At the Movies with Alan Gekko: 2001: A Space Odyssey

To be put bluntly, 2001: A Space Odyssey truly is one of the best science-fiction films made to date, if not the very best ever made period. Indeed, Stanley Kubrick was a genius of a film maker and this truly is one of his very best works. Yet, although this film is not seen for what it truly is by a lot of people, and not giving the attention it rightfully deserves by quite a few, it is still considered by a lot of film historians and critics to be one of the best films of all time and I’ll have to agree. I mean back in 1968 no one had done anything like this before, and truth be told no one has since. For starters this truly was a marvel of a special effects breakthrough back then, and seeing how the effects hold up today, it is no wonder as to why. I mean this is a film that still looks absolutely marvelous after forty plus years! Indeed take note you CGI people: THIS is true special effects at work here. Indeed, through the simple use of large miniatures and realistic lighting, Kubrick single handed created some of the best special effects ever put on celluloid, and it is this aspect alone that almost single-handed creates the chilling void that space in 2001 provides although the music and realistic sound effects can be attributed to that as well. Subsequently I can’t also think of another film where you don’t hear anything in space much like it is in real life. Indeed I would argue then that not only is the absence of sound effects in space a positive towards just how true to science that Kubrick wanted this film to be, but he also then ingeniously proceeds to mold into it a tool he can use within the film to help him set a mood of his choosing, and like a lot of Kubrick’s directorial touches it is one that works effortlessly.

Now aside from the magnificent display of ingenious special effects, there are other factors that play a part in establishing the feel and just overall rhythm of the film. This list starts with the soundtrack, all classical, of the film which does a terrific job of complimenting what the eyes are seeing and helps you truly feel the significance of man’s evolution from ape to space traveler to indeed something much greater contained within the film. Also the story, while seemingly simple, is one that when you take a step back and examine it through a different lens, is truly profound. Essentially several mysterious black monoliths are discovered at different stages in mankind’s history on Earth and when they appear they trigger events that change the course of humanity forever, and eventually the discovery of one such monolith ignites a voyage to Jupiter that will see an astronaut named Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) embark on a journey truly unlike any other in the history of mankind.

Now “What are they?” “Where did they come from?” “What do they do?” These are all questions you as an audience member will find yourself asking while watching the singular events in the film’s story develop yet I promise that by the end of the film you will be asked to figure out things for yourself. Indeed while most come away with a small general idea of what took place in the story, each individual should try to decide what it means to them. Yet, in the opinion of this writer, any way one decides to answer these questions the answers I have heard always result in profound solutions. This is because although it’s not left entirely up to interpretation in some aspects 2001: A Space Odyssey is, and the end result is quite chilling, no matter what your personal solution. Now 2001: A Space Odyssey is a long film, and sometimes people will criticize it due to feeling like it’s slowed down even further. To be fair though, I feel like it has to be and it has to do so in order to accurately portray the journey that mankind embarks on within the film. Indeed this film’s story is not a subject that would have fared well in a shorter, faster paced film, so please should you be one of those people out there with a short attention span, do not watch this on TV or on DVD/ Blu-Ray unless you’re willing to sit it through.

Now also in this masterpiece we are treated to one of the most unique remorseless antagonists in the history of cinema: a computer known as the HAL 9000 or simply…. HAL. Indeed never before 2001: A Space Odyssey had a machine held such a chilling screen presence on the big screen, and perhaps with the exception of The Terminator, never has one since. That is because when you hear that flat, deadly calm, and quite monotone voice of HAL a chill just goes down your spine. I say that because, here we finally get to witness something that could either be the perfect companion for a long voyage or something that could kill you and will not hesitate to do so if it feels that it or the mission is in jeopardy, and Douglas Rain’s voice nails that with absolutely chilling yet still fantastic to watch results.

Above all though I think it is imperative dear reader for you to know this: 2001: A Space Odyssey is not something you can just “sit down and see”. Truth be told one has to be ready for this film, or it cannot and will not let itself be understood or even make sense to you. In fact, after having seen it multiple times, I am of the opinion that this film can’t be understood at all, at least not all of it at once. Indeed whereas most Hollywood movies exist just to entertain us 2001: A Space Odyssey is more than that. If anything this film is a thought-provoking journey to the known universe, and then what may, or may not, lie beyond, and a true masterclass in how to make a sci-fi film. At the same time however, this is also a film that deliberately sets out to raise more questions than it ever desired to answer, but despite being designed in such a way to make you question things only to then repeatedly stump you, it will nevertheless also leave you filled with a sense of respect for what you have just seen unfold. This is because the questions that this cinematic achievement poses involving not only our creation, but our ultimate purpose, whether we truly are alone out there, and just the grand scheme of the cosmos in general are all questions that, in addition to being asked by Neil deGrasse Tyson, are also questions I am sure we a human beings have all asked throughout the course of our history on this planet.