January 12, 2007

2001: A Space Odyssey - $10

2001 is a movie about human potential, about how we've evolved. It is a movie that touches on the amazing capabilities and the dangers of our advancements. 2001 is not an action movie and it's certainly not typical science fiction. The legendary Stanley Kubrick directs this unique look into the past and future of the human condition and he does it with immense skill and near perfect execution.

Kubrick gives his audience fair warning that they are in for something different when he opens the movie with the word OVERTURE against a black screen and has you listen to an orchestra warm up for 4 minutes. A fellow fan told me that it's as if he is telling the viewer to sit back and slow down because you're in for a whole new kind of movie experience.

2001 takes you from the dawn of man to what was the distant future in 1968, 2001. Though it's not entirely clear at what stage this movie is actually in 2001 as the year is only mentioned in the title.

At the dawn of man a mysterious monolith appears on earth in an area where some advanced apes live. One of these apes learns to use a tool shortly after the monolith's arrival and a separation from other animals begins for these primates. It is never stated what involvement the monolith plays in this great moment in human history. There is much speculation as to Kubrick's point, possibly that the ape was given an idea by it in some direct way, maybe merely seeing the monolith caused the ape to realize that not all was known to him, prompting him to think in ways he never before had.

Fast forward to the future where humans travel to space with the ease that we go on vacation today, spaceships carry passengers the way a plane transports you today. Gravity is created on the ships and on the spacestations by keeping them revolving. Humans have taken full control of their tools and are doing things never before imagined. In this way, unlike two other space centered stories in the same era, Star Trek (1966) and Star Wars (1977), 2001 takes great pains to make its space travel plausible. It is even rumoured that NASA copied and implemented some of the technology portrayed in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Compared to it's more commercial science fiction counterparts, 2001's imagery is astonishing, the special effects and cinematography are spectacular and even if its slow pace and unique style don't interest you, it is worth watching for the imagery alone.

In the future a discovery has been made on the moon and is being kept under wraps by scientists from the United States. The implications of this find are clearly immense though the object itself is not revealed to the viewer for some time. We follow a team to the moon whose mission is to find out just exactly what this is. In a scene that may be the best I've ever watched, this team slowly approaches the object which was buried under the moon's surface and has been dug up; it is the monolith. An examination of the monolith, paralleling the apes examination of the same, shows that it is sending a signal to Jupiter.

Fast forward further to the future as we follow a mission to Jupiter to follow the signal and learn who or what is receiving it. This mission is being carried out on a state of the art spacecraft, one with a computer guiding all major functions of the ship. This computer has never made an error, it has a name and even seems to have a personality; the computer is HAL. HAL is the first tool created by humans which may be capable of more than them. But HAL makes an error. This causes a conflict between HAL and the scientists on board as they attempt to disconnect some of HAL's functions. HAL kills all of them but one, Dave. Dave manages to regain control of the ship and continue to Jupiter where this movie once again shifts gears dramatically.

While approaching Jupiter Dave finds the monolith. Upon seeing it Dave is hurled through light and colour and comes out in a room where he sees himself as an older man, this older man sees himself as a dying man and this dying man sees the monolith. The movie ends on a shot of a fetal human cocooned in a bubble and floating in space. The next stage of human development?

This movie was well written, well acted, well directed: frankly it was well made in every conceivable way. 2001: A Space Odyssey is considered by many critics to be one of the greatest movies of all time and I must admit that having finally seen it, I agree.

I wholeheartedly put this movie on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $10.


Coutts said...

Good summarization and as far as I can tell, good speculations as to its "meaning". After watching this, you had some thoughts which I had never had, and that is one of the wonderful things about this film, it is always so interesting to talk about afterwards. Even months down the road perhaps.

Jeff Coutts said...

Hey Dave, it gives me great joy to see that you enjoyed this movie so much. I've called this movie my favourite of all time ever since I saw it and nothing has come close in my mind. I especially like your description of the scene on the moon with the monolith. This is definately one of the best scenes ever put on film. I can only think of a few others that come close and they are all from this movie. The scene where Dave finally disconnects HAL, and the final scene and two of my other favourites.

Anyway, I'm so glad you liked this movie! I've scene it many times (twice in the theatre actually) and it only gets better.

Coutts said...

the scene i would add would be the one where the monkey has the "thought". i love it every time.

this last time with Dave I really enjoyed the scene where what's his name has first arrived at the space station and is being questioned about his moon mission by that Russian cosmonaut and those three ladies. it is such a rich back-and-forth.