2001 : A Space Odyssey

Ok, this is a classic film, one of the greatest movies of all time and a science fiction masterpiece. However I haven’t seen this film in full until a few days ago. Yes, I hang my head in shame. No point in offering excuses, I failed! Anyways let’s get into this cinematic beauty, which I will admit is a bit slow and hence some people may not enjoy it as much as most science fiction buffs. But, you will find it hard to believe that this film was made in 1968 and not a decade or so later!

2001 : A Space Odyssey is a British-American science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was partially inspired by Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel”. Clarke also wrote a novel based on the book, which could be a good choice for a lot of fans to get. The movie is set in 4 parts. The first part is set in prehistoric times and focuses on a group of early hominids in central Africa. The group is attacked separately by a leopard and another group of hominids who drive them from their water-hole and they take shelter in a cave. When they awaken they find a black monolith that appears in a place it wasn’t there before. They shriek and jump as they approach it and one of them touches it realizes how to use a bone as both a tool and a weapon, which they start using to kill prey for their food. Growing increasingly capable and assertive, they reclaim control of the water hole from the other tribe by killing its leader. Triumphant, the tribe’s leader throws his weapon-tool into the air as the scene changes to millions of years later.

In the year 2000 there is a meeting on a space station that is orbiting the earth. Dr. Heywood R. Floyd (William Sylvester), after stopping to speak to a Russian colleague and her friend, makes a video call to his daughter on her birthday after arriving at the station. He then heads to Clavius, a US outpost on the Moon, and heads a meeting of base personnel which is to discuss the discovery of a black monolith similar to the one that the apes saw. The base has been kept off limits to others with a cover story of an epidemic outbreak. Floyd and others head to the location and pose for a photo in front of it. While doing so, they hear a very loud high-pitched radio signal emanating from within the monolith. The signal is sent towards the location of Jupiter. Which brings us to the 3rd act; 18 months later the U.S. spacecraft Discovery One is bound for Jupiter. On board are mission pilots and scientists Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), and three other scientists who are in cryogenic hibernation. The majority of the ship’s functions are controlled by the advanced computer Hal 9000 (voice by Douglas Rain). During the trip Bowman & Poole and even Hall are interviewed by the BBC for a program. When HAL alerts Poole to a report the imminent failure of a device which controls the ship’s main antenna. However the astronauts, on investigating the part, cannot find anything wrong with it.

Hal suggests reinstalling the part and letting it fail so the problem can be found. Mission control concurs, but advises the astronauts that results from their twin HAL 9000 indicate the ship’s Hal is in error predicting the fault. When queried, Hal insists that the problem, like all previous issues with the HAL series, is due to “human error”. Concerned the two astronauts try to speak inside an EVA pod and discuss disconnecting Hal if he is proven to be wrong, but they are unaware that Hal is reading their lips through the pod’s window. While Poole is on a spacewalk outside of his EVA pod attempting the repair severs his oxygen hose and sets him adrift. Bowman attempts a rescue and during this time HAL turns off the life support for the 3 crew members in suspended animation. When Bowman returns with Poole’s body HAL refuses him entry stating that the astronaut’s plan to deactivate him jeopardizes the mission. Bowman lets go of Poole’s body and manually opens the hatch and enters the Discovery and then proceeds to disconnect HAL’s processors. HAL first tries to reassure Bowman then pleads with him to stop, and finally begins to express fear—all in a steady monotone voice. Dave ignores him and disconnects each of the computer’s processor modules. Hal eventually regresses to his earliest programmed memory, the song “Daisy Bell”, which he sings for Bowman.

HAL being disconnected a prerecorded message plays in which Floyd reveals the existence of the four million-year-old black monolith on the Moon, “its origin and purpose still a total mystery”. Floyd adds that it has remained completely inert, except for a single, very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter. Bowman leaves the Discovery in a pod to investigate another monolith, much larger this time, which is orbiting Jupiter. As Bowman nears it  the pod is suddenly pulled into a tunnel of colored light, and a disoriented and terrified Bowman finds himself racing at great speed across vast distances of space, viewing bizarre cosmological phenomena and strange landscapes of unusual colors. He sees himself middleaged still in the suit in a bedroom and then even more older variations of himself until he is a frail old man on his death bed. A black monolith appears at the foot of the bed, and as Bowman reaches for it, he is transformed into a fetal being enclosed in a transparent orb of light. The new being floats in space beside the Earth, gazing at it.

Fantastic film to look at and experience if you can get past the lack of much dialogue in a lot of scenes. I can’t believe that this a a 1967-68 production as it looks so futuristic. The best scifi ideas originated in the 60s. The monolith is a representation of the work of a highly advanced alien race who influence life on other planets, once they themselves evolved to a stage beyond their physical bodies. A must watch for any scifi fan and any movie lover to be truthful. 9 outta 10!

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