2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
An unprecedented, unique & unparalleled achievement in motion picture history, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a path-breaking cinema which was far ahead of its time and a splendid work of art that continues to be universally & unanimously hailed as one of the greatest & most influential films of all time for it redefined its genre unlike anything before or after it, features some of the most iconic moments ever captured on film, and is an elegant mix of remarkable cinematography, pioneering visual & sound effects, scientific accuracy, epic score & a distinct style of narration. Not only is 2001: A Space Odyssey a visually spellbinding experience filmed with great artistry but is also, in my opinion, Stanley Kubrick’s magnum opus.
2001: A Space Odyssey deals with the elements of human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence & extra-terrestrial life. It is divided into three segments & an epilogue, each connected with an extra-terrestrial reference. The movie begins with the Dawn of Man segment set in prehistoric Africa, where a group of primitive apes discover a mysterious black monolith which eventually alters their course of evolution. The movie then takes a giant leap into the future, the year 2001, when another monolith is discovered on moon. The film then approaches its third segment where the main plot finally surfaces aboard a spaceship on its mission to Jupiter, which later culminates with an ambiguous ending that’s debatable to this date.
Stanley Kubrick is one of cinema’s most influential & innovative directors, with a legacy that, arguably, has no equals. 2001: A Space Odyssey is Kubrick’s first venture into the science fiction genre where he ended up crafting a cinematic jewel that’s one of the first to take its genre seriously. Putting science in science-fiction, this masterpiece by Kubrick is as mysterious as the man himself and although all the usual Kubrick’s trademarks exist in the film, the entire treatment is very different from other films of his or even others. The pace is intentionally slowed down, the narration is through visuals & music, the performances are honest, the exchange of dialogues is minimal and the plot is engaging & confusing at the same time but gets better, more transparent & satisfying on multiple viewings.
Coming to technical aspects, this film is an incredible work of breathtaking art. The cinematography is a delight for everyone who appreciates great photography. The beautiful captures of landscapes and jaw-dropping exploration of the space (most notably the Moon) makes it one of the finest works that cinema has to offer. Editing is precisely done. Set pieces are wonderful to look at and the visual & sound effects are so groundbreaking & ahead of its time that many movies boasting CGI stuff today are still no match to it. Also, it is one of the most accurate depiction of space travel & the silence that fills the space scenes not only serves its purpose as accurate science, but also adds to the mood of the film. The fact that Kubrick shot the moon scenes with that level of detail & accuracy even before the Apollo landing never fails to impress.
Even though 2001 is a visual ride of astonishing beauty, it isn’t a movie that everyone is going to appreciate. It’s a long technical film that runs at an unusually slow pace, is full of metaphysical complexities and is destined to polarize viewers. Even though some will find it incredibly boring & a strong test of their patience, there will be many who will end up being completely engulfed by its sheer beauty and an unusual blend of poetry & mystery in its bizarre plot. It has inspired almost every film of its genre since its release and will continue to do so for as long as cinema exists. Because after all, this is the film that started it all and deserves to be seen by everyone who appreciates great cinema, especially the fans of Kubrick & science-fiction genre. It’s an amazing journey through space & time that raises pretty good questions about our very own existence, is full of philosophical & allegorical meanings, and concludes with an ending that is open for each viewer to interpret his/her way.
Overall, what impressed me the most about this film is its impressive detailing in every frame, captivating photography, dazzling visuals & great characterisation of the Discovery One spaceship’s computer HAL 9000, where Kubrick examines the idea of machines turning against the very people they were meant to serve, decades before James Cameron came up with The Terminator or Wachowski Bros. crafted the next big sci-fi leap with The Matrix. Scoring full marks in all aspects of filmmaking and influencing not only cinema but science, culture & art as well, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a landmark moment in motion picture history that almost killed its genre for it set a standard so high that it hasn’t been equalled or challenged ever since. Advancements in science & technology may have brought few films closer to it on a technical scale but overall, it remains a superior film & a pinnacle of science-fiction filmmaking and is possibly the best work from a legendary filmmaker who had made a career out of crafting one masterpiece after another. Highly recommended. Multiple viewings advised.