven Spielberg called his generation’s “big bang”, in terms of its innovative special effects and models.

Because I’m probably going to end up confusing both you and myself by trying to explain the premise of the film, I’m going to borrow this brief summary from IMDB.com-

“Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial, object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.”

HAL9000

Fairly simple and concise, wouldn’t you agree? Now that you know the basic idea behind the film, I’m going to expand on it a little. It’s all about evolution, from man’s earliest days to man’s next step along the evolutionary chain. Along with this main theme the film explores philosophical areas such self-discovery, our place in the universe and the ethics of artificial intelligence (HAL is such a great character, and any fan of ‘Recess’ or ‘The Simpsons’ is bound to recognise him). It also examines physical issues and questions, like mankind’s journey out into the stars, the commercialisation of space travel, the colonisation of the moon, and a whole lot more. This film completely redefined the sci-fi genre, and continues to set the bar for films that fall into the same category (It looks like ‘Interstellar’ is going to attempt to follow in 2001’s footsteps). It is still praised for its attention to detail and scientific realism, which, for a film made in 1968, is incredible. When you watch this beast you’ll see a lot of amazing scientific ideas, but none of them are beyond real-life’s limitations.

Speaking of realism (Did you like that sweet segue?), the models and effects in this film are absolutely incredible. They’re so realistic they put most CGI effects to shame, even those used now! All this is achieved by attention to detail, realistic lighting, and amazing innovation by the artists. If the models of spacecraft and space-stations weren’t enough, the visuals of the galactic landscape and the emptiness of space are some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen in a film, and they too are as realistic as Sci-fi comes. The music is yet another highpoint for the film; Kubrick takes well-known classical pieces and pairs them with the incredible visuals. The scene where a shuttle docks with a space station to the soundtrack of Strauss’ ‘The Blue Danube Waltz’ is mesmerising. When I first saw it I thought that it really shouldn’t work, but it’s a great combination of the future and the past, creating something that’s very unique.

I’ve used the word “beauty” a few times in this short piece, and that’s because, plot and philosophical messages aside, that’s what Kubrick wanted to achieve with this film. He said this during a Playboy magazine interview in 1968, “[I] tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeon-holing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content … just as music does … You’re free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning”. He definitely achieved his goal with this film. The music, the visuals, the search for meaning; they all combine to create a piece of art, and I love it.

Thanks for giving this a read, I know this is probably one of the more stuffy/pretentious pieces I’ve written, but it’s not my fault, I’m an English student. Seriously though, I can’t recommend this film enough. It’s long, it doesn’t have much dialogue in it, and it’s confusing as shit (The best way to appreciate it is to look up the book after you’ve seen it, it explains things a lot more), but it’s still an incredible movie.

-Lewis

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