DVD Reviews

DVD Review – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

November sees in the release of the highly anticipated film The Master. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson who has brought us such films as Magnolia and There Will Be Blood, The Master is set to be one of the films of the year. What’s so special about it? Probably the most exciting thing is that it has been shot on 70mm film and will be shown in this format, which means that the resolution will be higher, clearer and much crisper. To put it simply, it has been shot on a much larger piece of film within the camera than most other films, so its double the size and double the quality. For those of you who thought IMAX was the best picture quality you were going to see, think again!

This swiftly brings me on to today’s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was famously shot on 70mm, just like The Master, but way back in 1968. This didn’t stop it being a spectacular looking film which earned the film’s director, Stanley Kubrick, an Oscar for visual effects. What perhaps is most remarkable about 2001,is that audiences marvelled at what it was creating as a future world, showing huge space ships spinning through space, high tech gadgets, special anti-gravity shoes and futuristic furniture that no one had really seen before, as science fiction films were not particularly well established at the time. The visual effects were so breath takingly realistic and Stanley Kubrick created them without even using a computer. He used models and manipulation of the film cells to create his effects, an art which has long since bitten the dust. Before Man had even landed on the moon, Kubrick had made a convincing and technologically accurate film about space travel.

Written by Arthur C Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, 2001 starts off on Earth in prehistoric times where we watch a family of Apes or ‘hominids’ as they would rather be known go about their daily lives of hunting, fighting and sleeping. A tall, black, rectangular object appears to them one day and subsequently they learn how to use rocks as weapons and kill animals for food. It was this important discovery that kick started our evolution from ape to man.  We then hop forward a few thousand years to Dr Heywood Floyd who is travelling through space in a large, rotating vessel en route to the moon. We learn that something has been discovered on the moon which is remarkably similar to the object that appeared before the hominids. A great amount of mystery surrounds this object, which they call a Monolith, as it is assumed to be ancient extra-terrestrial intelligence. Dr Floyd and his team are sent to the moon to examine it, only to retreat again after it omits a painful, high pitched screech.

18 months later Dave Bowman and Frank Poole, two young astronauts, are travelling on board the aptly named Discovery spaceship bound for Jupiter for a so called ‘training mission’. Little do they know, they are following up the excavation of the Monolith 18 months previous.  Their space ship is controlled by super computer HAL-9000 who has been programmed to behave and speak like a human, and to act as a friend to Bowman and Poole.  HAL suddenly starts behaving strangely and reporting that communication devices are broken when they are not. Things rapidly go from bad to worse when HAL completely turns on Bowman and Poole and tries to kill them. Bowman escapes in a small pod and travels through a psychedelic tunnel of lights and flies over strange foreign lands in an unsettling and trippy sequence culminating in his arrival at Jupiter alongside our old friend the Monolith. Things get very strange now as Bowman lands in a baroque, French style bedroom. There are no windows, no doors and the floor is made out of light. Bowman goes through a series of stages whereby he moves through the room by looking at older versions of himself, which he then becomes. This progression allows Bowman to rapidise his life and become the ultimate version of himself. He noticeably ages three times until finally he is an old man lying on his death bed where the Monolith appears to him at his feet. He raises his hand towards it and is transported through it as a foetal baby where he is reborn as a master of the universe. I know this may sound like I am making it up, but I promise you this is what happens, it’s not the easiest thing to synopsise so I suggest you see for yourselves!

Kubrick and Clarke shared a vision to create the ultimate science fiction movie and this one has it all. Its meaning is hard to decipher, especially of the end, but Kubrick didn’t want everyone to been spoon-fed meanings and philosophies. 2001 is essentially a depiction of the evolution of Man from our most primitive form to our most intelligent, predicting what Man could be capable of doing in the year 2001. Throw in a murderous computer, a few reprises of Strauss’ Thus Spake Zarathustra and a horse painted like a zebra and you’ve got yourself something really quite special.  

Paving the way for great science fiction movies of the future like Bladerunner, The Alien Quadrilogy and even Prometheus, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a ground-breaking piece of cinema that is replicated time and time again in modern culture. Unfortunately, it’s not for everyone. It was poorly received when it was released and gained its fame from a cult following of 60’s youths who found it ‘trippy’ and has been splitting audiences for the past 44 years. I highly recommend it to science fiction fans, Kubrick fans and those of you who enjoy something a little bit different.

The nights are drawing in and the weekends are predominantly rainy, so borrow it from the DVD Zone, snuggle up in the warm and prepare yourself for the ultimate Stanley Kubrick experience…
Find 2001: A Space Odyssey in the DVD ZONE at shelfmark 791.43.
Further Reading in the Information Store:
Find other Stanley Kubrick films like The Shining, Barry Lyndon and Full Metal Jacket in the DVD Zone – under 18s beware!
Science Fiction Cinema from Outerspace to Cyberspace by Geoff King – BOOK ZONE – 791.43615
Stanley Kubrick: Drama and Shadows: Photographs: 1945-1950 – BOOK ZONE – 770.92

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