The first time I saw Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was about ten years ago on a computer screen across the room. Though I was intrigued, it was late and collectively, my husband and I slept through half the movie. Disappointing, I know. However, a few weeks ago, my brother gave me a wonderful birthday gift: the chance to see this great film the best way possible, in 70 mm IMAX. It was a beautiful, immersive experience that blew me away and made me truly appreciate this amazing science fiction classic.
Sometimes even after seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey people have trouble putting into words what exactly this film is about. It’s not the sort of film that focuses on a tangible story, but more of a medication of linking images that connect to show the human race advancing thanks to some help from mysterious beings across the universe. That’s how I interpret it anyway, but let me try to plot out a plot.
The film starts with ancient man still as primitive apes, in such detailed ape costumes that should make Planet of the Apes jealous. A mysterious black monolith appears, catches the ape men’s attention and I believe gives them an evolutionary push to begin using tools. A bone is tossed into the air and suddenly we see a space transport. It’s now 2001 and humans have invented space travel and evolved pretty much as far as they can with their tools. Then a second monolith is discovered buried on the moon. It’s connecting to a signal out around Jupiter. Then we’re on a mission to Jupiter, with a crew of five humans and one super computer, HAL 9000. Any real film fan knows HAL causes trouble and the crew’s lone survivor, Dave (Keir Dullea) travels beyond the infinite.
By the end of the film, we’re left more questions than answers. Who brought the monoliths to Earth and the moon? Why does it make such an ear-piercing noise? Does HAL want to prevent humans from reaching the next monolith? Where exactly did Dave go? What’s up with the space baby? I don’t know if there are any concrete answers, and that’s fine by me. I feel that this film is supposed to make us feel a bit uneasy, question our existence and what’s beyond everything we know.
What makes this film so amazing is the spectacular visuals. The Earth, moon and Sun align with the triumphantly iconic opening music. An ape smashes sun bleached bones that fly into a dazzling blue sky. The bone white spaceships move gracefully along a background of stars. We see huge, spinning space stations and spacecraft moving together in a mesmerizing cosmic ballet. Inside the spacecrafts, people move in precise, gravity defying ways that boggle the mind. HAL’s menacing red eye is ever-watching. Traveling beyond the infinite is a technicolor ride that I had me holding onto my seat in Indiana’s largest IMAX theater.
There’s never been such a beautiful blend of mystery, technology, triumph and wonder like 2001: A Space Odyssey and I doubt there ever could be again. The images Kubrick captured could never feel as authentic in today’s CGI film world and a film that contains so little dialogue would be hard for a 21st century audience to connect with. It’s hard to believe the only Oscar this film won was for best special effects (obviously). But much like Kubrick, this film was so ambitious it can be too much for some to appreciate. To each their own. It was such a pleasure to enjoy this film during its 50th anniversary run in IMAX; the large format is incredibly immersive and moving.
“Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?”