2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

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

Having covered this, to some extent, on The Simon and Jo Film Show and with 1001 Movies blog having this as a film coming up there too, now is the time to do this review. Now I have only seen this film – and it was a few months back. But, I still got my notes so theres nothing stopping me. I’m on holidays too so … now’s the time.

Without words…

One of the big – of the many – iconic aspects to this ‘classic’ movie is the opening: twenty minutes of apes – showing the evolution as apes communicate. By finding a black monolith they begin to think and become violent and aggressive. The dawn of man. This has become inspirational to so many filmmakers – namely on There Will Be Blood and Wall-E – whereby we hear no speaking during the opening. In There will be blood it even has the similar use of strings-score. Albeit with legend Jonny Greenwood composing. Nevertheless, following this verbally-mute beginning, it continues with the biggest jump-cut the world has seen as a raggedy-old bone is thrown in the air and, cut, we see the spaceship and the beautiful music of Johann Strauss II’s The Blue Danube ‘waltz’ through the blank canvas or the universe. Over five minutes of floating items to classical music. Can anything be more awe-inspiring, mor breathtaking and maginificant that it forces you to question the forces at play behind both events. The spirituality and God that has created such a majestic vision.

The one thing tying all this together is the unexplained and unanswered questions of the black monolith – recently seen again in those bloody LG adverts.The huge questions this single abstract form begs for answers – to think its compared to a phone. Without going off too much on a tangent, I only recently watched the Oscar winning Logorama short (From Nevermind Popular Film blog)- and if you are interested in the world-of-brands that LG has now turned 2001: A Space Odyssey into then check out this short – because it truly says how destructive and dangerous this world of capitalism and brands truly is.

Nevertheless, by jumping a millenia to see this continued exploration of the galaxy we realise that with all the technological advancements that has been created we are still searching for the answers to no avail. Strangely enough, having watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull only recently, it is a similar theme: we can search and crave for all the knowledge in the world; we could know everything. But it is the journey in finding, bit by bit, this knowledge that is the beauty of being human. This constant question-asking is important – the answers not-so-much.

The only narrative we can grab a hold of is following ‘Dave’ and his conflict with “I’m sorry Dave…” HAL-9000 as Dave realises that the machine created is the machine that will inevitably destroy. Dave’s story ends as he is trapped in infinity, getting older and again – coming face to face – with the black block. What is the point of all this? As already established – it is the questions raised not the answer.

Only the Big Questions in Big Space

On a closing note – because again, akin to Apocalypse Now, I will inevitably come back to this film. Hopefully at the cinema on Jo’s – and Barry Normans – recommendation. HAL-9000 has been parodied/spoofed/inspired others so many times – notably in Duncan Jones’ Moon and in Ridley Scotts Alien on the Nostromo. It is this that puts this film on a plinth – or should I say monolith – as it not only tackles the huge questions of life with the required majesty and awesome breadth needed, it has also become a stapple of the Sci-Fi genre inspiring countless imitators – in its narrative, in its set-design, in practically every aspect.

I have never been a huge Sci-Fi fan, but I know from reading about Danny Boyle’s Sunshine that there are two types of science-fiction film: the Star Wars, Star Trek adveture sci-fi and then there is the abstract life-question films – that inevitably ask questions about faith and spirituality. 2001: A Space Odyssey is firmly in the latter – and I question if any other film has come close to portraying such an issue with such brutal scope. Without answering a single question that was raised.


  1. Great post! 2001: A Space Odysseys is really an influential movie. It contains several messages, but one pervades all : “we are mere puppets of the Universe”.

  2. I think the people who don't rate 2001 as high as others are probably just not big Sci-Fi fans – you can appreciate its quality its just not 'your bag'.

  3. Hey,
    I'm sorry this is not about this post. I love your widget at the top where I can select your past review either by title or by director.
    Can you tell how to do it or give any link that would help me,
    Thanks & Cheers.

  4. Great write up. This is probably the most important science fiction film ever made and I can't wait to watch it again. Not sure I agree that Alien took Mother from 2001, seeing as Mother really didn't do anything like HAL. The android on the ship was, maybe influenced, but it's hard to say. We have evil robots and computers long before 2001 so who knows.

  5. Just a couple of points to add.

    What makes this really amazing is that the effects are just incredible. Consider it was made in 1968, it's now over 40 years old and doesn't look dated in the slightest. The spaceships are majestic, the vision of the future and new technology utterly convincing. The apes are perfectly placed between human and animal, scarily well made up/costumed. Kubrick has put in the effort into little details, it feels so clean and fresh with enough realism that you can conceive that all these developments are just around the corner.

    With regards to the big questions, the genius is in that it lets each viewer make up their own mind. The lack of answers and indeed of an actual stated question mean the film offers different interpretations to different people. Personally I connected with the concept of evolution and AI and the huge way in which humanity changed in a short space of time and the ways we continue to change. For better or worse is up for debate but we certainly have choice…

  6. @Alfindeol – I think you are supposed to have some distrust in technology in Alien – but it turns out to be Ash, not Mother who should be feared.

    @Jo – yeah, the effects are incredible and, another huge film it influenced is not other than THX 1138. Thats a huge deal!

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