I jumped on the Blu-Ray bandwagon this week after noticing the nicely priced 2001: A Space Odyssey on Amazon (it’s now $9.49). Besides being a deeply philosophical film, this movie notable to me because of its attention to detail in all of the props Stanley Kubrick used. In this format, you can’t help but notice that the screens, ships and space itself are as much characters in this movie as the cast, and that the industrial design of the minute details is remarkable for any movie, let alone one released in 1968. Each shot is now finally devoid of flicker, warping and color degradation, exposing us every lighting nuance, lens flare and screen reflection the eccentric director intended, presenting us the story in its purest format yet.

One thing that I thought about in this latest viewing was the de-humanization of the characters. The astronauts are reduced to infants when it comes to sleeping (or hibernating) in cribs, eating a mush similar to baby food, and learning to use a complicated restroom. But when it comes to their actual duties, they simply carry out HAL’s orders – he’s able to see and process everything, but needs Dave and Frank to perform the physical work. After delegating the higher-level thinking to HAL, does man become the tool? This is exemplified by Frank’s birthday message from his parents: he shows no emotion at their enthusiastic video greeting, yet the artificial HAL expresses good will to him. What’s left for Frank to do in this environment if HAL imitates even his feelings? Man’s tools now challenge man himself, making him nearly obsolete. At the same time, HAL fails at reaching an entirely human level of emotion, running berserk when asked by his makers to hide information from the astronauts – contradicting his prerogative to be “as reliable as possible”.

It’s sporadic realizations like this that make this movie so rewarding on repeat viewings.

Posted Sun 13 December 2009