2001: A Space Odyssey – Retro Showcase (1968)

Where do I start? How do I begin to explain the trip that is Kubrick’s 2001? If you have not experienced 2001; you are sadly missing out on the greatest science fiction ride ever made. If you have seen it, then this will be a great look back.

The general story is about a computer malfunction aboard a space craft on it’s way to uncover the mystery of the Monolith. A strange obelisk buried under the surface of the moon. The passenger on deck must survive the trip. That is the nut shelled version, there is far too much happening to be written. The innate plot is evolution and the progress of humans as a species.

The film opens with the dawn of man, ape like creatures amidst a dry and empty planet Earth. We follow the apes as they develop emotions and lifestyles we have today, such as jealously, hatred and the means of being territorial. We also watch first hand as we first figure out how to use weapons to over power others. It is a haunting and disturbing look at the evolution of man.

We then enter the sci-fi portion of the film, following astronauts as they make their way to the moon. There is clearly more going on than we know.

The film is directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick (Dr. Strangelove/Lolita/Clockwork Orange/The Shining) and he approaches the genre as a ballet. Using now famous classical scores to highlight the beauty and fear open space can evoke. A space opera if you will, very long shots and almost 80 minutes of no dialog really gets under your skin and creates it’s own style.

The visual effects (in 1968) are absolutely astounding, terrific model work inspired the effects of the Star Wars films and created a new era of practical effects. Looking at it recently again, you notice the brilliance and detail in every ship and model. Thinking back that this film was made before we ever launched into space, so the fact that this film was so scientifically accurate boggles the mind and the senses.

Since this movie was designed to raise more questions that it answers, it is open to interpretation and whatever the audience thinks the movie is really about. Life? Death? Who really knows? People have speculated the meaning of the ending since it’s initial release in ’68, Kubrick knows exactly what he wants so you must know that everything in the movie is intentional.

I find this film difficult to review since it is a strictly visual film and must be seen to do it justice, the story is wafer thin and most of the acting is done off camera or by monkeys. So I cannot touch down on all aspects without spoiling anything.

The only advice I can offer is to sit back and allow the movie to engulf you, taking in the ambiance and the colossal scope. I guarantee you will not find anything else quite like this. This film went on to inspire George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and an army of visual effects artists making ground breaking blockbusters today. If people only knew the impact this had and that the sci-fi films today would not exist if this one movie did not make it’s appearance in 1968.