Saturday, July 19, 2008
Movie of the Week: 2001: A Space Odyssey!
So this week, I decided to make the movie of the week 2001: A Space Odyssey. Why? Just because. It's a fantastic film, and it's really up to the individual viewer to interpret things his or her own way... and it inspired a generation of sci-fi fans and creators of all kinds!
Plot summary from Wikipedia, so don't blame me if you disagree with the writer's interpretation!
The title sequence begins with an image of the Earth rising over the Moon, while the Sun rises over the Earth.
Over images of an African desert, a caption reads "The Dawn of Man". A tribe of prehistoric ape-men is struggling to survive in the dry desert. One morning, a mysterious black rectangular monolith appears near their habitat and is examined by the nervous apes.
Following this encounter, a lone ape-man (Daniel Richter) invents the first tool when he picks up a bone from a pile and discovers he can use it as a club to crush other bones. The tool-using tribe is seen to be then eating the meat of a tapir which they killed, whereas they had previously been eating vegetation. The ape-man, now standing partially upright, leads the tribe in defense of their waterhole against another tribe, using the new weapon to club an enemy ape to death. The victorious ape-man throws his weapon into the air, at which point the film jumps to the future, in a match cut that links the tumbling bone to an orbital satellite.
A Pan American spaceplane carrying only one passenger, Dr. Heywood R. Floyd (William Sylvester) docks with an Earth-orbital space station. From the station, Floyd makes a videophone call to his daughter on Earth (played by Vivian Kubrick). He then encounters an old friend, Elena, one of a group of Soviet scientists. When he says he is traveling to the American base in Clavius crater, one of the Soviets, Dr. Andrei Smyslov (Leonard Rossiter), asks why no one has been able to contact Clavius, mentioning that Clavius had even denied emergency landing permission to a Soviet shuttle, in violation of international agreements. Floyd feigns surprise, but when Smyslov presses him for further details, alluding to "very reliable intelligence reports" that a serious epidemic of unknown origin has broken out at Clavius, and expresses concern that the epidemic might spread to the Soviet base, Floyd replies that he is "not at liberty" to comment.
Floyd travels to Clavius Base on a lunar shuttle. At the Base, Floyd meets scientists and administrators and speaks about the importance of hiding the true reason for the base's suspicious quarantine. He states that the cover story of an epidemic and a base-wide communications black-out will remain in effect until their superiors on Earth decide otherwise. He reminds them of "the potential for cultural shock and social disorientation" that the discovery presents. Though ostensibly there to assess the situation and make a report, Floyd informs those present that new security oaths are required from all personnel.
During a later moonbus ride to the excavation, a discussion between Floyd and a base administrator reveals they have discovered an alien object, "deliberately buried" on the Moon four million years earlier. At the dig site, the scientists approach an identical monolith to that found by the man-apes; like them, Floyd strokes its smooth surface. The scientists gather around it for a group photo but are interrupted when a continuous high-pitched tone is picked up by their radio receivers, apparently triggered by the first rays of the sun to reach the monolith since its burial.
At this point, a caption reads "Jupiter Mission: Eighteen Months Later". On board the spaceship Discovery One, bound for Jupiter, are two mission pilots, astronauts Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), and three scientists "sleeping" in cryogenic hibernation. Dave and Frank watch a BBC television program about themselves, in which the "sixth member" of the crew, the HAL 9000 supercomputer (voiced by Douglas Rain), is introduced and interviewed. The interview reveals that the supercomputer is the pinnacle in artificial intelligence, with an error-free performance record. HAL 9000 is designed to communicate and interact like a human, and even mimics (or reproduces) human emotions; in fact the astronauts have learned to treat it like another crewman, addressing it as "Hal".
During an informal conversation with Dave, HAL raises concerns about the unusual secrecy surrounding the mission, and repeats rumors about "something being dug up on the moon."
When Dave suggests that HAL's quizzical conversation is actually part of his "crew psychology report," HAL abruptly reports an imminent equipment malfunction. He claims to have detected a defect in a component of the ship's communications system. Dave exits the Discovery in an EVA pod to retrieve and replace the faulty AE-35 unit, but upon detailed examination no fault can be found.
Mission controllers back on Earth assert that HAL is "in error in predicting the fault", something unheard of for the 9000 series. HAL suggests another EVA mission to restore the part and wait for it to fail: this will determine the problem. Hiding their concern, Dave and Frank retreat to a pod to discuss, in secret, HAL's questionable reliability. They finally agree to "disconnect" him should the AE-35 not fail, as he predicted. Unbeknownst to them, however, HAL is reading their lips.
As Dave watches from inside Discovery, Frank exits in a pod to put back the original AE-35. While Frank is performing the EVA, HAL takes control of the empty pod, and accelerates it at Frank, severing his oxygen hose and sending his body tumbling in space. Dave hurriedly exits the ship in another pod to rescue Frank, forgetting to bring his space helmet. While Dave is outside, HAL kills the three hibernating scientists by deactivating their life support systems.
Upon returning to the ship with Frank's lifeless body, Dave is refused reentry into the ship by HAL. HAL reveals that he knows of Frank and Dave's plan to disconnect him, and asserts that the mission is "too important" to allow any human to jeopardize it. HAL terminates the conversation.
After releasing Frank's body, Dave opens an air lock, and activates the pod's emergency hatch bolts. The explosive decompression propels him into the airlock, exposed to the vacuum of space without a helmet, but he manages to close and pressurize the airlock.
Safely inside the ship, Dave enters HAL's 'Logic Memory Center'. As HAL futilely attempts to negotiate with him, Dave proceeds to disconnect his higher brain functions.
HAL pleads and protests his termination, slowly regresses to past memories, sings a song he learned during his initial programming, and finally falls silent. Suddenly, a pre-recorded video briefing by Dr. Floyd plays, explaining the true nature of the mission — to investigate the signal sent to Jupiter from the alien artifact on the Moon. Floyd discloses that the secret mission had been known only to HAL until the ship's arrival in Jupiter space.
A caption reads "Jupiter and beyond the Infinite". A third monolith is seen in orbit around Jupiter. As the planet and its moons and the monolith appear to align, Dave exits Discovery One in a pod to investigate. He appears to travel across vast distances of space and time through a "Star Gate," a tunnel of colorful light and imagery and sound.
After passing over the landscape of an alien world, Bowman arrives in a futuristic room containing Louis XVI-style decor which was modeled after The Dorchester hotel in London. As he walks about the room, he repeatedly sees himself at later stages of aging, first in his spacesuit, then in an ornate dressing robe, sitting down to a well-appointed meal. The older Dave accidentally knocks his glass on the floor, smashing it and breaking the silence. Looking up from the broken glass, he sees himself lying on what appears to be his deathbed, at the foot of which appears a final monolith. Dave slowly reaches out to it and is transformed into a fetus-like being enclosed in a transparent orb of light — the "Star Child". The film suddenly returns to space near the Moon and Earth. Floating in space, the Star Child gazes at Earth.
This is one of those movies that, in my opinion, simply must be seen on the big screen at least once... and preferably your first time, which is how I was lucky enough to see it on one of my birthdays as a teenager. The movie blew my mind.
2010, made much later, is a decent movie... but it couldn't compare to the first. And how could it? By the time 2010 was made, 2001 had achieved legendary status!