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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Most people don't get "the part with the apes." Millions of years ago during the "Dawn of Man" the apelike creatures that competed with other animals for food and water were in danger of being wiped out, despite their potential to evolve into intelligent beings. Enter the "monolith," the rectangular object of dimensions 1x4x9. The apes are curious about the object and are attracted to it when it emits a piercing signal. From that moment the apes are different. While examining some animal bones, one of them has an epiphany: a large bone can be used to kill other animals that can be eaten, and can be used to defend the tribe against other apes. Many anthropologists agree that when primitive apes became carnivorous, the sudden influx of protein in the diet lead to enlargement and evolution of the brain, hastening intelligence.
From this information, we now realize the monolith is an alien tool that can be used to assist in the evolution of intelligent species. First, it is used to help apes evolve into humans. Millions of years later another monolith (the one dug up on the moon) sends a signal that those beings have advanced to the point of traveling away from their planet and leads to the Discovery mission to Jupiter. Sadly, all loose ends are not tied up in this film (Why is there a monolith in orbit around Jupiter? Why did the HAL9000 computer try to kill the crew? What really happened to David Bowman when he approached the monolith?) and we have to wait until the first sequel, 2010: Odyssey Two to get those answers.
In space all normal orientations and familiarities are gone and the inhospitable indifference of the endless vacuum redefines the human experience. It poses the question that perhaps space exploration would be better left to HAL and his digital brethren. But that is before Kubrick hurtles us through time and space and possibly even dimensions to transform and evolve the human species into a new being so adapted and comfortable as to find the void its playground.
A remarkable, brilliant one-of-a-kind film and experience, now approaching its 50th anniversary, and yet no other film has so intensely explored the silent isolation, the precise balletic geometry of rendezvous, the lonely tedium and the claustrophobia of hermetic environs to imagine what space travel means to the human animal with the same detail and understanding. Genius.