Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day Forty-Seven: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #75
Year: 1968
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood

If this blog, whether intentionally or not, exists somewhat as an unsolicited promotional tool for the IMDb, then I shouldn't feel too uncomfortable pointing out one particular feature there that has helped me countless times: the FAQs. Whenever a movie blows my mind, I run over to the FAQ section on that film's IMDb page and see what theories exist about that which confuses me. If I decide that the movie was interesting enough to watch again, I take some of these ideas in with me and make up my own mind about it. This probably sounds an awful lot like "cheating," but it soothes my brain. Besides, this blog entry would be the text equivalent of a drooling, blank expression without a little help from the FAQs.

Let's tackle the accessible parts of this movie first, since there is a decent portion of it that can be appreciated without thinking too hard. The first twenty minutes of the film, called "The Dawn of Man," start the ball rolling with some of the best scenes of the movie – and space isn't even involved. The common interpretation is that the apes discover bone tools with the influence of the first monolith to appear. (Note: I won't be tackling the concept of monoliths or what they do in this blog entry. There just isn't time, space, or brain capacity for that here.) My initial interpretation was slightly more subtle, though along the same lines. I felt that the apes weren't discovering the use of tools or weapons so much as they were discovering the concept of violence. Until the first ape murders one of his own, the hostility among the creatures is limited to verbal scuffles. They probably understood violence in some abstract way, but the existence of weapons brought it to the surface and truly gave a vicious streak to early man for the first time in prehistory. The shots in this entire sequence are a brilliant introduction to the movie that proves to only be tangentially related to the rest of it. The entire middle portion of the film depicting the power struggle between our two astronaut protagonists and their supercomputer captain HAL-9000 is also brilliantly scripted and shot, and is easily understood. Other wonderful and perfectly accessible parts of 2001 are the score, which made Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" one of the most widely recognized pieces of classical music among people who don't listen to classical music, and Kubrick's pioneering cinematography in the first feature film ever to use a front projection camera.

The less accessible parts of the movie presumably have plenty to offer as well, and I look forward to future viewings of the film. It should be noted that I had no idea what was happening for the last half hour of this movie. Our protagonist makes his way to Jupiter through the part of space that looks exactly like an acid trip, and then he turns up in a clean white apartment (commonly called a "hotel room" by reviewers, but I'll be damned if I've seen any hotel room that looked like that) with a monolith, where he ages his way to death in a matter of moments and then turns into a fetus and then the movie ends. I seriously re-watched the closing scene three times, then read about it, and am still going to need to watch the movie again to even comment on it. But hey, I love movies like that. I don't want to live in a world where great directors can't occasionally melt our brains. Stanley Kubrick is usually a fairly accessible filmmaker whose films are fantastic but raise few questions. 2001: A Space Odyssey – especially the third act – shows his other side, and I think I like it.

The Good: My favorite part of the movie was "The Dawn of Man," but I've detailed lots of great things about the movie above.

The Bad: I wonder if Kubrick could have gotten his point across with the psychedelic stuff on the way to Jupiter a bit quicker. Desaturated pictures of space are awesome for five minutes, but not ten or fifteen.

The Skinny: #75 sounds great to me.



    I saw this movie for the first time when I was 8 because my dad is an enthusiast. Didn't care about it so much, thought it was weird.

    Saw it again when I was more like, 15, and absolutely loved it despite the fact that I had barely any idea about what it meant.

    Discovered that it is based on a book by Arthur C. Clarke during senior year and read it (it's really short so you have no excuse) and my mind was blown by how well Kubrick actually brings Clarke's ideas to the screen. Problem is, the ideas are intricate enough that to watch the movie won't explain them, obviously.

    Anyway. I completely agree with its placing on the Top 250.

  2. I read that Kubrick and Clarke worked closely together on the book and the movie and that it was actually released a few months after the movie, which is pretty crazy. Both works were true collaborative pieces. I'll snatch up the book though, I've been stocking up on escapist things to read (comics, fantasy, sci-fi) for the school year because who really wants their reprieve from studying to be more nonfiction or even realistic fiction? Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. This is one of my three favorite movies. I'm happy you liked it.
    I would love to get into it, but it would be pointless even attempting to discuss it unless you've seen it twice. There are so many things you catch on repeated viewings.
    I've seen this movie more that 30 times. (5 of those viewings took place in a movie theater downtown that plays this on the bigscreen every summer.) It is truly genius. Not only have I seen this movie more than any other movie, I've never understood it. Just like you said about the FAQ, those are just theories. Never, and I repeat, NEVER see the sequel. It isn't directed by Kubrick and is basically a fan-made sequel that takes one theory and blows it into a two hour movie. And the theory they had was weak anyways. I do suggest reading the book.
    God, such a great movie. I'm going to watch it tonight just because of this blog.

  4. One of the most important and influential movies in the history of cinema. Top 10 movies in many critics and directors lists.
    Genius, mysterious, innovative, visually great, but (I'll take the loser side on this) still about 30mins too long and a bit uneventful for me.
    I truly respect the movie, but it is nowhere near my favorite movies, at least for now.

    2001: A Space Odyssey 7/10