matt qt’s review published on Letterboxd:
2001: A Space Odyssey is a film that I would hesitate to call a favorite of mine, yet I can’t bring myself to give it anything less than a perfect score. There really is only one film that has ever tested the bounds of cinema and changed the art form as a whole, and that film is 2001: A Space Odyssey. This film is far more experimental than Kubrick is often given credit for. The long sections of bright imagery and psychedelia are the highlights of the film for me, if “highlights” are even relevant for a film or this stature. Every portion of the film can best be described as mesmerizing, right from the expository dawn of man sequence to the surreal closing.
2001 is a film that is about everything, at least for me anyway. It encapsulates the entirety of human existence in an epic fashion that no film had achieved to that point, all while doing so in only two and a half hours. The film’s epic scale spans from the absolute beginning of humankind, all the way to the perceived end of times, when artificial intelligence surpasses that of man. 2001’s long term point of view on evolution makes way for some of the most profound shots even put to film. For starters, the bone to nuclear weapon satellite cut is the most significant cut in the history of film. It’s the cut from man’s first weapon to its last. The shot conveys just how far man has come since its inception, not too long ago we were in our primitive days scavenging around the barren earth and using the most basic of materials as weapons. And now, not too long after, we are using nuclear technology that has the power to end time for us all.
While conveying the enormous level of growth that humanity has experienced technologically, this shot also conveys just how little man has changed from its primitive state. Even the earliest of man possessed the desire for weapons to harm our own kind, and here we are, years later doing the same thing on a much larger scale. This shot shows how human nature really hasn’t changed over time, we have just become more destructive as technology advanced. You would think that if a weapon of mass destruction could ever exist, that the people who inhabit the same world would make a general agreement of common sense to not build such a weapon. But man’s most primal desires get in the way of logical thinking, and there is a looming apocalypse at the press of a few buttons as a result. The 25 minute monkey sequence, while boring to some, only strengthens this theme of primal desires. Nothing has changed with centuries of evolution besides the creation of some fancy technology. Man remains the same.
The presence of the monolith in the story still remains a foggy subject for me as to what it’s purpose is, but I think it generates some interesting questions. One of my many burning questions that I had after this viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey was, why are the aliens so interested in evolving humanity? If they had the technology to plant the monoliths in the locations that they did, then wouldn’t they know the evil nature of man, and therefore not think that they are worth evolving? Logically, these aliens surely had to have evolved other species that are inherently better than us. So that brings up the ultimate question of what happens to us after our minds are transformed into the superhuman shown at the end of the film. Does this have anything to do with the afterlife, or is it simply a higher level of consciousness? There are so many questions proposed by this film that I can’t even wrap my head around, which helps to make 2001 one of the most significant films in history.
The next thing I need to mention about this film is its visuals, which are probably the thing that will stand out to most viewers about this film. It isn’t an unpopular opinion to say that 2001 is the most visually stunning film of all time, and I sit comfortably within the majority on that matter. Beyond just the psychedelic imagery that I mentioned earlier, each mock space set is constructed with such a high level of attention-to-detail realism that must be appreciated for its meticulousness. The whole film is a feast for the eyes, and is unrelentingly mesmerizing. This is one of the few films that completely removes you from reality, refusing to lose your gaze due to its sheer beauty. With the visual beauty and the thematic beauty of 2001, it deservedly goes down as one of the greatest films of all time, and I have no problem calling it that. I am already in a rush to rewatch this film just so I can potentially get closer to solving some of my unresolved questions about it. It’s one of the few films that can be philosophized about to no end, and I find so much greatness in that achievement. To all those who dislike this film, I begrudgingly question, why?