Thursday, August 23, 2012

488. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Running Time: 141 minutes
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, from the story The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clarke
Main Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Douglas Rain (voice), Daniel Richter
Click here to view the trailer


Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave. I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a...fraid. 

If you were to go back and read my introductory post on this blog, way back on September 11, 2009, you would see the following quote: "2001: A Space Odyssey bores me to no end". After watching 507 of the most "must see" movies ever made your opinions and tastes begin to transform and while I'm still not as gaga over this film as some, the above statement is one that I'd like to retract.

To detail the plot of "2001" really won't take much and will probably end up being a confusing mess, but I'll give it the ol' college try and hope for the best. The film opens with the headline "The Dawn of Man", as we focus in on a pack of apes having an altercation with another pack of apes. The first pack of apes is driven away from their watering hole by the intruder apes. The next morning the spurned apes awaken to find that a giant black monolith has appeared before them. They explore it, touching it with their hands like a child would explore a new toy. Later, a particular ape browses through a pile of bones, singling out a particular, club shaped bone and pounding it against the ground, realizing that it can be used as both a tool and a weapon. He later returns to the watering hole and kills the leader of the ape pack that forced them away. Flash forward a million years and all of a sudden we're hurtling through space, on a mission to the moon, as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd (Sylvester) is headed to the moon on a top secret mission. The shuttle that is taking Dr. Floyd to the moon very much resembles an airplane, complete with comfy chairs, in-flight meals and stewardesses. Arriving at the moon, Dr. Floyd and a team of scientists discover a giant black monolith, exactly like the one we saw during the "Dawn of Man" portion. They touch it and a high pitched noise emanates from it, deafening to their ears. Flash forward another eighteen months and we're aboard the Discovery One, bound for Jupiter. The crew is six members strong, including Dave Bowman (Dullea), Frank Poole (Lockwood), three hibernating crew members and HAL 9000, a super intelligent computer system. This is the longest segment of the film, lasting through the intermission. The plot here revolves around the conflict that occurs when HAL makes an error and decides to go rogue, turning on his human crew.


Before I even begin writing, let me say that this article helped me out immensely in understanding this movie better and if, by chance, I mimic the ideas proposed in this piece of writing, I want credit to go to that author.

Before reading that piece, however, I did understand that this film obviously explored the idea of evolution and that really, that was the backdrop for the entire story. Being an outspoken and adamant believer in God, you'd think that a guy like me couldn't find appeal in a film that adamantly harped and supported the ideas of evolution, but it's quite the contrary. I still hold my beliefs dear, but am open minded enough to listen to other ideas, without getting offended by their sheer notion. I found this picture and it's exploration of evolution to be, at times, very interesting and was open to listening and watching the theories unfold.

I'm not a steadfast supporter of "2001: A Space Odyssey" and am still of the opinion that many sequences in the film are more than capable of boring a person to tears. However, this time around I found myself more drawn to the screen, in awe of the images, lost in the story and trying to figure out the mystery. The "Dawn of Man" sequence was amazing and perhaps one of my favorite shots in the movie is the image of that ape pounding the bone against the ground. The entire opening sequence is brilliantly done and is an amazing hook to this movie. We then switch the story that revolves around Heywood R. Floyd and it gets a little slower. Many glory shots are shown, as Kubrick seems to be showing off the futuristic world that he has created, showing how stewardesses navigate around a zero gravity shuttle, showing the shuttle itself and all of it's very intricate features and gadgets. This particular portion doesn't last long, so that's a good thing. Then we get into the HAL story and thankfully this takes up most of the movie. Again, there are just too many glory shots of the actual space shuttle and the details that were crafted by Kubrick, which only help to slow down the pace of the entire film. The whole HAL going rogue story is awesome and I loved every minute of the time that they were actually advancing the story. This portion of the film housed the most relevant moments for me personally, including the quote I cited above, as HAL actually proves that he has feelings...or does he? Is HAL actually afraid of what Dave's rewiring work will do to him or is he merely privy to the knowledge that human beings, for the most part, are sympathetic creatures and hopes to appeal to that side of Dave. That's just one of the questions that "2001: A Space Odyssey" proposes.

Of course, most of the questions come down to that final "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" portion, when Dave finally makes his way to the surface of Jupiter. At first, he approaches a tunnel of colored light, in what resembles a feature length Skittles commercial. We FINALLY get to the payoff of the whole sequence, where Dave finds himself in a room, looking upon himself as an old man, eating a meal. For those of you who have seen the film, you know everything that follows and if you haven't, then you really shouldn't be reading this far anyway, so I'll stop there. I'm of the understanding that this is merely the next step in the evolutionary chain, from ape to man to starchild, with machine possibly being a link in there as well. What I don't get is the whole gazing upon himself as an old man thing. Why was he suddenly an old man? Why did time seem to speed up when Dave entered this room? Did the colored lights tunnel actually take light years to pass through and when Dave finally found his way to the room, on Jupiter, he was old? So many questions, but I think I've got the just of it. Like I said, read that article because it will help you out immensely in understanding whats really going on and I think you'll find that those are the obvious solutions to most of the questions you'll have after watching this very trippy, very deep, very complicated movie.

The bottom line is this: I'm not going to go all film snob and proclaim "2001: A Space Odyssey" my favorite film anytime soon. However, I can now admit that I understand why people like it, I finally get the appeal. If this is your favorite movie, I have no beef with you and while I don't share your opinion, I respect and more importantly, I understand it. The images that "2001" conveys are awesome, in every sense of that word - they will truly inspire awe, leave you gazing at your television, wide eyed and ready to consume more. While I don't share the ideas and theories presented in "2001", I can still listen to them and find interest in them, even if only for entertainment purposes. The story that really appealed to my personal tastes here wasn't necessarily the evolution of man, but rather the evolution of machine and the breakdown of HAL. It was obvious to me that HAL made a genuine error and when he realized that it was an error, couldn't handle it. The scene where HAL kills the hibernating members of the crew is great. In fact, the dialogue in "2001" is few and far between and most of the really gripping scenes are presented without any words. Of course, there are scenes with dialogue that rule too, like the one where Dave commands HAL to "open the pod bay doors!" My biggest beef with the film is its amazing ability to leave you bored, waiting for more of the plot to unfold, trying your best to get past all the glory shots of the ship and waiting for Kubrick to finish visually gloating about the world he's presenting.

EDIT: I just had a thought about the movie that I wanted to add in. The reason that I included the quote from HAL at the beginning of this review is because it was so haunting, yet touching to me to hear a machine begging for it's life. Maybe the HAL's error wasn't genuine and maybe, in fact, he made the error on purpose so that he could get the crew out of the ship and ultimately kill them. It's noted in the film, through a video message, that HAL was the only one who knew the reasons for the mission: to inspect the signs of possible intelligent life on Jupiter. Maybe HAL knew that if the crew made it to Jupiter and found the signs of intelligent life that machine would be passed up on the evolutionary chain. HAL 9000 wanted to be the next link after man and knew that if the crew succeeded, he would be passed up in favor of the starchild.

I'm going to be twirling this film around my head for days to come, so keep your eyes out here for more edits and if I think of anything, I'll certainly come and add them in. 

RATING: 7/10  I can't see it going very far in terms of the TOP 20 list, but never say never. I'm just glad I was finally able to find something positive in this movie. Next up in "Kubrick Week": "A Clockwork Orange".


August 23, 2012  1:32am

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