This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Nick J’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
No peer pressure, no "Ah, what the heck, it's 2001: A Space Odyssey," those are five solid, well-earned stars and a nice little heart, a new and true Nick Pick. It took two seconds to come up with that, plz don't steal.
Kubrick is a director I have gotten to know, like, and trust, and now his most bananas film, a monolith of modern cinema, has truly impressed me and now threatens to usurp Daddytino and Mommyzaki in my answer to the who is my favorite director question. Kubrick gets so much out of his actors, knows exactly what to do with the camera, and does so much with mise-en-scene, and the controlled chaos of "2001: A Space Odyssey" is a triumphant showcase of those skills. I don't think there's a single scene where I don't feel invested watching people on the screen in this film, where even side characters feel like gears are turning in their heads. The pure, acting-based storytelling of the first segment the Dawn of Man is something to behold. Then you have Kubrick doing what he does best with great world-building, both in terms of the structured, scientific environments and the pure unspeakable cosmic horror. The classical music score is amazing, really dressing the awe-inspiring scenes in space with grand and bombastic music. Those chilling choirs...just wow. And need I say more about the great job Douglas Rain does with HAL 9000?
I guess everyone is supposed to have their own interpretations of the events because drugs were heavily involved in the making of this film, so my take is centered around the story of human nature, in particular, our violent nature. The whole point of the Dawn of Man segment seems to be the discovery of using tools, and the subsequent use of tools to cause harm. It's assumed that the tool-apes are the ones destined to evolve simply because they have discovered the ability to dominate their enemies, become a master species capable of wiping out the rest. Of course, people constantly suppress those violent urges and/or give into them in other, more "sophisticated" ways to create society, to create structure, to create the illusion of control. And what better place to set our story than in space, a frontier that the human race truly discovered during the Cold War, a time where two opposing forces struggled for domination. I'm not quite sure what to make of the Monolith, but I see "2001 A Space Odyssey" as a sort of cosmic horror story like HP Lovecraft (Alright, I know what he named his cat, just stick with me here). Rather than demonic entities capable of great violent destruction, though, we have one that seems to offer true peace and peace comes from the sedation (possibly destruction) of humans, placing them in total comfort to remove the need of dominance and/or reducing them to an innocent, infantile state, a possible attempt as an evolution of something that will not cause its own destruction. To solidify this, we add in something humans create that reflect our own nature to destroy, HAL 9000, a computer that knows the existential horror humans are capable of yet still exhibits jealousy and a survival instinct. It sees the removal of its master as the only way to save the mission yet still as terrible as its creators. Human achievement is the story of how we are able to create the greatest tools to destroy each other and ourselves. No matter how far we get, that's what we are and will be and will create without intervention. We pull the plug and deactivate and beat what we fear. And what we fear is what we create and what we are.
And, uh, there you have it, an interpretation of "2001: A Space Odyssey" written by a tipsy nihilist who doesn't believe in the good in people.