21. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: 2001: A Space Odyssey

October 4, 2018

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke
Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Douglas Rain
Runtime: 142 Minutes


Original UK Release: 1968




2001: A Space Odyssey is cold, yet incredibly visually powerful and overwhelming in dimension and capacity.


Readings of the film’s general narrative that bare cohesion to its thematic overtures and examination of perception, psychology, evolution and nature are considerable in number and interpretation. None of which can ever be truly discredited, as Kubrick’s intention was always to reach into the audience's subconscious in a more elegiac and valued manner than the genre would usually afford, especially on this scale.


The rousing choices of choral music are a masterstroke at endowing the film with not only a classicist presence, but a form of visual poetry that works in tandem with sound as a means of settling on more than just an ambient atmosphere, but the perpetuated sensation that what is happening is of vital significance and mythical import – it’s visual storytelling only aiding in making the minimal usage of dialogue all the more poignant and memorable. Edited and cut to perfection, featuring the greatest jump cut in the history of cinema


Douglas Trumbull’s special effects work is beyond its age in terms of ambition, but the practical effects work and extraordinary physical illustrations are a peak in the history of the medium. From the prosthetics of the apes, to the rotating interiors of Discovery One, the effects here helped to define not only an era, but an entire genre for the foreseeable future.


The many human performances are reserved to a point of cold calculation that comments on our contemporary, autonomous status in the modern age, with the exception of Douglas Rain’s perfectly monotonous yet unforgettably sinister vocal performance as HAL 9000.


It’s abstract, languorous and offers no obvious narrative resolve, but its enigmatic presence continues to draw people to its majesty. It’s considerable, cognisant and challenging cinema at its most fundamental.

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