Looking Back at 2001: A Space Odyssey (U)

A nostalgia trip that should definitely be taken.

Steven Ross
16th October 2017
2001: A Space Odyssey is part of Tyneside Cinema's 'Luminaries' season. Image: Movieart.com

The first time I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey was on an 11cm laptop screen in my bedroom with the lights turned off and the speakers plugged in, trying to create the magic of the cinema. What followed was two and a half hours of confusion and awe. When the credits rolled I knew that I had seen something special. And so, when the opportunity to review this film (and therefore see it on the big screen) came about, I jumped at the chance.

I know that there are many people that hate 2001 and cannot understand how it has gained a reputation as one of the greatest science fiction films ever to be made. There is less than an hour of dialogue in a movie that spans more than twice that length, the plot is almost impossible to follow, and the audience leaves with many questions left unanswered. This does not sound like the making of a great film. Now let me tell you why this movie deserves all the admiration it receives.

Kubrick made this film in three acts which span millennia and cover the dawn and transcendence of mankind. The film’s score is electrifying from the beginning and at times can even be described as frightening. As the astronauts gather around a monolith on the moon, Ligeti’s ‘Requiem’ plays and, to quote Youtube commenter VideoSiesta, ‘I almost shit my pants the first time I saw this. Eerie music.’ Not bad for a U-rated space flick.

The film’s score is electrifying from the beginning and at times can even be described as frightening.

2001 also introduces one of the greatest film antagonists of cinema history; HAL9000. Up with Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter, this computer’s unblinking eye and monotone voice provide a villain that cannot be reasoned with and who kills without emotion. However, the latter half of the second act provides one of the film’s most emotional scenes when Hal is finally confronted and brings the question of the computer’s humanity to the fore.

But I cannot talk about 2001 without mentioning the monolithic (I know) visual effects, specifically the 10-minute stargate sequence in the films third act. What looks like the opening titles of Doctor Who on acid is actually Kubrick’s interpretation of an interdimensional portal. While this scene looks aged by modern standards its sheer length and scope, not to mention the trippy light show, make the whole film worth watching for this alone. This scene throws together infinite space and the finite man, to create something totally new.

Made at a time when a man had not taken that small step onto the moon, Kubrick set his sights on Jupiter and made a movie of planetary proportions.

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