Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke
Starring: Keir Dullea & Gary Lockwood
Believers in the fake moon landing found their belief of this conspiracy based on their distrust of government, but also because of the majestic imagery found in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Through this story, Stanley Kubrick takes us all on a journey through different eras and locations to display the wonders and horrors of life.
Following different timelines, the common thread that binds them surrounds a monolith that arrives at each scene. A mysterious object with undefined powers, but it does accomplish producing mayhem wherever it lands. Producing any sort of plot synopsis for this film proved to be difficult because 2001: A Space Odyssey transcends traditional storytelling but creates a lesson on technology and the breakdown of humanity through the use of weaponry.
It begins with the opening sequence of hominids in conflict through territorial desires. A battle that does not become violent until the introduction of this mysterious monolith. Again, not very descriptive, but it gives the hominids the idea to use weaponry for their gain, which inspires one to pick up a large bone and inflict damage on their foes. A moment that will forever shape the dominion of this land.
The rest of the film focuses on being out in space with human characters and their interactions with technology. The brilliance of this cannot be emphasized enough, as it was ahead of its time. It captures space in a way never seen before. Prior to this film’s release, knowing the image of Earth from the vantage point of space wasn’t common knowledge. Stanley Kubrick pushed the boundaries with his filmmaking and inadvertently fueled the idea of the moon landing being fake. He captured space so well with this film, released in 1968, that the conspiracy theorists attributed any of the footage, as something Kubrick directed for the government. The effects and imagery utilized inspired nearly every science-fiction film set in space after its release including Star Wars and other properties. Even with it being released over 50 years ago, it still looks better than most space films in the 21st century.
It also has emotion emanating from the unlikeliest of places. One of the other storylines follows David Bowman (Keir Dullea), as he helps lead an expedition to complete a mission. With that, he interacts with another member of the crew, but the entire ship has its operations run by an artificial intelligence unit named HAL 9000. A program that has become one of the most frightening villains in all of cinema. Visually appearing as a simple red light within the ship, HAL speaks in a monotone voice with a vocabulary filled mostly with facts. It then creates an interesting inverse when events transpire that HAL presents the most emotion of all on the ship. David and his cabin-mate discover a flaw in HAL and must find a way to shut it down, but through the conversations and the events that come to pass, HAL goes through a range of emotions no human characters in the film experiences. It’s heartbreaking even when it gets sinister and the iconography of the red light brings chills to my spine every time I see it.
With the use of HAL, Kubrick comments on the perils of artificial intelligence and how our over-reliance on it will lead to our downfall. It seems like something covered in contemporary science-fiction films but Kubrick presented this argument back in the 60s. It only makes it more interesting when thinking of HAL going through those different emotions and reaching a point where machines have a stronger capacity to feel than actual humans. Chilling to think about, but could be a possibility with humanity becoming more cynical and the rise of artificial intelligence.
That over-reliance on technology also stretches to losing human connection with the other. It doesn’t have to just come from dangerous technology that might be trying to kill us, but how we inflict it upon ourselves. In another sequence, upon another ship, the film shows a group of individuals too busy looking at their technology to pay much attention to each other. A major talking point with phones being commonplace even in the hands of young children, again explored by Kubrick in the 60s.
2001: A Space Odyssey deliberately paces itself in a way that demands attention throughout its long runtime. It’s not a film to casually throw on with a group of friends, but one that needs time to process and experience. Each facet of the storytelling embeds messages Kubrick attempts to disseminate. A moment that will decide one’s enjoyment of the film occurs when David enters a void filled with a wide array of colors and various visuals. A sequence that spans for an extended time on the visuals and David’s face. One that left me in a trance and enthralled me with the visceral reaction the lead character provides.
What more can be said about Kubrick’s work in this film? He provides masterful filmmaking with a potent story packed with mysteries he never fully reveals to the world. It has left me to ponder the intention of the imagery and many of the conversations. The ending presents a future full of hope or one filled with dread. That decision lies on each individual person and how they experience the story. I try to be positive, but knowing Kubrick’s cynicism that line of thinking might be naive.
I will always remember the location and my feelings from experiencing this film for the first time. Going into it with high expectations and having them shattered, as it showed me a style of film I had never seen before. 2001: A Space Odyssey solidified Kubrick being my favorite director of all-time with the way he jumps into every genre and creates masterpiece after masterpiece. This film stands out as his best, in my estimations, due to its thematic explorations and the sheer scope of the story. A genius filmmaker paired with a grand concept, and it culminates into one of the greatest films ever made and one that will continue to inspire us all to ask the right questions about life and existence.