Analysis of 2001: A Space Odyssey by Yuan-Kai Kenny Cheng

images    2001:A Space Odyssey directed by Stanley Kubrick, published in 1968. From a historical standpoint, it doesn’t look like a 60-70’s film at all.  In the counter-culture film era, it went in another direction, focusing on environmental issues that people never really thought about during that time, but has become a serious problem we deal with today. This film portrayed the innovation of new technology and how our future is in a negative way, and warning us not to rely too much on technology that heavy. These things make this film incredible from every perspective. For cinematography , it has stunning image with all crazy technologies from Kubrick’s imagination, “the picture phone” (now we have video phone), the talking computer (we have Siri!), screens on  aircraft and people watching their screens everywhere every time like what we have today. It is amazing to see these imagination really come true 40 years later.

For the narration, it shows animal movements for about half an hour, with no dialog. It was strange and questionable to see those non-continuous shots, which is kind of like a Soviet montage in an extreme way. This film is also significant on the sound design. Compared to Starcraft, with its space related topic, 2001:A Space Odyssey perform sound in a much different way. It is more close to reality, having no sound even no music on those space scenes. Those empty, blank insert of sound gives out the atmosphere pretty well, because space is vacuum with no air, means sound cannot be spreaded, or delivered. But in Startwar, the sound on space scenes are exaggerated, with heavy music, even a passing by spaceship have huge, epic, bassy sound, of course, filmmakers want to make their film more dramatic, epic, and believable, and most audiences would not notice the “fake  sound used in modern day films.

For example, everyone believe gunshots should sound like what it sound in Hollywood movies; huge, heavy, explosive, and crazy. But in fact, a real gun shot sounds more like a firecracker, with just a little “pop” of a sound.  Most people are used to the “fake” gun shots sound, and never think of the “fakeness” of that particular sound.    Also, the sound of the talking computer is really rare and never been that way from all the movies I’ve ever seen. It used very natural male talking voice, like a regular human being, but nowadays most films altered the computer talking sound more electrical and digital.

The performance of a zero gravity space is not hard and pretty common in modern films, modern day 2001_a_space_odyssey_59857-1920x1080cinematography technologies and computer graphics can create those images pretty well. But in 2001:A Space Odyssey, Kubrick did make the gravity very confusing, uncertainly, and crazy by using camera angle, movements(dolly), panning with characters going upside down or strange directions. Everytime when I’m seeing some of those scenes I usually turn my head around to figure where the “ground” really is. It was incredible on creating the space and make the film interesting.

The sound from machines like beeping, pressing buttons, the spaceship doors, and those techno sound are very vintage, analog, it doesn’t have the hi-tech feel like what we have in modern films, but do perform the feeling of technology pretty realistic and close to what we might have in future. The hissing sound when the character in the space suit is also interesting for me. It gives the feel of loneliness and scariness of a spaceman. When in a space suit and in space, you definitely cannot hear sound from outside, and the hissing sound fill up the emptiness of the space, and what a spaceman have to face in the suit: a dark empty space with only hissing sound around all the time.

The ending sequences have the echoey female singing opera, which is creepy and weird, and later comes in the opening theme music again, like a conclusion of this film. Although this film doesn’t have a clear narrative or 3 plots storyline, it is more like giving an overview of consequence if we rely on technology too much.

From my opinion, I feel it basically trying to tell audiences the same thing as Wall-e did: Technology will replace human one day. Environmental issues pretty popular in films since 60’s -70’s. Lots of films try to make that issue as a topic or in behind that interested lots of people. Compare to those films like Avatar, The Day After Tomorrow, and Wall-E. And it was fun when I heard the opening theme in Wall-e again. The music such as the opening theme make this film famous and memorable. With beautiful sun rising behind the Earth make it epic and perfect. The film starting with all beautiful landscapes, with blowing wind sound, it was amazing to see those landscape that exist on this planet, which is also what Kubrick want to tell us, the environmental issue, the technology might revenge, we should do something for this planet. It is basically same issue we still have now, but this film was the pioneer pointed these out fifty years ago.

In Wall-E we can see it is more entertaining, but in 2001:A Space Odyssey, it is more critical and having philosophy in behind. With a genius director Stanley Kubrick, who usually make film creepy, crazy, weird, and rely on classical music heavily, giving his films a special taste that no one can make anything similar. In The Day After Tomorrow, showing the consequence of what human did to Earth will finally kill the planet and ends the world. In Avatar, showing the crucial side of human beings to other species and environment. All these films are kind of follow up what 2001:A Space Odyssey represent to audiences sixty years ago, which is definitely a pioneer to reach the environmental and technology issue in film industry.


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