2001: A Space Odyssey is a lightning bolt of a film that imparts a ghost-like haunting long after the screen goes dark. Upon an initial viewing, its astonishing amalgamation of sight and sound singes itself deep within your consciousness; its effects are forever etched into your brain. The film is as thought-provoking and amazing as any other major motion picture in existence. Even as its pacing may seem sluggish, the avant-garde approach that Kubrick takes makes 2001 a cosmic meditation and one of the most applaudable pictures of all time.
2001 begins with “The Dawn of Man,” in which prehistoric man finds a mysterious black monolith and then learns to use a bone as a weapon. This scene then jettisons thousands of years into the future, where man has left the sandy soils of the earth for the starry Solar System. Spacecraft dance through the Milky Way, while a deeply lulling “Blue Danube Waltz” plays in the backdrop.
Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) travels to the moon to view an object that was deliberately buried beneath the surface four million years ago. To maintain absolute secrecy, the public is distracted by the cover story of an epidemic; however, Floyd knows the truth. Whatever it is, it is sending a signal to Jupiter.
Eighteen months later, aboard the spaceship Discovery, two crewmen, David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), three cryogenically frozen scientists, and the brain and central nervous system of the ship, the HAL 9000 computer (the voice of Douglas Rain) venture towards Jupiter to investigate the receiving end of the signal. However, when HAL becomes unstable, the mission is jeopardized.
During the film’s final act of four, “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite,” Bowman discovers yet another (and much larger) black monolith, and when it aligns with the moons of Jupiter, Bowman is catapulted through a collage of colors to another space and time. He ages in a matter of minutes, witnesses a towering monolith watching over him as he dies in bed, and is reborn as the “star child.”
Perhaps, the most stunning aspect of 2001 is that even though its depiction of the future is way off the mark, its special effects and cinematography appear as flawless as any modern-day CGI film. In fact, 2001 is so visually arresting that it unequivocally demands a pair of unflinching eyes, as well as, captivates its audience in the disbelief that it was filmed nearly 40 years ago. Kubrick’s camera tricks are as mind-boggling as a book of optical illusions.
Throughout the entire epoch of science-fiction, no other film has emoted such ecstasy in response to the questions of the Great Beyond and established such a mystical oneness with the universe in which we live. And, while its sequel, 2010, does provide some insights into the whys and hows of 2001, the effects of the original are better off left open to the viewer’s imagination. 2001 is a groundbreaking motion-picture that gets the gears of your brain rolling and animates your inner life-force. It is a visionary masterwork and one of the finest features ever crafted.