Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ kicks off tens of thousands of years ago at ‘The Dawn of Man’.
The film falls silent as we witness the daily goings on of our primate ancestors. We are exposed to power struggles, familial relationships, and the instinct of survival.
I’ve never felt so uncomfortable sitting in front of a screen. Every day it seems humanity is more and more reliant on technology, constantly updating everything from our phones to our fridges to suit a more ‘advanced’ society’.
Humanity’s optimistic search for technological perfection is shattered through the lens of a camera, aimed by the late, great eye of Stanley Kubrick.
The apes are shortly thereafter confronted with the ominous appearance of a monolith, followed by one apes’ sudden breakthrough in using bones as tools and weapons.
The audience is then thrust into the year 2001, and humanity has come a long way.
Perfecting space travel, we join Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) as he travels to the moon on urgent business. From his arrival on the international space station (a quick stop-over) we catch wind of an epidemic on U.S. moon station, Clavius. Dr. Floyd conceals the purpose of his visit to the moon to some curious Russian counterparts, while choosing to exchange pleasantries instead.
To the audience of 1968, it must have seemed an impossibility that Americans and Russians would be working on the same space station, let alone the same universe. Kubrick’s use of this political oddity procures a level of insecurity amongst viewers, that this newfound and mysterious potential threat to society surpasses even the most intense human conflict.
It turns out, that the moon has an identical monolith to the one on earth.
Now, we fast-forward 18 months, aboard the Discovery One en route to Jupiter, carrying 3 astronauts cryogenically frozen, two conscious astronauts, Dr. Poole (Gary Lockwood) and Dr. Bowman (Keir Dullea) and a super computer, affectionately known as HAL, that resembles something out of Alan Turing’s happiest dream.
Up until this point in the film, Kubrick explores two types of relationships. First is the most basic interactions between simple-minded animals. Next is the overtly polite nature of human interaction, governed by social contract. Finally, aboard Discovery One we witness the relationship between man and machine.
Every conversation Dr. Bowman and Dr. Poole have with HAL is controlled by an underlying fear.
It was as though the astronauts were constantly trying to comprehend the brilliance of HAL, while frantically searching for any way to distinguish their mind and body from an Artificially Intelligent piece of machinery.
The soundtrack is one for the ages. I feel like I’ve just walked through the gates of hell whenever I hear “Requiem” play. The scores perfectly reflect the uncertainty of watching men drift across the galaxy with a soon to be menacing computer.
Eventually, HAL begins to malfunction. Seeking preemptive revenge, HAL cuts Dr. Poole’s oxygen and sends him flying into space. Dr. Bowman goes in search for his body, and upon return is denied entry to the spacecraft. HAL claims Dr. Bowman will jeopardize the mission.
And then it clicks. The monolith appears to have the power of intelligence.
Anyone who comes into contact with it gains a higher level of functioning. The monolith allows apes to develop tools, and later, the tools humans create (HAL 9000) come in contact with the monolith, and gain an even higher level of processing. It’s as if the monolith is trying to create the most advanced being in the universe.
Initially, I questioned whether the monolith was a representation of God, however, it seems far too malevolent. Rather, it obsesses over destruction. Kubrick has been trying to warn us that our constant drive to advancement will ultimately be the demise of humanity. That intelligence is not a gift; rather it’s a burden that will turn us on each other, and on ourselves, and all it takes is a little push.
‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ sets the tone for all Sci-Fi film and television.
Its creative, out-of-the-box style of thinking has made us challenge the boundaries of human thought through later films such as Spielberg’s ‘AI: Artificial Intelligence’ and Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’.
‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is a must see for anyone who likes to nerd out on some great space action, with a dose of thrills and a killer soundtrack.