1968: 2001: The Space Odysseys

imageIs there intelligent life out beyond out planet? What about beyond our solar system? Did they help us get to where we are? Will we ever be able travel far enough to know. By the year 2001 we did not know the answers to those questions. We still do not know today. What we do know, though, is that Stanley Kubrik’s and Arthur C. Clark’s vision of where we would be is a magnificant interpretation.

1968 saw the release of both film and novel versions of this story. Kubrick directed the film, Clark wrote the novel. I tackle both this week.

The stories are split into 4 parts. Part one is with out monkey men ancestors as they discover a black slab in there midst and discover the use of weapons. The film stops there, but the book goes into more detail and tells us the monkeys were directly taught how to use weapons and make them and how to survive through hunting.

imagePart two concerns a man named Dr. Haywood Floyd. He is a man travelling from the earth two the moon. Not much happens in this section, and in both stories Floyd is living a very different life, but what is lacking in story and inconsistency is made up for with the elaborate painting of a picture of what common space flight, artificial gravity, and moon life may look like. Dr. Haywood’s mission is to travel to a quarantined are of the moon, without leaking secrets, where they have found a slab similar to the one the monkey men found. When he gets to the slab they are about to take a picture, but the sun comes up and an overwhelming humming is emmited from the slab. The film leaves the meaning of this up to our imagination. In the book it makes it very clear that this is the result of the sun rising and setting it off and that this black stone was most likely left by some other species as a signal that the “monkey men” had finally reached an advanced state where they could actually reach the moon.

Part three is where things get serious. David Bowman and Frank Poole are the only other conscious members of a group headed to Jupiter. They are accompanied by their RoboTic computer system HAL 9000. Several things go wrong and it is revealed that HAL is responsible, and that he was working on a separate mission. In the end all crew members except Bowman are killed and he is forced to shutdown HAL. The movie does a great job of building up the suspense to HAL’s sinister ways. The book explaination is that HAL had to keep the secret of the real mission caused him to have a mental breakdown. Both book and film carry out this act fantastically.

the fourth and final act is very different for both mediums. In the film Bowman arrives at Jupiter as a third black slab arrives. He trips out, speeding through 20 minutes of freaky lights until he arrives in a rich mans shiny white room. Suddenly he gets really old and then, the next thing you know, he is a transparent infant looking down at earth. No explanation, just leaves everything to your imagination. In the book, the real mission was to get to Saturn, which he completes. He then gets into his pod and descends upon the third slab, which he found on one of saturns moons. In the book, this black slab is a doorway that brings him through vast distances in space until he finds a massive abandoned shipyard. He then also finds himself in a room, but this room is a hotel room very different from the clean white one of the movie. Here he discovers that earth has been watched through radio and tv waves. When he goes to sleep in the bed this is when the transformation occurs. He relives his whole life in reverse as he becomes the immortal infant. The book describes it as a transfer of memory as one Dave dies and another becomes immortal. He then travels to earth as a godlike being, unsure about what he is going to do now.

The film is visually stunning, I feel, mostly because the classical music picked to go with it is so grandiose. I love watching this movie, but it is difficult to do when I am sleepy because some of the scenes have long gaps between dialogue, and nothing is said at all until about 25 minutes in. The book is similar. Very well written, but long chapters just of discription. That being said I still think book and film are fantastic. And if you like the film definitely give the book a go!

2001 was the first of several more stories written by Clark (although even this inspired by a couple of his shirt stories; The Sentinel and  Encounter at Dawn). He later wrote 2010: Odyssey Two, which was developed into a film (not by Kubrick), 2061 Odyssey Three, and 3001: The Final Odyssey.

Thanks for reading!

Image from Wikipedia.


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