Long before Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader battled each other with light sabers in the deep regions of space, a man named Stanley Kubrick created a film titled “2001: A Space Odyssey”, which would go on to influence George Lucas to begin the “Star Wars” saga.
“2001: A Space Odyssey” was released in 1968, a year that saw radical changes erupting across the nation. The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Led Zeppelin performing their first live act, and the famous “Space Race” between the USSR and the United States as to who would be first to reign supreme in space exploration.
Space exploration was still a new phenomenon in 1968, and Kubrick set out to bring it to the big screen. It wouldn’t be until the following year, in 1969, that Apollo 11 would land on the moon.
“2001: A Space Odyssey” is a four act film, with each section labeled and separated appropriately. There is even an intermission after the second act. At 161 minutes long, the film is of epic proportion when compared to the typical 90-minute sci-fi flick.
The film follows Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), and the rest of their cryogenically frozen crew as they travel to Jupiter in their spacecraft “Discovery One”, which houses a super-computer named Hal. The team is gliding through the galaxy towards Jupiter to research a recently uncovered artifact buried on the moon’s surface, the Tycho Magnetic Anomaly One (TMA-1).
While traveling, Bowman and Poole slowly notice Hal becoming reclusive and unresponsive. Which is alarming to Bowman, since Hal is supposed to operate directly as they tell it to. Eventually, Hal turns on the crew, forcing Bowman to do everything he can to shut down the super computer. What follows is a ferocious ride through the depths of space from the perspective of an innocent astronaut being terrorized by the same technology designed to aid him.
Without giving away the end, all I can say is that “2001: A Space Odyssey” only gets more intense as it goes along— which is important to consider, since the film is very lengthy and “slow” by today’s standards. As a matter of fact, the first words of dialogue aren’t spoken until nearly 40 minutes into the film.
The gaps between dialogue is very unique in that it cements us into the mindset of Bowman. Eventually, the only words spoken are those that include Bowman, and we hear his heart beat during suspenseful moments in and around Discovery One.
Even during scenes that have no dialogue, the only noise we hear is either the soundtrack or dead air. This technique is very obscure, but for those patient enough to embrace it, we are forced to understand space for what it truly is; a soundless black pit. There are no leaves blowing in the wind, nor cars passing each other on the streets. There is only the crew, the ship, and the infinite universe.
The special effects of “2001: A Space Odyssey” were unparalleled at the time of its production. There is no debate on that. The film would go on to receive an Academy Award for its fantastic effects.
Kubrick was able to create brilliant special effect backdrops of deep dark space and a realistic Jupiter through the combination of a front projection unit and retroreflective screens. The desired background video would be projected from just right of the main camera and reflect off the very reflective screening to produce a lifelike backdrop behind the action. As we watch Bowman float outside Discovery One, we see stars glimmering behind him, even shooting stars flying across the screen. This technique was far superior to the typical process, which would have been a painted background placed behind the scene.
It is always entertaining to watch a film that was made decades ago that predicts current times. “2001: A Space Odyssey” includes some intriguing predictions as to what the 1968 Kubrick thought the year 2001 would hold. Tablet computers resembling the Apple iPad, video chat, and voice recognition software are only a few of the unbelievable technological predictions Kubrick hit dead on. It makes one wonder if the next step is coffee with colleagues in deep space and phone calls to your mother from Saturn.
“2001: A Space Odyssey” is a difficult film to review, or to explain in a blog format, as its scope and themes are very broad and open to interpretation by the audience. The film centers on issues of deep space exploration, technology and humans role in it, artificial intelligence, and even hints at human evolution.
Kubrick’s masterpiece of science fiction, “2001: A Space Odyssey” is widely recognized to be one of the greatest films of all time. The movie received the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and The United States Library of Congress found it to be so important that is has been preserved in The National Film Registry. Numerous critically acclaimed filmmakers have cited Kubrick to be a major influence in their work, such as Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, and Christopher Nolan.
Even if you don’t fancy science fiction, “2001: A Space Odyssey” is an innovative and groundbreaking film in the history of motion pictures that you simply won’t believe was made over 40 years ago.
Joe Movie rating: 3/5
- One of the most innovative films in cinematic history.
- Will make you feel like you’re really out in the depths of space.
- Unique prediction of life as those in the past saw us to be living in 2001.
- Very long, at 2 hours and 41 minutes.
- Long gaps in dialogue and action require some patience to get through.