A review I wrote for a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the National Media Museum, Bradford, on December 30th 2014.
Rock Hudson famously strode up and down the aisles at the 1968 premiere of 2001, demanding to know what the hell it was all about.
Going by some mutterings I heard at this re-release, his ghost may have been present to air old grievances.
Poor old Rock – the man who kissed Doris Day dozens of times without once wanting to – didn’t realise we’re not meant to know what it’s all about. There’s no clue as to what the black obelisks are. They just are.
My first exposure to Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece was on a 10in portable television in 1996… the National Media Museum in Bradford’s wide open spaces were a new dimension in comparison.
The special effects held up so beautifully on the big screen that I began to entertain conspiracy theories that would earn you a fat lip off Buzz Aldrin. Hal 9000’s unplugging was still tragic; you want Keir Dullea’s Bowman to let the fella sing a bit longer.
As an aside, I wonder if Kubrick ever realised that 2001’s hero shares the same first name as the famously tough-tackling Dundee United footballer of the 1980s and 90s. I have wondered at the possibilities of this Dave Bowman unlocking the secrets of time, space and existence in a tangerine and black spacesuit. Perhaps his version of Hal 9000 would have the voice of Archie MacPherson.
As Bowman zoomed through the stargate, I considered whether Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke took a trip of their own in conceiving this movie. The multi-dimensional Ikea suite at journey’s end jarred, though; there’s something about the green velvety chesterfield headboard on the bed that gets on my nerves. Knowing Kubrick, that colour, that material and that shape would have been painstakingly chosen and realised.
But so what? Bowman’s journey might have been better concluded with a confrontation with an emperor with no clothes on. Played by Kubrick.
But let’s not get sucked into Rock Hudson’s orbit.
The star child wrung a tear from this most jaded of viewers, a sublime moment at the end of the year when my first child was born.
This peerless cinematic epiphany was 24 hours before new year’s eve, a time when you could throw a bottle in the air, only for it to land in the hands of a man wearing a monkey onesie.
We’re no nearer an answer to the riddle of existence than our flea-bitten ancestors. That, I suspect, was Kubrick’s great cosmic joke.
As for the screening, the Rock Hudsonites in the audience were in the minority. No-one laughed at the monkeys. A lot of the people in the auditorium were very young, and there for the same reason I was. 2001’s legacy is secure.
You can read my science fiction stories, Sail The Starry Skies, if you like. There’s really no need to do this Dave. I’m feeling much better now.