2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

Nearly all of Stanley Kubrick's films work on some level as satires and comedies (only Spartacus and maybe his pre-The Killing stand out as purely serious), and that's certainly true of even this cold, opulent masterpiece. Here is a movie that defines "The Dawn of Man" to define the first evolutionary stirrings of humanity by defining a group of apes through their use of tools, which they put to good work brutally killing food and rivals. The jump cut from a bone club to an orbiting satellite only underlines the sense that mankind has become beholden to its creations, a point expounded upon in the final acts when a deep space mission is nominally run by two pilots but is truly commanded by HAL. For a film that suggests that alien markers trigger leaps in human intellect and even biological evolution, 2001 is also a wry coming-of-age movie about humans ultimately overcoming their own submission to their tools. Dave's "murder" of HAL is arguably the true step to humanity reaching the final form hinted at in the final moments, more so than contact with the final(?) obelisk.

There are so many little touches in this movie that I love and that show such a keen mind. The way that the 18-month leap from the moon investigation to the Jupiter mission comes with a subtle but noticeable jump in technological prowess in a fairly bold, accurate prediction of the exponential curve of technological progress in an era when spaceflight was still a matter of using longhand maths and soldered-together metal to launch people into the unknown (I love that even the food is markedly better). The use of classical music to announce mankind's opulent expansion and Ligoti to disrupt our entire sense of comprehension with music wildly outside the western harmonic standard. I also just love the casual horror of Dave's journey into the belly of the beast to destroy HAL, and the subtler horror (imo forecasting how Kubrick approached The Shining) of Dave beyond the infinite, constantly peeking at himself before assuming the identity of his increasingly aged shades. Barry Lyndon long ago supplanted this as my Kubrick of choice, but the new, exquisite Blu-ray reminded me that despite its colossal white elephant exterior, this remains one of the most unnerving, occasionally savage films ever made about Who We Are and How We Got Here.

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