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2001: A Space Odyssey
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2001: A Space Odyssey (BD)]]>
When Stanley Kubrick recruited Arthur C. Clarke to collaborate on "the proverbial intelligent science fiction film," it's a safe bet neither the maverick auteur nor the great science fiction writer knew they would virtually redefine the parameters of the cinema experience. A daring experiment in unconventional narrative inspired by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel," 2001 is a visual tone poem (barely 40 minutes of dialogue in a 139-minute film) that charts a phenomenal history of human evolution. From the dawn-of-man discovery of crude but deadly tools in the film's opening sequence to the journey of the spaceship Discovery and metaphysical birth of the "star child" at film's end, Kubrick's vision is meticulous and precise. In keeping with the director's underlying theme of dehumanization by technology, the notorious, seemingly omniscient computer HAL 9000 has more warmth and personality than the human astronauts it supposedly is serving. (The director also leaves the meaning of the black, rectangular alien monoliths open for discussion.) This theme, in part, is what makes 2001 a film like no other, though dated now that its postmillennial space exploration has proven optimistic compared to reality. Still, the film is timelessly provocative in its pioneering exploration of inner- and outer-space consciousness. With spectacular, painstakingly authentic special effects that have stood the test of time, Kubrick's film is nothing less than a cinematic milestone--puzzling, provocative, and perfect. --Jeff Shannon
Channel 4 documentary: 2001: The Making of a Myth
Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001
Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001
2001: A Space Odyssey - A Look Behind the Future
2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork
Look: Stanley Kubrick!
Audio-only interview with Stanley Kubrick
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While the pacing of the film may be slow compared to the rapid fire story telling of today (and even in the 60's, the psychedelic trip interlude could have used some serious editing- but this is coming from someone who stayed "ground bound" while watching the film!) the richness of the film and the philosophical questions that are peppered throughout make this a very rewarding film to experience.
"2001" is broken down into four sections, "The Dawn of Man" where it shows what the title suggests. It shows ape-like humans who learn to fend for themselves. It's about 20 minutes. "TMA-1" shows a Pan-Am space plane orbiting Earth. It focuses on Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) going over plans for a trip to Clavius Base, which is on the moon, with a large number of other members to the very futuristic ship. It's about 35-40 minutes "Jupiter Mission: 18 Months Later" shows spaceship Discovery One, with 2 members, Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), and 3 other members in hibernation. On that ship is a very intelligent computer named HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain), who eventually wreaks havoc to the ship. It's about 55 min.-1 hour long. Finally, "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" shows Dr. Bowman's psychadelic and frightening trip through space, which includes the "Stargate sequence", showing flashing lights moving forward for a few minutes, following the next few minutes of cosmic phenomena and strange landscapes that actually kind of creeped me out (I saw this film in the dark), leading to the ending. It's about 25 minutes, leading the film to 2 hours and 28 minutes, including the 3 minute overture, intermission, and exit music, along with ending credits.
The special features on this two-disc special edition of "2001" are pretty good, but they felt sort of repetitive to me. The Disc 1 comes with the film, along with a commentary by Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood and the theatrical trailer, and then there's the disc 2. The first special feature is titled "2001: The Making of a Myth". It's about 45 minutes long. It's narrated by James Cameron, and shows different people talking about the making and legacy of the movie. It was pretty good. "Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001" is about 20 minutes long and is another film that talks about the legacy of the movie and different film critics, including Roger Ebert (when he could still talk), praising the film. It's really not much that the earlier featurette hasn't said. "Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001" is 20 minutes of Keir Dullea, the main star of "2001" speaking about the film and what Arthur C. Clarke, the author of "2001" wrote and said about it. It also includes black-and-white audio footage of Arthur C. Clarke. It was a pretty good featurette, but I really like the 60's vintage featurette "2001: A Space Odyssey - A Look Behind the Future". It's about 20-25 minutes and it shows the film being made including footage of Stanley Kubrick. It's one of my favorite featurettes. "2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork" is 9 minutes long and shows Stanley's wife, Christiane Kubrick, talking about the artwork and paintings made for the famous "Stargate" sequence in the film for 3 minutes, and the rest shows the original sketches and paintings. It's pretty cool. "Look: Stanley Kubrick!" is 3 minutes long and shows a montage of photos Stanley Kubrick shot in his few years before directing when he was still working for "Look! Magazine". Here, you see Stanley's extreme talent for photography, which definitely influenced his creativeness in directing. The real treat here is the 1 hour, 17 minute audio-only interview from 1966, where Jeremy Bernstein interview's Stanley Kubrick, titled "Audio-only interview with Stanley Kubrick". Here, he talks about his childhood, his photography days, his first movie, "Fear and Desire", and later on, talks about each and every one of his films, leading up to "2001", which was still in production at that time. It's extremely interesting and worth listening to. I think it's the best featurette on the second disc.
