There are a lot of movies out there in the sci-fi genre that are considered classics, there are some that are considered iconic; Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic, “2001: A Space Odyssey” is near the top of a very short list that fits nicely in both categories. No computer is more recognized than the spaceship Discovery’s main computer, the sinister HAL-9000 by his ominous red eye and monotone voice nor is quoted more regularly. Though he seems amiable at first, he is not to be trusted. Indeed, many people have compared their computer to HAL when it has given them problems. Hopefully their home systems aren’t as homicidal as him.
Based off the novel of the same name, the title “Space Odyssey” is extremely apt as the viewer is sucked into an epic tale about man’s beginnings to his journey to the stars to investigate a strange artifact known as the “Monolith.” With its eerie, perfect dimensions and ominous appearance, this object has influenced man and is leading them to an uncertain and perilous destiny.
The dark emptiness of space is perfect for Stanley Kubrick’s directing style. With a classical soundtrack and long panning camera shots, he manages to convey a sense of isolation and anxiety with each scene. The viewer can tell something bad is going to happen but can’t quite put their finger on exactly what it is. When astronauts Dave Bowman and Frank Poole played by Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood respectively, contemplate deactivating HAL after a malfunction, you can almost see the computer having a nervous breakdown.
Frank’s murder scene at the “hands” of HAL is perfectly executed by Kubrick in the blackness of space and lack of soundtrack except for Frank’s breathing. Things really get strange in the last forty-five minutes of the film as Dave finds what he’s looking for, the Monolith. Admittedly, the ending is pretty incomprehensible; for those who have read the book, it makes perfect sense but for everybody else, the audience is left scratching their heads. It does however; make for one of the strangest and most colorful scenes in film history.
Throughout the film, Kubrick demonstrates why he was one of the best directors to ever grace Hollywood as he manages to convey to the audience, not what is said but what isn’t said. This style of filming is seen in his later films such as “The Shining.” The last movie to pull off suspense in space so well was Ridley Scott’s “Alien” but even then, “Alien” is a horror movie where 2001 was a drama. Because of this, the audience is put in mind of an Alfred Hitchcock movie only set in space. The technological designs and special effects were ahead of its time for 1968. In today’s age of CGI, the effects of “2001” still stand the test of time. Because of its length, it isn’t a movie that you can always pop in and watch but it is consistently enjoyable each time you watch it.