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2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

When watching “2001: A Space Odyssey” it is hard to imagine that the film was made in 1968. The film is incredibly scientifically accurate, and the sets and props used seem perfect, the world in which Stanley Kubrick has created for this film is simply brilliant.

Before watching the film I really didn’t know what to expect, everyone I had asked about the film had found it difficult to explain the basic plot. After watching the film I now understand why, the film itself is very ambiguous, something that Kubrick admits to, a film that is open to the individual theories of the viewers after watching.

The reason for the exploration first to the moon and then to Jupiter is the discovery of mysterious black ‘Monoliths’, objects which act as MacGuffins for the majority of the film. I have read that in the original book that the objects are explained more in detail and we know what they are, in the film we do not know what they are, how the exist and what they do, they are simply markers that appear at different points in the story of evolution.

The film begins with the dawn of man, a group of apes that discover the first Monolith, an object which they are fascinated by. However the most important discovery for them is that of the bone as a useful tool as one ape uses it as a weapon against each other. At the end of the ape scene we see the ape through his tool up in the air after using it to his advantage, we then cut to another scene of a gigantic spaceship floating in space that immediately shows the huge advance in evolution from the human race that started off at apes and now includes astronauts.

It is not until about the hour mark that the plot really kicks in, with the introduction of the human like “H. A. L. 9000” robotic system that controls the spaceship for the Jupiter mission. We see the introduction of this human-like system through an interview for a news broadcast when the real astronauts involved in the mission are asked whether the think that HAL has emotions or not, the answer is likely that it does not but it is programmed to seem like it does to improve interaction with humans. Immediately after this question we know that HAL will be more than a simple computer system.

The scenes involving HAL and the astronauts seem short in comparison with the rest of the film that focuses largely on the images we see rather than the characters involved. The films ending is quite bizarre as the Jupiter Monolith is approached and has provoked much controversy over the meaning of the entire film, I prefer the theory that the scene is showing the story of evolution. At the beginning of the film we saw the first Monolith at the same time Apes discovered the use of a bone as their tool as they began their evolution in to man, now we are seeing the old man of one generation become the infant of another, marked by yet another Monolith.