Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Space Oddities: 2001:A Space Odyssey

Even with modern technology and CGI Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi classic '2001: A Space Odyssey' (1968) will amaze viewers with its impressive special effects and believable environment. Despite being made in 1968, this film easily keeps up with recent films such as Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' (2014). There is a certain physicality to how this film is presented that allows it to be believably realistic, perhaps even more believable than modern CGI. It is obvious how much thought and research went into making the sets, props, and costumes as true to real life as possible. There wasn't a moment in this film where the effects were so outdated that it was easily mockable due to how cheesy they look to our eyes today.
Fig. 1 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
It is obvious that this film uses its near immaculate designs and effects as its main driving point. However, "...the film did not provide the clear narrative and easy entertainment cues the audeience expected," (Ebert, 1997). More attention is focused to the other elements featured in the film such as the special effects, music, and overall design of the film versus action. This is to make the viewer think about what they were seeing. It can be argued that many scenes in this film could be shortened without losing any of the story, however that is not what Kubrick cared about. It was his film and he was going to make it the way he wanted it.

This film was split into chunks, first introducing mankind as apes who discover this artificial monolith. Upon discovering this monolith the apes learn how to use bones as weapons, taking a large evolutionary leap. This abruptly cuts to when humans can travel to the moon, where another monolith is discovered. This second monolith puts in motion the first voyage to Jupiter, another rapid advancement for humans.

 It is mostly during this voyage where we see a reasonably decent plot take shape when the AI of the ship, HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain), malfunctions and turns on the astronauts within the ship. After HAL cuts the oxygen tube on Frank Poole's (Gary Lockwood) space suit while he was trying to fix part of the ship, David Bowman (Keir Dullea) attempts to rescue him. However, during this time HAL terminates the life support for the three astronauts in hibernation (although this has little impact since the viewers aren't emotionally attached to these characters) and attempts to stop David from returning into the ship. However, David manages to board by using an emergency hatch where he slowly (painfully slowly) manages to turns HAL off.

Fig. 2

It is then revealed that David has made it to Jupiter, and from here the plot drifts off into a trippy unexplainable voyage into a wormhole. After this strange, somewhat random sequence of bright colours and swirling lights we see David in an elegant bedroom/bathroom where he ages rapidly. A monolith appears to the old man as he lies in bed, and strangely he becomes a fetus floating in space. It is unclear what meaning this has, if any meaning at all. Perhaps it is meant to be up to the viewer to decide.

It is unfortunate that this film didn't expand more on the plot between the astronauts and HAL's betrayal as it had great potential. The voice acting for HAL immediately gave off a feeling of uneasiness due to how monotone and cold he sounded. Overall, the sound and music in Space Odyssey paired with the visuals helped uplift this film so it didn't get lost in its lack of plot. The classical music along with dead silence and breathing while in the vacuum of space (which is accurate to how it would be in real life) gives off a sense of eeriness, mystery, and realism without losing the pace that Kubrick wanted to keep.

Perhaps this slow pace, showing menial tasks, and keeping dialogue simple is all to enhance this feeling of realism and every day life. It is probable that an 18 month space journey would often be repetitive, boring and drawn out. An example of this being expressed could be when David is seen running in circles on the walls of the ship, very similarly to how a hamster will run on an running wheel.

Fig. 3

The camera angles and shots also enhance this feeling of reality, for example due to the zero gravity they are able to walk/run on walls and enter doors that may be on the ceiling. Kubrick, "is particularly fond of simultaneous rotations, revolving, and straight forward motions-the visual equivalent of rubbing the stomach and patting the head," (Adler, 1968) which could possibly give the viewer slight nausea. This motion sickness is something that would probably affect individuals who travel to outer space since our bodies are not built for zero gravity therefore it adds to the realism.

Despite its flaws when it comes to plot (and slow pacing depending on the viewer's opinion), 2001: A Space Odyssey remains to be an impressive film due to its overall design (sets, costumes, etc.), use of music and sound, camera angles/shots, and special effects. This film is meant to make the audience look past the lack of action and encourage the them to think about what they are seeing, "The film, in fact, might be best described as a factual philosophical speculation...like all good speculations, it leaves the spectator up in the air with a tantalizing vision as food for thought," (Milne, 2010). It makes the viewer think about insolvable questions such as where have we come from, why are we here, and are we alone.

Adler, R. (1968) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) At: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9a04e6da1530ee3bbc4c53dfb2668383679ede Accessed on: 13/10/2015
Ebert, R. (1997) 2001: A Space Odyssey At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-2001-a-space-odyssey-1968 Accessed on: 13/10/2015
Milne, T. (2010) 2001: A Space Odyssey: Archive Review At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/oct/21/space-odyssey-review-science-fiction Accessed on: 13/10/2015

Illustration List:
Figure 1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [Poster] At: http://gvshp.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/2001-Space-Odyssey_11.jpg Accessed on: 13/10/2015
Figure 2. [Screenshot] At: https://1989nineteeneightynine.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/2001-a-space-odyssey-hal9000-hd-wallpapers.jpg Accessed on: 13/10/2015
Figure 3. [Screenshot] At: http://www.centives.net/S/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/042212_2353_Gravityin202.png Accessed on: 13/10/2015

1 comment:

  1. Great review Deanna, well thought through and very readable :)