Thursday, 24 October 2013

Film Review - 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was directed by famous director, Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick is best known for films like "A Clockwork Orange (1971)" and "The Shining (1980)" Both of which are dark films, though 2001: A Space Odyssey was one of Kubrick's first great hits, and much like A Clockwork Orange is a very artistic film. It is a film that is mainly famous for its incredible visuals, rather than its narrative, as the narrative of the film is arguably, lacking. "2001: A Space Odyssey is an absolutely magnificent film. Though I realize that many find it dull or boring.....It is there to ignite your imagination and curiosity to inspire you to dig for insights. Even if it were absolutely devoid of content.." - Dana Knowles

2001: A Space Odyssey has a highly confusing narrative on first viewing and it sometimes requires audiences to stop, think and combine all they seen together, with its symbolic visuals to come to a conclusion about what it is actually all about, and that is, evolution. To explain, the film starts off with a group of gorillas or apes, link back to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which argues that the species of man evolves from gorillas and apes. The film shows the everyday life of this group of apes, from them eating to sleeping to fighting another group of apes, which links back our animal survival instincts and the survival of the fittest. Shortly after a fight breaks out between the two group of apes one of the apes from one group feels brave crossing the border to the opposing side, despite both sides threatening one another for a while, and as a result gets mobbed and beaten to death. After this we assume the side that killed that one ape are the fittest as they survive and touch this stone which creates a transition of the film from looking at the life of these apes to giving us a shot of humans on a spaceship, a symbol that these apes have evolved and advanced. 

The life on this space ship is a dramatic shift from the life of the apes and it shows a man on what seems to be a business trip but he stops to have a chat to his daughter via this webcam device, much like Skype today, which is interesting because this film was made a long time before the invention of webcams and Skype, showing how ahead of its time it was in its ideology of thinking in terms of technology. The father then ends the scene with saying he can't attend his daughters birthday then we get some more visuals on the life of those who live on the space ships, how they eat, the mannerisms of the workers, who all look the same. Shortly afterwards this man attends this meeting which progresses into a scene where a crew land on this unknown planet and discover something, though its not made clear, before it skips to this new mission, which continues for the duration of the film. 

The Jupiter mission, which is the plot for the rest of the film is the classic story of a super computer turning against its creators, man. It is a very slow-moving story where two men are on this mission to do with men in hibernation. The super computer, HAL 9000, eventually shares its concerns with the two men about the possible problems with the mission but not to worry because it has it all under control, however the two men don't like the idea of placing their complete trust and their lives in the hands of HAL. Leading to a discussion between them to disconnect HAL to carry on with what they think is best for the mission but HAL hears of this talk and turns against them. It is suggested that HAL succeeds killing one of them by causing their ship to break down during a trip in space, as HAL controls everything on the ship, and then tries to kill the other man, who goes out to try and save his friend from getting lost into space forever. However HAL refuses to let him back on the main ship, until the surviving man, finds a way in and disconnects HAL.

Throughout the film we get an incredible amount of incredible visuals, including the costume used for the apes as this film was made in a time when computer graphics still weren't around, and the apes costumes looks so realistic, it makes you question if they used real apes or not. The take on the futuristic environment is outstanding for the time, there is so much depth in the environments, they are broad, clever and incredibly creative. With the use of rotating rooms, the ability to walk on walls and ceiling it captures the imagination. 
The film also makes use of very well known tracks to summarise the events that are happening on screen, when there is no dialogue between characters and it just wants to either represent the feelings of a certain on-screen persona. Or if it wants to show off its incredible environments, though it repeats the same two famous classical musical numbers they do reflect what's going on, on-screen well. 

Soon after the main protagonist successfully disconnects HAL, where there is a very touching scene which can make audiences actually feel sorry for the evil computer as it reflects on its life growing up while it is "dying" making it seem more like a human with emotions and relatable. The main protagonist seems to escape the ship and goes through this long scene where the gravity and the harshness of the speed in space has an effect on his age and you see him age, another hint at evolution, before he ends up randomly in a house and then after more visual stimuli you see an alien-like baby look at the earth, which could be a symbol of reincarnation and new life, a new phase in evolution. "Time appears to fold in on itself as Bowman witnesses himself in progressively older incarnations, before adopting those incarnations to eventually be reborn" - Thomas Caldwell (2010)

However during this period where the main protagonist is ageing you see a massive collection of bright, vivid and crazy colours, the special effects of this lighting go out all out and could leave audiences with a headache. Although this ensemble of bright colours can be epileptic, as a member of the viewing audience you can't help but be amazed and hypnotised by the amazing visuals you see before you, these scenes are very surreal and dream-like, adding to this films incredible use of visuals to excite audiences. It is not just these scenes but bright colours are a common occurrence throughout. "It's an exercise in spectacle and even in today's world of CGI, it's safe to say that the effects are still very impressive" - Almar Haflidason (2001)

In summary, 2001: A Space Odyssey, offers more insight and depth in its visuals rather than its narrative, but its narrative still has some key moments, even though it's slow moving. It is an iconic film because of its imaginative and creative visuals, and the technology that is used in it has aged really well, as they are still impressive in modern society. 2001: A Space Odyssey also provides and interesting idea into what Kubrick thought was the future about 30 years down the line from when the film was made, as always Kubrick provided an film that is remembered years down the line and will always remain a visual spectacle.

Cadwell, T Free Will, Technology and Violence in a Futuristic Vision of Humanity - 2001: A Space Odyssey (2010) [Online] At: (Accessed on 18.19.13)
Haflidason, A 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) (2001) [Online] At: (Accessed on 18.10.13)
Knowles, D 2001: A Space Odyssey [Online] At: (Accessed on 18.10.13)

Fig.1 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [Poster Art] At: (Accessed on 18.10.13)
Fig.2 2001: A Space Odyssey [Film Still] At: (Accessed on 18.10.13)
Fig.3 2001: A Space Odyssey [Film Still] At: (Accessed on 18.10.13)
Fig.4 Stargate [Film Still] At: (Accessed on 18.10.13)
Fig.5 HAL Interior [Film Still] At: (Accessed on 18.10.13)

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