"2001: A Space Odyssey" is a truly beautiful, mesmerizing, and amazing film that everybody should see, and it's brilliance just can't fit into the 6000 characters that Amazon reviews allow. All I have to say is, if you haven't seen this Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, see it now! And see it multiple times after that. It's one of the greatest.
Now, with this bluray transfer, we can approximate the experience of seeing it in the theatre - the colors are fabulous (like the green hue to the African sky, which must be witnessed in real life to be believed), the detail definition crystal clear, and the contrasts vivid. It is the best bluray transfer I have yet seen. If anything demonstrates the superiority of analogue filming over CGI as it currently performs, this is it.
Without giving away too many spoilers, I will offer my current interpretation. The principal theme is the encounter of man with an alien intelligence. The monolith, a mysterious and incomprehensible technology, simply appears in human prehistory. While it transmits the idea of a machine (a simple bone cudgel at first) to these proto-humans, its purpose is otherwise unknown, as are its capabilities. It can communicate, coerce, inspire, transmit thoughts and even create environments. The only thing we know for sure in the present day is that it indicates that it wants humans - once they have created the technology to leave the planet - to go to Jupiter.
Intelligence is also a big theme. The proto-humans are able to adapt to what the monolith offers them - they use their minds in a new way, gaining advantage at the watering hole. It leads to technology, which is portrayed with a beauty that can only be described as sensual, but from a necessary tool it has become all encompassing, literally encasing men in their total dependence on it. The ultimate achievement of intelligence, of course, is in the creation of HAL, perhaps a rival to human intelligence in that it controls and monitors the lives of the men on their way to Jupiter, exercising its own judgment. It easily beats the crew at chess and may be superior in every way. It is a new survival test.
A deeper theme, in my view, is human nature. From the fight over the watering hole, man defines himself against his competitors. This sets off a kind of competition that leads directly to the American-Soviet rivalry that is played out in a more civilized manner in the discussion on the space station. Still, the potential for violence and the search for advantage are ominously present, if latent, in everything that happens in the plot. HAL, after all, is our spawn. This is, as with all of Kubrick's work, extremely pessimistic and dark, with plenty of room left for inspiration and perhaps hope, however dim.
Finally, there is the question of what happens to Bowman. He is apparently absorbed into the monolith, where he watches himself age in an artificial environment, only to be reborn as a new kind of entity. Here, I have only questions. Is he now immortal? Has he evolved beyond technology and artifacts into some kind of thought being? Does he represent the next stage in human evolution, finally surpassing the trajectory of the missing links from the opening sequences? If so, was that the purpose of the monolith? Or has he been transformed into a tool of the beings who sent the monolith? Perhaps, like the monolith, it is beyond our current comprehension. After all, the film announces that, upon reaching Jupiter, Bowman has gone beyond infinite. It is a delicious intellectual puzzle, the kind that can inspire for a life time. I feel that every time I watch it.
Frankly, the rest of my family is bored with my love of this film. They think it is too slow, inexplicably strange, and too open-ended. I think that every single detail has been carefully conceived, so that if you pay attention, it fits with the themes I outlined above, adds depth and possibilities to understanding. For example, when Bowman goes to retrieve the communication unit, you see for just a moment, two meteors pass nearby. To me, they emphasize the vastness of space, the danger they constantly face, and the fragility of their situation (particularly with HAL controlling so much of the ship), all leading to questions about the place of man in the universe.
This film is a classic in every way. Different than all other films up to that point - it didn't even use any recognizable stars or even character actors - it creates new possibilities that are still being explored. It flaunts its slowness of action, yet offers the most spectacular images and concepts, of a complexity and subtlety that no one had yet attempted. Recommended with the greatest enthusiasm.