Science Fiction

The Visual Experience of 2001: A Space Odyssey


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I must admit that I have never seen Stanley Kubrick’s epic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) up until this current semester of college that I’m attending. I’ve always known that 2001 is considered to be one of the greatest films of all-time and now after finally seeing the film, I can see why. I know that after researching the film, that there’s a lot of underlying meaning in the film, but the amazing thing about 2001 is that all of the meanings are meant to be seen visually. 2001 doesn’t have a lot of dialog, but with all of the visual imagery, it’s clear that the film doesn’t need the dialog to get some of its points across. The visuals are superb and I think that it’s definitely better than some of the films that are being made today. The visuals of the film were the area that left the most impact on me. To show how the visuals were so powerful to me, I’m going to provide a few examples.


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The monolith: The monolith is such a powerful visual in 2001. There’s no clear explanation in the film of where the monolith comes from and we are left to ponder where it comes from and what does the monolith actually do. The monolith is not man-made as its edges and its shape is too perfect. The monolith is natural and it looks as if it was made by aliens. The monolith is possibly involved in the film in an evolutionary sense, as that what it feels like as if it’s doing. It appears early in the beginning of the film with the apes. After it’s appearance, the apes grow more intelligent and the apes are able to recognize how to use tools (the bone). The apes are also able to establish dominance amongst each other by using the tool as a weapon. The monolith later appears on the moon in front of several astronauts from Earth. The monolith leaves the men awe-struck and the monolith scene ends with a loud screeching noise. The monolith is seen again towards the end of the film as the monolith guides Dave (Keir Dullea) to the planet Jupiter where another evolutionary stage will take place. This time the evolutionary stage advances Dave (a human) into the Star Child which is possibly like a meta-human. The film shows that the monolith is always lingering throughout the film, waiting to advance evolution.


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HAL 9000: HAL (voiced by Douglas Rain) is the main antagonist in 2001. HAL is a computer that controls the spaceship’s systems and that ensures that the crew stays on track with their mission. HAL  is very intelligent as it is able to speak with the crew members and is able to even participate in a game of chess. When HAL speaks, the camera shifts to a red eye that’s on the walls of the ship. At first, when HAL is not aware of the crew’s plot to shut the computer down, he seems friendly, but to me the red eye hides a mysterious evil. Then after HAL becomes aware of the plot, HAL’s red eye comes into play as though HAL can’t hear the crew speak, but the eye is used to look into the spaceship where the crew is speaking and is used to read the crew’s lips. HAL goes on to kill several of the crew members after learning the plot, but isn’t capable of killing Dave. Dave shuts down HAL for good by using a key. HAL can be seen as a parallel to the Cyclops in Homer’s The Odyssey. The one, red eye is what mainly see of HAL and he meets his demise by the protagonist, which is Dave.

Spacecraft and Outer Space: Kubrick features several great shots of spacecraft and outer space. The spacecraft that always comes to my mind when I think of 2001 is the crew’s spaceship, Discovery.


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That’s a huge spaceship. I can see how 2001 inspired future science fiction films that involve spaceships such as the Star Wars franchise. 2001 was very innovative for it’s time as there were no rockets in the film, but humans in the film had achieved space travel with their own spacecraft creations. The outer space visuals left me awe-struck as it gave me a sense of mystery and a sense of fear. The sense of fear comes from the scene where HAL has cut Dr. Poole’s (Gary Lockwood) air hose from his suit and his lifeless body floats through outer space. This shot induces fear as all you see around Poole is pitch-black. A pitch-black unknown. The scenes of Dave traveling to Jupiter through the wormhole give a sense of mystery though the scenes are amazing to behold. All of the different colors used on the varied landscapes of Jupiter keep the mystery vibe, but it also feels trippy, but in a good sense.

2001 is a visually, gratifying film. All of the visuals give a sense of wonder, but also a dark, deep sense of mystery. People who view this film could possibly start to wonder what is really going on out there in space and what is happening beneath it all. I’ve only seen this film once and according to Arthur C. Clarke, this film needs to be viewed more than once to potentially catch all of the underlying meanings as opposed to Kubrick, who believe that one viewing is enough. I agree with Clarke on the matter and I definitely wouldn’t mind traveling back into the visually-amazing world of 2001 again.



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