(This review was originally published online by The Film Nerd.)
I can almost smell the pages of the books. The shelves are half full. The new high school library is still under construction but that does not stop me from perusing it's haggard contents. There it is. 2001: A Space Odyssey. The copy is worn. The cover art is eerily ambiguous. A few months later and I had worked my way through all four novels in the Space Odyssey series. It fascinated me.
After finishing the fiction series, I discovered there was a film adaption of the first installment that had initially captivated me months earlier. My mother drove me to the local Blockbuster (a weird thought now). I went straight to the Sci-Fi section and found a copy. As soon as I got home I put in the DVD.
Twenty minutes later I turned the movie off.
I was bored and disappointed.
I was fifteen years old. I didn’t know who Stanley Kubrick was and I didn’t care. He was just some guy who made a terrible film based on a book that I loved. Little did I know that Kubrick and the book’s author, Arthur C. Clarke, had collaborated on both the novel and the screenplay at the same time.
The book was written for the film, and the film was written for the book.
Several years later and I now understand how oblivious I was.
Kubrick is one of cinema's tortured masters and 2001 his cerebral masterpiece.
Equal parts emotional ambiguity and detailed logistics, 2001 is the ultimate Sci-Fi epic that breaks filmmaking rules, special effects standards, and screenwriting norms (there’s not one word of dialogue for the first twenty five minutes) even 42 years after its initial release.
The film plays as opera. The three minute long musical prelude is clue number one. Beginning with the dawn of man and ending in Dave Bowman’s unencumbered rebirth of the spirit, 2001 is more than Sci-Fi, its human drama (watch as Bowman and Poole try to outwit HAL), its societal commentary (watch as Kubrick and Clarke prophesy on the Space Race), its visual poetry (wait for the fifteen minute long stargate sequence).
From the ape’s first bone swinging advancement to Bowman’s psycadelic journey through Jupiter’s stargate, Kubrick not only takes his characters on an odyssey through space but his audience on an odyssey through the mind.
The closing scene is proof of Kubrick and Clarke’s collective genius. A withered Bowman lays dying in the Black Monolith’s hotel room recreation, a man on the verge of freedom from his human restraints and intelligence, about to embark on a truly transcendent journey he could never imagine.
The product of the ultimate space experiment, humanity has advanced to the stage their Black Monolith predecessors had hoped for. And Kubrick advances light years past his contemporaries in making a film that marks a career of masterpieces and devastates the genre.