For a person who claims to be a film lover there are some huge gaps in my movie consumption. With the help of the late Roger Ebert’s essay compilation The Great Movies I hope to correct that. Roger and I begin our journey with Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. 2001 is not my first Kubrick experience, though in many ways it feels like it is. Dr. Strangelove has a lot of fun with its themes, but it is mostly straightforward; and The Shining is… The Shining. 2001 is the first time I have really seen the kind of movie that would prompt viewers to come up with fantastical theories like the ones found in the documentary Room 237.
The movie follows the evolution of mankind from its earliest days to its distant future. It contains themes that are common now, but were certainly trail-blazing at the time. In 2013 alone we saw a lot of these ideas being recast for a modern audience: the space-based isolation of Gravity, the artificial intelligence case study of Her. Kubrick’s film has been a touch stone for the science fiction genre for almost 50 years.
It has aged incredibly well in that time. The visuals, while disorienting, are stunning. And the effects look as good or better than anything being produced today by computers. If anything, 2001 should serve as proof that there is still room for models and practical effects in the industry.
One cannot talk about 2001 without discussing the music. The use of classical pieces like “Blue Danube” and “Thus Spake Zarathustra” give the movie an even greater resonance, pitching it square into the sense of history that these works evoke. Kubrick’s film has been described as an “epic,” and the music is no small part of that classification.
The narrative is slight and hard to describe in few words, but that seems to be Kubrick’s intention. 2001 is not defined by its story, but rather by the sensory experience that it represents. It is the kind of film I hope to one day see on the big screen, but until then I will settle for a rewatch in the safety of my own home – where malicious computers can’t get to me (he typed obliviously on a laptop).