jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
Every time I rewatch a Stanley Kubrick film, I'm convinced that that particular film is my favorite of his works. Kubrick's filmography is so diverse, perhaps the most diverse in all of Cinema and each film of his leaves me with a feeling of disbelief that someone of this artistic genius and intelligence could craft something so perfect. Kubrick's work changes me, morphs me into the person I am. I admire each of his films --from the beloved The Shining to the underappreciated Barry Lyndon-- for their capabilities, their qualities. On any day of the week, Kubrick's work is the one I would site as the most influential in all of Cinema. I speak from the heart when I write this but I truly mean it: I am a changed man. I wasn't the same person entering into the theater on August 23rd, 2018 to see one of the greatest films ever made, on the biggest screen, with the best surround system, with the best print around. I've seen 2001: A Space Odyssey a handful of times (a couple of spins on the Blu Ray, a few times on television) and I grow convinced that each viewing was the ultimate experience, but this viewing wiped every other viewing out of the water; 2001: A Space Odyssey was made to be seen on the screen. This was an experience, a transcendent visionary experience.
But let's get to the nitty-gritty. Over the years, my perception on what 2001: A Space Odyssey is actually about has changed over the numerous viewings I've had of the film and ultimately, I don't think I'll never settle on one analysis I do of the film because it's such a broad film to analyze; only recently has audio been discovered of Kubrick explaining what he thinks 2001: A Space Odyssey means to him. Even then, 2001: A Space Odyssey can be discussed through multiple ideas and visions to guide us at what a potential "universal idea" or theme could be associated with it.
I guess this viewing, I believe that 2001: A Space Odyssey is about evolution, whether it be a film about human evolution, religious evolution, or technological evolution. At the root of the film, a string of ideas connecting back to the idea of evolution helps me string this hypothesis together. At the Dawn of Man sequence, we see a group of hominoids live day by day, screaming at each other, finding food, seeking shelter, and protecting themselves from predators. These hominoids represent the idea of human evolution, as its widely known that we've evolved from primates, but that's only clear that we're going to be the future representation of these hominoids when the hominoid murders the rival hominoid group leader. The bone is tossed into the air and in the iconic transition, the bone becomes a space station; the bone represents Man's first tool. Kubrick cuts the scene to show, in centuries to come, what Man used with that first tool, the creations its made, and the progress they've had. This swift transition also shows the next source of evolution: the technological.
From the bone, to the space. Pan Am has found a way to travel individuals to the different space stations, the moon is being excavated for an unfamiliar object that's mysteriously appeared on it, and other clear advances --the gravity boots, the structures of the space crafts-- are known. Technology has improved, but at what cost? The iconic third segment of the film introduces our main character, Dave. Dave is on the United States spacecraft Discovery One on a mission to Jupiter. Besides three fellow scientists in suspended animation, all Dave has to interact with is Frank, another scientist, and HAL 9000, the main computer, the operating system of the spacecraft. For all the wonderful technological advances we've had shown in segment 2, the idea of HAL 9000 proves to be the downfall; an operating system incorporated with human capabilities. Even the scientists while being interviewed said that HAL was like a human member of the crew. After suspicious activity connected back to HAL, Frank and Dave begin to suspect him of malfunctioning, to which HAL retaliates by murdering every crew member besides Dave, who becomes trapped in space after trying to save Frank's body. This is the symbolization of the failure of all of the technology; we've become so enwrapped in moving Man forward to the future. HAL's meltdown shows the failures technology can have. Was the technological evolution worth it?
But what about the Monolith? How can an analysis of 2001: A Space Odyssey not have the Monolith in discussion? The Monolith connects back to the religious evolution; at the beginning of the film, the Monolith appears to the hominoids and after initially being afraid, they grow to praise the Monolith and it seems that the Monolith helps provoke the train of events that happen in the future with the hominoids. After that, the Monolith vanishes. With the second segment, the Monolith is that mysterious object on the moon. When Heywood Floyd and a bunch of astronauts go to investigate it and after sunlight strikes the Monolith, a loud squealing noise is heard: this is the Monolith awakening from its sleep. This is, for lack of a better example, the "Second Coming" of the Monolith.
And after Dave disables HAL, his spacecraft manages to make his way to Jupiter. He spots the Monolith, floating around Jupiter. Dave gets into a pod to go investigate it. Dave is then sucked into a vortex; symphonies of light, color, and other cosmological enigmas flash before his eyes and landscapes covered in bright colors. Dave is transported to a room, a bedroom where he begins to age before our eyes; from a young man to a middle aged male, to an elderly man, and then to a man on the brink of death, before evolving into a Star-Child. This is the religious evolution idea.
The Monolith is a representation of God, an evolution in of itself. This shape has ascended to an incomprehensible figure. Dave's transformation is his ascending into this religious change; the Star-Child is the shedding of human skin into a form that normal evolution cannot even comprehend. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a film about striving to reach that final form. Now of course, the Star-Child and Monolith aren't real beings, but their ideas are: Religion is placing faith in something that isn't seen. People have "religious sittings" or epiphanies, God has spoken to them in their time of need. In 2001, Dave is stranded, alone in space with only an unknown mission at his hand. The Monolith takes His Child from the cruel world and makes Dave into the ultimate form (this form represents Heaven and the idea of your soul reaching it). People don't realize that they need God (The Monolith) until it's clear to them. Religious ideas in 2001 have changed, evolved from Man and God, to Monolith and Star-Child. Religion and its forms have evolved into beings that aren't explainable.
So, I'll stop there for today. One day, I hope to actually write a huge, indepth piece about Kubrick's magnum opus becuase if any film deserves it, it's 2001. So, I'll return to the theater. I leave the theater in a daze. If it wasn't clear then, it is now: this is quite possibly the finest achievment made by any filmmaker. No film really can come close to the genius of 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film that (not that it matters) now comfortably sits in my top 10 of all time. No film comes even close. This theater experience was the most religious experience of my life. If I could relive this night for the rest of my life, I would. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the masterpiece to end all masterpieces.