2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★½

A black screen. A long, drawn out silence that preaches a vision of isolated nothingness. Starkly contrasting its predecessor, by illuminating a landscape previously cloaked in shadow, the soft glow from warm western hues arrive. Bouncing off of rough, rocky crevices and cliffs and highlighting its volatile primitive inhabitants. Civilized beasts in an uncivilized wasteland. A treacherously-bitter environment constantly hanging in a limbo of violent inhumanity, where one’s necessity to evolve determines their survival. In the grand scheme of things, the rival gang of primates, the only piece remaining between a muddied, stagnant pool of sustenance, are a simple objective to navigate around to reach the pedestal of life, a single pawn to capture before seizing the crown of victory, a lone blockade to hurdle. 

As if it had overheard Earth’s woes, tall and towering over its awestruck admirers, the monolith; a metal, door-like object with a glisteningly-sleek finish of matte black, appeared out of nowhere to provide assistance of enlightenment to the community of lost apes. By igniting a spark of inner violence within the chief primate, the monolith was able to aid “mankind’s” evolution at one of its most critical times. 

Thanks to an ingenious match cut, inextricably joining one of humanity’s first incriminating acts of violence with a modern day portrayal of a satellite orbiting around Earth, Kubrick is able to convey a poignant parallel between the past, present, and future that’s both subtle enough to be forgotten, and potent enough to be eternally remembered. From there, after being introduced to a modernized world of technology and scientific advancement, 2001: A Space Odyssey reinvigorates our acquaintance with the dark, resolute being when the film’s protagonist meets it on the alienated lunar landscape of the Moon. Signifying mankind’s next step in human evolution, a team of five men and a revolutionary artificial intelligence named “HAL” embark across the galaxy in hopes of fully understanding the monolith’s existence and its sporadic appearances.

After a long, meticulously-crafted first couple acts, the end is near. But first, a parade. A welcoming committee honoring its eminent, glorious arrival. Converging in on and reducing breathable space with little constructive sense except the dazzling and impressment of the mind, comes a torrential downpour of raging, kaleidoscopic color and walls of deafening sound intent on physiological chaos, in hopes of paving a clearer path for its knock-out, climatic finale. A resolution that both ends with as many questions as stars in the vast, expansive universe it depicts and delights in its own ambiguity and the confused befuddlement of its audience.

It’s clear from the opening prehistoric sequence that the monolith’s presence signifies something. Whether its representation symbolizes an otherworldly, alien figure or a divine entity, the fact that it appears at humanity’s most critical times of evolution is anything but coincidental. 

Stanley Kubrick’s transcendental spectacle of sights and sounds is as monumental as the quest through time and space is existential and as thematically rewarding as a thirst-quenching drink of water is nourishing. A glorious manifestion of majesty on screen, 2001: A Space Odyssey is the definitive portrait of a famed artist and the science-fiction genre as a whole. While its social commentary on human existence remains a warped and tinted blur of reality in my mind, the result of a genius is too blinding and breathtaking to fully ignore. 

"I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.”

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