‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ Fifty Years On – A Young Man’s Odyssey
Human history is replete with examples of tribes sitting around in a circle, telling high tales of their ancestors. Those stories were for the betterment of the group and the circle was usually a campfire, or some other “pull” which would draw people in.
Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” represents the generational transition of storytellers around a chasm: a fire, a pond, a monolith. In the opening sequence, the tribe is of Man’s ancestor, the ape. Their need to be a tribe is more for security and gathering what little food they know how to forage. They do not yet possess the tools or the knowledge to move the species forward. Instinctually, they know.
The monolith appears. Through its smooth, black, non-reflective surface, information is shared that will advance the species into the Age of Man. The monolith knows.
Skip forward a generation, we are now a race of beings, stuck in the political trappings of our world, having spread in to orbit. Man has dug something up on the moon. And again, the space-suited apes gather round a chasm – the monolith. This time, the monolith communicates, but not in a way human hearing can perceive. It sends a signal that propels man and now machine into the void and towards a destiny no one can really know. The monolith knows.
My compelling journey towards Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” is not unlike the tribe-like images that are peppered throughout his landmark film, which turns 50 this year. As a 14-year-old in 1990, my dad and I sat down in front of the modern campfire, the television to watch “2001: A Space Odyssey”. He told me of his experience seeing it in theaters in 1968; something he shares with me to this day.
For me, I am a “Star Trek” fan (thanks, mom!) Kubrick’s film opened up something much, much bigger: the innate humanity within all of us to explore, to question, to understand. His film never really suggests that we will all understand everything; it’s the journey we take to get to that point where we are judged, worthy of passing on in to the next plane of existence.
In college, I took a Fiction into Film class. The course did not feature Kubrick’s film or Arthur Clarke’s novel. For our final thesis though, we could select any book and its subsequent film. I was so excited to be able to finally talk about “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I got an A on the paper.
Much like the monolith, my story doesn’t stop there.
As a fan of the film, I continued to study it, finding new pieces of the puzzle. However, my experience was limited to the television screen and the resolution limitations of the various mediums of home video the film was released on. Both have improved over the years, but they cannot compare to the experience of seeing a film on a giant theater screen and with a crowd.
It is with a bit of irony that my theatrical journey started out in the digital realm. One of the local theaters showed the film as a part of their Tuesday Night Classic series. The level of detail in that presentation was astounding, yet something was missing.
It wasn’t until January, 2016 when The Loft Cinema in Tucson decided to inaugurate their new 70mm projection system with an original 70mm Roadshow print of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The Loft was originally built to be a 70mm showcase theater, so what better way to experience this timeless classic. The print The Loft was able to obtain showed years of use, but when one is invested in a journey, the “pops,” “clicks,” “dust,” and “scratches” are a part of the experience. The monolith knows.
For its fiftieth anniversary (and if you’re counting, I wasn’t born when the film first came out), legendary director Christopher Nolan worked with Warner Brothers to strike a new 70mm print from the film’s original elements. Nothing has been altered, so it will look exactly the same as my dad experienced the film in 1968.
I’m excited to witness multiple generations come around a campfire again, the communal experience in the sharing of knowledge. Will we gain something new out of this experience? For some, yes, I’d like to think so. If only because so few have been able to see this film the way it was truly meant to be seen. We have Mr. Nolan and the executives at Warners to thank for this experience through their ongoing efforts to preserve film as a theatrical medium.
The newly struck 70mm print runs at Harkins Tempe Marketplace starting June 15th for a week before it moves down to The Loft in Tucson starting June 22nd for a week.
You can bet I have tickets for each theater already. The monolith knows.