Did anybody else see that the big 50-movie Warner Bros. box set was on sale for super-cheap over the holidays? I did, and I bought it, so let’s watch all 50 on this blog. The random number generator picked #18 to begin, which is Stanley Kubrick’s freaky space epic 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Here’s what happens: It’s the future. A group of astronauts are on the long flight to Jupiter to investigate appearances of a mysterious monolith. Their computer, HAL 9000, turns murderous on them, and then things get really weird.
Why it’s famous: Eye-popping visual effects that were years ahead of their time. An attempt to depict realism in space travel (zero gravity, no sound in a vacuum) and a whacked-out psychedelic ending (“Dude, I can feel the colors…”)
Get your film degree: What’s the deal with the “dawn of man” opening sequence? It’s open to interpretation, but I believe the gist of it is that the primitive men (a.k.a. the apes) are wild animals that don’t use tools or walk upright until after they touch the monolith. Smash cut to outer space and nothing’s changed — still primitive humans using tools. The next step in evolution doesn’t happen until the astronauts reach Jupiter and evolve again. Evolve into what? The movie doesn’t say, but it seems to end on a hopeful note.
Movie geekishness: The signature performance of the movie is Douglas Rain as the voice of the murder-happy computer HAL 9000. Rain did a ton of TV and theater work before 2001, but very little afterward. Similarly, I can find almost no information about him other than IMDb-style lists of stuff he’s been in, so it’s a mystery as to what the HAL role might have meant to him.
Thoughts upon this viewing: I love how Stanley Kubrick is so widely praised as one of history’s best filmmakers, and yet he’s also really, really weird. That weirdness is on full display in 2001, but the movie nonetheless plays, with beautiful imagery, intense suspense, and one of the all-time best endings.
Next week: Osgiliath is lovely in the springtime.
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.