Space movies have captivated audiences for as long as they’ve been around. Everyone loves watching people in metal physics-defying boxes float off into the unknown to face down metaphorical representations of our collective fears as a species. What better way to ignore the current tragedies of real everyday life than to completely disembark from our planet’s politics and problems with tales of a new frontier?
Originally released in 1968, 2001: A Space Odyssey was pulled up out of the archive by Cineplex this past month to celebrate the film’s 50th birthday. Cineplex screened the film twice a day for two weeks in the IMAX theatre at Langley’s Colossus.
For viewers, seeing this film remastered for IMAX is a treat, as it’s usually only available as single showings for cult followings in small, usually independent, theatres or at home on your own devices. The scale of the IMAX screen presents an opportunity for fans to engage with the film at the scale space movies (and this film in particular) deserve to be shown. To say the least, this event is a real treat for cinephiles of all ages, and for many of them a great opportunity to introduce newcomers to the legacy of the feature.
A unique phenomenon occurs when the credits finish rolling, and the house lights ignite again as the stunned audience rises and finally gets the chance to get a good look at their fellow passengers along on the adventure. An old dude, he’s here for the 50th anniversary of the first time he saw the film. There’s a couple of scruffy college students in their rasta hoodies, flabbergasted at the new dimensions they just passed through and proud to have been a part of this cultural landmark. Up front, there’s a young couple questioning why they chose this film for a first date. As they all rise, they make eye contact sheepishly, wave a little, share raised eyebrows and grins as they gesture towards the now dim screen. When you share the experience of watching a film like 2001 with a group of strangers, they don’t feel so strange by the time you’ve made it through.
In plot, in method, and in theme, 2001: A Space Odyssey asks audiences to think about the history and progress of humanity, implying as well where we may yet go. By isolating human life and removing it from its natural habitat of Earth, questions of purpose and meaning become all the more easy to examine. Stanley Kubrick knew why space films in particular can have such a power over audiences, and his perfect execution of this is why his masterpiece has stood the test of time and continues, especially now, to draw audiences to its story.