Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is an epic science fiction film that has engrossed many audiences through its staggeringly accurate depiction of future spacecraft. It is comprised of an untraditional plot in which portrays the developments of the human race as a whole rather than focus on telling the story of a single character, telling 2001 in four chapters. With these intentions, Kubrick’s revolutionary production design is so authentic that it becomes a film way ahead of its time, not just artistically, but through advancing technological spacecraft in the real world highly enough that in 1969, man walked on the moon for the very first time.
The first chapter “The Dawn of Man” depicts the everlasting desire for mankind to gain mental superiority over one another through two tribes of apes – this of which is initiated by a mysterious black monolith. The dry and barren but colourful atmospheres that surround them represent the emptiness and nothingness of the universe when simply using it as a means to survive rather than to live, but as a single ape discovers and teaches other apes the rule of survival of the fittest, the later arrival of the monolith encourages an interest from the other apes. It is interesting how the fascinating monolith juxtaposes with the unproductive scenery as it depicts that the establishment of the human mind was widely expanded through science and exploration, and through mans own will.
All of the chapters are portrayed in an unpretentious manner, as a means to depict the characters and the spacecraft to be natural as if they didn’t have to put on an act for viewing audiences. This is especially demonstrated through chapter two “Tycho Magnetic Anomaly one” in which Kubrick tries to initiate that the advancement of a spaceship could become so common that they would not need to forcefully emphasise the greatness of it to audiences. Along with this, they also display the spaceship to have numerous similarities to an airport, along with living environments so crew members could simply use the spacecraft to relax as well. The fact that all of the different rooms have boldly different colours and bright tones could emphasise their recognisable individual functions, but they could also be chosen as a means to display their level of risk to the crew members, such as the room that Frank talks to his family from is white for innocence and emptiness and the colour of the room which programs HAL 9000 is red to be threatening.
It is significant that there is little dialogue or music during the course of the movie, and it is noted that there is no dialogue during the first quarter and last quarter of the film. This is technically because in space there is no sound. However, this intention to also be to emphasise the impact of the interior and exterior design of the spacecraft. Angie Errigo states: “Its faults - sketchy narrative, overblown abstraction - are counterbalanced by its gripping engagement between man and machine, and its rhapsodic wonder at heaven and earth and the infinite beyond” and much of the stylized technology has been used in many Sci-Fi films today, such as the Star Wars saga and Blade Runner. As the movie progresses, it is evident that much of the colours of the set designs are primary colours that contain rigid outlines, however, there is also a heavy use of very basic black and white tones to emphasize that despite the artistic qualities of the set, it is displayed and design for function purposes. Chapter two expresses an array of spectacular shots in which exceedingly cover the whole of the spaceship, such as through using long panel shots to cover a tunnel like perspective view, along with using the sets creatively to display the absence of gravity and the ways in which the crew can exploit this.
The final chapters of the film become more compelling than the previous ones due to the fact that they convey an obvious plot, and they also demonstrate the characters’ actions as being critical for their own survival – especially Dave’s. A particular catalyst that supports this is when the HAL 9000 – the brain and central nervous system of the spacecraft starts to turn against the crew members of the ship even though he is programmed to be fool proof and incapable of error. Everything around the spaceship seems to close in and the colours are more dark and denser to resemble that the life support of the ship is crashing, showing a less glamorous side of the ship, however, due to this we see a more interesting character development as Dave is forced shut down the spacecraft to save Frank.
The final chapter “Jupiter and beyond the Infinite” is a challenging concept to understand by some viewers, as it incorporates the idea that man has to understand his mortality, and that new unknown life is constantly emerging beyond the cosmos. It also in some ways concludes the development of man in conjugation with the first chapter demonstrating the start of mans life. The deliberately antique room in which inhabits numerous forms of mans life demonstrates the fact that no earthly actions can prepare man for life outside of earth. It is also interesting how Dave sees older versions of himself as he explores the rooms as if he is consciously looking towards the future in the aid of personal development, judging oneself from the outside. A particularly challenging moment involves Dave witnessing an older version of himself drop a wine glass – perhaps signifying that despite a container, the liquid still exists and mirroring the concept of death when the body no longer remains but the spirit will continue to exist. The monolith also returns to the final stage of Dave’s life as a bedridden old man, perhaps foreshadowing how the later existence of technology will also be just as significant on him evaluating his life. However, the big finale which displays a particularly intelligent technique portrays Dave going through a stargate sequence after defeating HAL and as he is being transported light years into the universe, the monolith is presumed to be showing him things that he’d never have the ability to see for himself. Through this is views other phenomena of life forms and there is a part in the stargate sequence which shows the Monolith possibly showing Dave the big bang – this is demonstrated through Dave’s eyes continuing to blink and change colour, emphasising his new wave of understanding.
Reynolds, D. and more, S. (2013) What does the ending of 2001: A space odyssey really mean? Available at: http://whatculture.com/film/what-does-the-ending-of-2001-a-space-odyssey-really-mean?page=2 (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
Snow, R. (2011) Reviews of classic movies: ‘2001: A space odyssey’. Available at: https://robertsnow.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/review-2001-a-space-odyssey/ (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
Willans, J., Nybergh, T., Caretti, R., Kurkijärvi, K., Anderson, J., Aulén, M., Harris, K., Tamminen, L. and Järventaus, A. (2013) 17 little known facts about 2001: A space odyssey. Available at: http://inktank.fi/17-little-know-facts-about-2001-a-space-odyssey/ (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(Willans et al., 2013)
Zárate, I. (2015) The cultural impact of Kubrick’s 2001: A space odyssey. Available at: http://moviepilot.com/posts/3605468 (Accessed: 15 October 2016).