Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)

4 million years ago the tribe of Moonwatcher (Daniel Richter) is engaged in conflict with a rival group. After an encounter with an alien monolith, Moonwatcher leads his tribe to victory when he discovers the use of bones as bludgeons. In the year 2001 the same monolith has been discovered on the moon's surface and an expedition tracking its radio signal is sent to Jupiter. When the rest of the crew are terminated by the ship's computer, HAL (voice of Douglas Rain), surviving astronauts David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) attempt to disable HAL and complete their mission. Bowman discovers the true nature of the mission, and is himself transported beyond the known universe.

"What remains to be said about the greatest film of a great filmmaker? Before we digress on the existential treatise this film inspires let's consider a more basic concept that Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke understood very well. They knew that any film is only as good as its villain. HAL (that's one letter down from IBM, just in case you didn't know) is one of the great screen villains of all time, his softly-softly vocal malevolence as unforgettable as anything else in this masterpiece. The deliberate casting of bland actors Dullea and Lockwood makes HAL the most memorable "character" and gives 2001 the bad guy any great adventure story needs. Whether or not you view the final journey of Bowman as a metaphor for the leap in human consciousness (to complete the leap-forward cycle begun by Moonwatcher's discovery of external bludgeoning devices) 2001:A Space Odyssey is a heavy trip that demands regular viewing. Its inevitable re-release this year gives us the chance to be astonished by its achievements on every conceivable level. Technically it hasn't dated even slightly, with Douglas Trumbull's special effects still awesome 33 years on (Trumbull was the film's sole Oscar-winner) and it retains the power to mesmerise, inspire and make us think about who and where we are in a way few other films can (or probably ever will). Few works in cinema can prudently and soberly be described as religious experiences: 2001 A Space Odyssey is one of them. The only spoiler of this re-release is its presentation in 35mm and not the Super Panavision 70mm format it was shot in."
Richard Kuipers

"When released in 1968, critics called 2001 "slow," "tedious," and "unresolved." It’s ironic, then, that tripped out hippies were the first to really "see" or "experience" what has arguably become the most discussed, controversial, cryptic, and misunderstood film in cinematic history. In ‘68, 2001 was a quantum leap in filmmaking. Not only did Kubrick break with the strictures of the three-act-play, he birthed a new era in special effects and a more sensory cinematic experience still emulated today. Kubrick called it "a mythological documentary," but it was a new language of film. Arthur C. Clarke co-wrote the script from his novel The Sentinel, but 2001 belongs to Kubrick. Like the rest of Kubrick’s canon, it’s non-linear and devoid of emotion. For instance, the nasty HAL is in fact "more human than human" (to quote Blade Runner - cinema’s other great sci-fi pic). HAL would rather commit murder than admit mistake. In those horrors, Kubrick’s fierce and increasingly validated distrust of technology rings out - technology that brings life but also death and destruction. If 2001 confuses you, try not to look for clarity where only mystery exists. Forget the answers; only questions are possible. And the haunting "star child" conclusion (which some call a religious experience) lies again in the monolith’s secrets. Is it a metaphor for technology? After all, the greatest technologies provide giant leaps in mankind’s advancement (remember the wheel, the gun, the bomb, the computer, the internet…). Such vision makes 2001 Kubrick’s greatest achievement. It’s astounding he devoted five-years to it while the industry was in economic chaos. Big films were being cancelled and MGM went close to bankruptcy. Imagine Kubrick sending the first few reels of feisty apes back to the studio. The baffled executives must have wanted to tell Kubrick they were withdrawing their $10.5m budget. This digitally remastered version coincides with the first anniversary of Kubrick’s death, but there’s nothing remarkable about print or sound quality. It seems more like the year we’re in provided the perfect opportunity to put cinema’s greatest challenge to the test. It’s even marketed with the headline: "In 1968, 2001 was ahead of its time. Now its time has come." Far be it for me to argue."
Shannon J. Harvey

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

2001 – A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) (G)

CAST: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter

DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick

PRODUCER: Stanley Kubrick

SCRIPT: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Geoffrey Unsworth, John Alcott (additional photography)

EDITOR: Ray Lovejoy

MUSIC: Aram Khachaturyan, György Ligeti, Richard Strauss, Johann Strauß

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ernest Archer, Harry Lange, Anthony Masters

RUNNING TIME: 149 minutes



© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020