Sunday, October 4, 2015

2001: A Pacing Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey is a very unique film. It manages to combine beautiful artistic shots with semi-realistic physics. It was a little hard to sit through at 2 hours and 40 minutes, only because it's not the sort of movie I'm used to watching. It likes to show instead of tell, unlike many modern movies. This leads to long cuts and lingering spacescapes, with minimal dialogue. It's a movie you have to go into expecting it for what it is; more of a statement than a solid, linear narrative. Reading another review on it, the reviewer commented on how when seeing it in the theater, many moviegoers were frustrated by not immediately understanding the progression of events. It was not made to be ultra accessible like many modern films--it's not incredibly difficult to grasp, but you have to think on it and consider the artistic decisions that Kubrik made to get a sense of what it's suggesting. He completely forgoes explicit statement of anything.

The actual plot explores the progression of human evolution. In the beginning, an ape discovers the destructive power of a bone, crushing an animal skeleton and sending bits flying everywhere. Its brutal work done, it sends the weapon catapulting into the air and the movie immediately cuts to a similarly-shaped space station swinging around the earth. It easily parallels these two things just by clever directing. The monolith first appears in this earliest part of human development. The next place it is found is deliberately buried on the moon. When this one is discovered by humans, the sunlight hitting it causes it to transmit a powerful radio signal, aimed towards Jupiter. This is the basis for the Jupiter mission. Five scientists are sent on a spacecraft towards the mysterious destination of the signal. Accompanying them is a HAL 9000, a highly intelligent computer entity that controls many of the basic functions of the ship. Supposed to be infallible and incapable of error, the two crew members not in cryogenic sleep call his reliability into question when he gives them differing information from mission control. This spirals into a sequence of events ending in all the scientists but one, David, being terminated by HAL. David escapes towards the monolith only to be sucked into a vortex of colors, landing him in a room where he experiences accelerated aging, finally finding himself in bed as an old man, reaching towards a final monolith at the foot of his bed. He is transformed into a celestial, godlike baby.

This movie is surprisingly much more true to physics than many of the other movies we've viewed so far. Though next to Armageddon, anything will look pretty decent. They captured centripetal force and the basics behind effective artificial gravity fairly well. The crewmembers feel gravity evenly throughout their bodies because relative to the radius of the huge space station, their height is inconsequential. In a smaller spacecraft, such as the Russian station in Armageddon, the rotation would have a dizzying effect because as you move closer to the center the force decreases, so your head and feet would be experiencing drastically different rates of rotation. The film also is rare in that it accurately depicts the silence of space--sound waves travel best through dense materials and space is about as far from dense as you can get (one atom/cm3, compared to 20 million trillion atoms/cmon earth).

I really liked the movie for its beautiful shots and thought into the artistic composition. However, I feel like the careful artistic composition could have still been retained even if some of the shots had been cut in length slightly. There was a solid five minutes spent solely on an aerial view of the moon shuttle moving them across the surface to their destination. You really have to be determined to enjoy this movie for the experience of it. Like your ex-girlfriend; pretty but difficult to love.

ISMP rating: GP
My rating:  3/5