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2001: A Space Odyssey Review

The Best Sci-Fi Film Ever, Period.

Eli Moore

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For the record, 2001: A Space Odyssey is weird. Not David Lynch weird, but to an extent where many would point at their television screen, and go “Yep, that’s definitely a little crazy.”

This film is a masterpiece, don’t get me wrong. It’s gorgeously shot and edited to an extent where it’s considered art. The whole film takes place in space except for the first twenty minutes, and for 1968, it’s impressive to say the least.

The movie is filmed into four individual segments, The Dawn Of Man, The Lunar Journey (which does not have a title card), The Jupiter Mission, 18 Months Later, and Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite. I’ll discuss each segment and give you my thoughts.

 

The Dawn Of Man

 

This is the first segment of the film, after its three-minute overture. It shows a group of apes, and it’s apparently implied that they are our ancestors. The group of apes live in harmony, going about their daily lives amongst the African steppe, eating the plants that grow around them.

 

That is, until the Monolith appears.

 

The Monolith is a forboding black rectangle, seemingly planted into the ground. The apes approach it with wonder, seemingly hypnotized by the sentinel. One of the apes, soon after approaching, goes to a pile of antelope bones, and lifts one of them. Soon realizing what it could be used for, he smashes the skull of the antelope, the pieces of bone flying everywhere. “Also Sprach Zarathustra” plays in the background, as we are shown intercut images of tapirs falling to the ground, dead. The tribe of apes soon consumes meat for the first time. The tribe leader throws his bone, and lets it glide. As the bone flies through the air, it cuts to a spaceship orbiting Earth.

 

The Lunar Journey

 

In the second part, we finally here the first line of dialogue, twenty-five minutes in. We’re introduced to Heywood Floyd, a man sent to space because of a mysterious object found on the Moon’s surface. Following a passive-aggressive confrontation with some Soviets, he slips on a spacesuit and heads to the lunar surface.

Accompanied by a crew of astronauts, he approaches the object, and sees it.

 

It’s the Monolith.

 

They approach the Monolith, and pose with a camera to snap a picture. Before the photo is snapped, the Monolith releases a loud, piercing  shriek. The astronauts try to cover their ears, but it is proven worthless as we are shown the next title card.

 

The Jupiter Mission, 18 Months Later

 

As we go into the third segment, we meet a new cast of characters. We meet Frank Poole and David Bowman, two astronauts who take control of the spaceship while three other astronauts remain in hibernation.  

They’re on the ship along with HAL 9000, a supercomputer that seems to have emotions of its own. David Bowman is the commander of the ship, and as we hear in a news transmission, Frank Poole is his second-in-command. And they’re going to Jupiter, which seems oddly impossible. But it’s science fiction, after all.

We are shown around the ship during these opening moments, and how it seems to constantly be spinning.

We are shown some of the things astronauts do. Frank plays a chess game with HAL, David does some sketching, and they eat some rather disgusting-looking food. However, as HAL is talking with David, he says that there is an error with a communications antenna, and gives it seventy-two hours until absolute failure.

David becomes nervous, and he goes into a pod to fix it. When he goes to fix the antenna, he notices no problems with the device. He then realizes that HAL 9000, a computer that has been known for no errors whatsoever, has made a mistake.

Back on the ship, Dave and Frank talk about the mistake that HAL made, but the computer attributes it to human error. After the confrontation, David and Frank go to a pod, out of earshot of HAL. There, they discuss the possibility of disconnecting HAL. However, what they don’t know is that HAL can read lips.

 

After the short intermission, Frank goes out in a pod. However, the communications antenna hits him, and he is sent flying through space, his air hose unattached from his helmet. David notices this, and hops in a pod to rescue him. He manages to grab Frank with the pod claws, and heads to the pod bay doors. Here, this is where the famous “Open the pod bay doors, HAL” confrontation takes place. HAL refuses to open the doors, and Dave opts to go through the emergency air lock. However, he doesn’t have a spacesuit on.

Dave holds his breath as he presses the pod bay door against the airlock, and he opens the door. In a silent moment, a cloud of white gas bursts, and we are shown him flying around the tube, trying to close the airlock door. He succeeds, and soon finds himself in the ship. He slips on a spacesuit, and heads to the room where HAL’s computer nervous system is centralized.

In the background, we hear HAL begging Dave to not do what he is about to do. Armed with a small screwdriver, he begins dismantling HAL. HAL’s speech begins to slow, and he sings a song about a girl named Daisy. Eventually, HAL shuts down completely.

Suddenly, a screen lights up in the corner of the room. It’s Heywood Floyd, and he’s telling Dave about the true reason they were going to Jupiter. It was to discover why the Monolith was pointing a strong, radio emission at the planet, and he goes on to say how the purpose of the Monolith is still unknown…

 

Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite

 

We are then shown the Monolith floating between planets, as we hear mysterious chanting in the background. In another jump-cut, we are shown Dave’s face as it slowly begins to vibrate, his facial expression soon souring. Over the course of several minutes, we are shown four things: intercuts of Dave’s face, flying colors, the surface of Jupiter, and Dave’s eye, changing different colors.

After a while, we are shown Dave’s landing point. A white room, with 18th-century styles of furniture and a glowing floor. Dave, his mind overflowing through the sights he had seen, soon sees himself in different stages of his life. First, he’s a trembling old man, still in his spacesuit. Next, he is a balding, very old man in a blue, fluffy robe. Lastly, he is a hairless-wrinkled, super old man who lies in a bed. This old version of Dave points a trembling finger at something across the room.

 

It’s the Monolith, once again.

 

When we cut back to Dave, he is a glowing fetus on the bed. As the camera switches to the Monolith, it slowly begins to pan towards it.

In another jumpcut, we see the moon, and then the glowing fetus, looking down at Earth. Slowly, the camera turns toward the fetus, his eyes full of intelligence. As the fetus looks directly into the camera, the credits begin to roll, the Blue Danube Waltz playing in the background.

 

Conclusion

 

I love this movie. It’s considered by many to be the best Stanley Kubrick movie of all time. It’s brilliant, bold, and timeless. It combines legendary special effects with a classical soundtrack, eventually culminating in a story that is for the ages. It is meant to be experienced, rather than understood.

 

I give 2001: A Space Odyssey a 9.5 out of 10.

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