Thursday, 26 June 2014

Brief Review of "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)

In terms of scope, 2001: A Space Odyssey is difficult to compare. It is one of very few films which succeed at commenting on the big picture of life itself.

The film is structured as a series of seemingly disconnected chapters, or vignettes, each of which take place in a totally different environment and time period. Recurring through these stories however, is the mysterious monolith, which likely represents the involvement of aliens in the narrative.

We see a broad picture of human evolution. From apes to astronauts, from sticks to complicated space age technology. The film’s themes are painted with strokes broad enough that many different conclusions can be derived from the text. For many the film is about how aliens created humanity and guided our entire evolution.

I find the fourth act, which depicts a human expedition to Jupiter, most engaging. It features an artificial intelligence called HAL, which has been copied, sourced and replicated in hundreds of science fiction narratives in modern culture. HAL is still one of the best though, the perfect mix between human and robotic, likeable and terrifyingly sinister. When he is being activated it is intriguing to witness HAL plead for his virtual life.

The film’s special effects are outstanding for the time, and still stand up today - nearly half a century later. Though we may laugh at the men in ape costumes, they still have a practical, confrontingly true quality, which still beats the incredible CGI possible today. And solid as the rest of the film is the score. The use of classical music “Also sprach Zarathustra” has become a cultural icon.

There’s a reason 2001 is still regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, and that is because it goes further than any other Hollywood production dares, sticking it’s fingers deep into mind-twisting themes that no one was previously talking about. It is a perfect discussion film, and will likely be analysed forever, or at least until humanity finds rebirth in the stars.

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