Friday, March 16, 2012

Best Movie, Ever?

"I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."HAL

2001: A Space Odyssey
Arthur C. Clarke

I was four years old when this movie came out. I saw it. No. I do not recall that I saw it, though my parents tell me I seemed to watch it just fine - notably, both my sister and I giggled at the beginning scenes with the apes. This said lest you think I had any hope at all of understanding this film at that time. Nope. It was clearly something more than pretty lights, but not, apparently, by a whole lot.

It's only in retrospect, after having read the book and seen the movie again several times that I recognize what an impact the film had. Science fiction to this point had been poorly budgeted, slightly slap-happy stuff. 2001: A Space Odyssey *looked* real. It kicked the bar for special effects straight out of the park. The next big special effects reboot came courtesy of Star Wars.

2001: A Space Odyssey was also a departure from the 1950's Bug-Eyed Monster stories (all thinly veiled cold war fears processing). Sure, some horrible, terrible things happen in this movie. HAL is a new kind of monster - a completely amoral one. He presages some of the plot twists of the Alien movies Allison mentioned yesterday. The astronauts trust HAL. They believe he is their ally, put in charge of the mission to protect and serve them, when in fact, HAL serves the *mission*. Important distinction. Ultimately, this is a story of what humankind might be capable of becoming. It's a question mark. Who are we as a species? Have we stopped evolving? If not, what does that next step look like?

It's a spooky, sometimes horrifying story filled with optimism about human potential and it set the stage for all kinds of science fiction goodness to come.


  1. I remember when it came out. I was 10. My Big brother said, "I'm taking you to the movies - this is an important film." My brothers are awesome that way.

    I kind of did get it, and it scared the Hell outta me right up until the psychedelic space/time passage scene. And Dave seeing himself in progressive rooms/ages until he is dead and reborn at the end, TOTALLY blew my mind.

    43 years later, I still remember being there in that theater, in dark, my little 10yo mind expanding by leaps & bounds - and never being quite the same again.

    Thanks much for reminding me.

  2. John, I still watch the film from time to time and see something new - or maybe finally just GET it - each time I see those end scenes. The one of him brushing the gal's hair there in the nursing home - the brush moving, her trembling, him invisible - to this day creeps me the heck out. :D

  3. One of the best, most distinctive, soundtracks too; though, I admit, I never made it past the apes beating each other. That opening scene sufficiently traumatized me. Perhaps I should give it another go now that I have a fast-forward button on the DVD player. :P

  4. OH, wonderful pick. I forgot how cool even the poster was.