Friday, October 2, 2015

2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey... a classic film indeed, not only for its accurate portrayal of space physics but also for its influence on science fiction movies and movies in general in the years following.  In this review I will be covering three main topics as followed; enjoyment, plot, and physics as well as giving my overall "score" at the end.  This is my third time watching this film and I love it and appreciate even more the third time around, the pacing may be slow but if you can catch all of the underlying themes you see where the deliberate slow pacing is worth it.  Stanley Kubrick is famous for his long, slow, single shots to establish a certain tone and overall setting as well as portray certain themes that would just be ruined if said aloud.  The characters do leave something to be desired but they are far from the central focus of the film, they are but vehicles to take us on the journey that Kubrick has laid in front of us.  Visuals were spectacular, special effects were spot on, and score (my personal favorite) was phenomenal, blaring away at pivotal moments to establish tone and then complete silence to help drive home the theme.  This film is one of my personal favorites even if it is a little difficult to sit through.

As for plot, its a tricky subject to cover but I will do my best.  As the class has established, the pacing is painfully slow but this is on purpose, not only from an artistic point of view but to tell the underlying story that is present in this film.  It starts off with "The Dawn of Man" with the first primates learning to use tools (bones) as they learned from the mysterious black obelisk, after a few scenes of demonstration there is a rough cut to the year 2000 where we see how far humans have come and how far they have gone back.  Humans must, once again, learn how to walk, talk, eat food and even use the bathroom.  Kubrick's slow shots on the flights and the space station show how humans have "dumbed down" in space.  As man establishes its presence in space it discovers, yet, another black obelisk.  Instead of being hesitant like the apes, man immediately goes for contact with the object and is abruptly shown a new way of using tools.  Another sudden cut and we are now in the year 2001, where a space team is on its way to Jupiter.  The Obelisk pointed them towards Jupiter and they have blindly followed.  While on space walks outside of the ship it is silent and all you can hear is the heavy breathing of the crew member, this is to show that man does not belong in space, that man is still out of his element.  Man's new use of the tool has presented itself as the first artificial intelligence but there is a catch.  Man's tool becomes self aware and questions the use of man, even showing signs of feelings.  The "tool" slaughters all of the crew except for one man who is able to stop the "tool" and continue to Jupiter.  Once there, something strange happens that is hard to describe, much less explain.  My conclusion is that whatever higher being has brought man out to Jupiter has now transported them to a fifth dimension where he will take the next step in human evolution since man has been overtaken by his tools.  We see the last astronaut grow old in a matter of minutes but something strange happens in this room other than the fact that he is aging between every cut.  As he eats his last meal he knocks over a glass, the glass breaks but it always looks like the contents remain in the bottom of the glass, an analogy for man.  After the glass is broken he is then shown in bed near death and the obelisk appears in front of him.  It is here to transform him, to evolve humanity again from this broken shell and into a new one.  This is when we see the glowing baby or "starchild" born outside of Earth's orbit.. this is the new species of man.

Now, after that brief synopsis I would just like to point out how well thought out this film really is, every slow shot, every sound, every object on screen served a purpose throughout this entire film and I did not even touch upon it all.  The story of this film is simply amazing and after watching it more than once you will be able to pick it apart and see it for what it really is.  Despite the underlying story the film also excels on the space physics side of things.  As Dr. Fragile stated, this has some of the best physics in film to date and it came out in 1968.  I cannot think of any physics mistakes except for the moon scene.  The astronauts should not have been able to walk on the moon's surface with no "bounce" so to speak.  Other than that I did not see very much wrong with the physics.  The idea of spinning to create artificial gravity was a superb idea, the way the astronauts were depicted in space (the space walks to repair the antenna) were done greatly.  There was no sound in  space and as they jumped from the pod to the spacecraft they moved at what seemed to be accurate speeds.  A scene that particularly caught my eye was when Dave re-entered the ship through an emergency hatch.  The scene was handled almost perfectly, as he blasted his way into a vacuumed part of the ship he was flung against a wall and bounced around until he was able to grab onto the door that led inside.  It was accurate because he kept moving until he was able to gain control and the chamber remained zero-g until he was back inside the ship.  Everything from the awkward walking to the floating pin were executed expertly, its as if the film were actually filmed in space.

A majority of the class seemed to be either upset, confused, in love or just plain bored with this classic but for me, I enjoyed watching it again.  The pacing may be atrocious but as I stated before, it serves a purpose.  Characters are weak and the plot is confusing unless you take the time to dive deeper and give it some decent thought as well as pay attention to the smaller things going on in the film.  Last but certainly not least, this movie is a shining example of good physics coming out of Hollywood.  No huge explosions and sounds echoing through space or a main protagonist defying physics for the sake of enjoyment, this film did everything almost perfectly and even though it was not exciting, it served its purpose and portrayed accurate space physics.  If I were to rate this film I would give it four and a half bones out of five and seal of excellent movie physics.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of the better student reviews of Stanley Kubrick's classic that I have read. You seem to have gotten more out of the plot and implications of some of the scenes that I have, and I've seen the film many more times than you.