Sunday, October 4, 2015

2001: A Space Oddity

        "2001: A Space Odyssey" was certainly a memorable experience. I say that because I feel that I was, in a sense, scarred from that movie. It was not necessarily a painful scar, but a definitely a confusing and slightly scary one. It took me on a journey of varying emotions. I felt curious, happy, sleepy, concerned, angry, sad, bored, and absolutely and utterly perplexed. As I walked away from the movie, I simultaneously felt that I had enjoyed the experience and that I had been disappointed by it. While it had been, in some ways, a great movie, in other ways it felt... off. And no, I'm not just talking about the giant fetus or whatever. I mean the movie had a few things missing, a few questions that SHOULD have been answered, and a few missed opportunities.
        If I were to type out an entirely detailed summary of this movie, I would run out of paper. And this program produces new pages infinitely. In short, "2001: A Space Odyssey" is about human evolution. It begins with the primitive creatures that would one day become humans discovering the monolith, and than the concept of a tool (a bone in this case). Fast forward to the very distant future (relative to the monkeys at least), and we are introduced to the more familiar human being interacting with very futuristic but still fairly relatable things. There is a spaceship, future space skype, the amazing Grip Shoes, and so on. We find that the humans have discovered a monolith on the moon, and that it points to Jupiter. Astronauts Frank, Dave, and a bunch of other less important people make the long journey with HAL 9000, an AI computer that thinks it can do nothing incorrectly. What could possibly go wrong? So on the way there Frank and Dave believe HAL has screwed up enough to deserve disconnection. HAL magically reads their lips with his ominous, red robot eye and gets reasonably upset (I mean come on! Those human idiots are about to effectively KILL the smartest person in the room! You GO, AI!) and decides the only reasonable thing to do is to "disconnect" THEM. He kills all the astronauts on life support, murders Frank, and he WOULD have murdered Dave, but he was too clever. Dave eventually shuts HAL down, and the movie continues on. Then the movie just loses it's mind and I don't even know how to explain what happened. Colors are flying by, Dave looks scared, I look equally as scared, it's just a confusing mess. Finally Dave ends up in a room and he keeps seeing his older self until he is a giant space-fetus. It was a predictable ending.
        Before I get into the physics review of the movie, I want to first address what I feel is the biggest problem with it. HAL is probably the most interesting things in the entire movie, but he is merely an obstacle in the big picture. An AI that goes rogue because he KNOWS that he is statistically more probable to complete the mission successfully than the humans is a fantastic plotline, but the movie decides to forgo the opportunity of expanding upon this for something else. What does it focus on instead? Well, that is the problem. I as the viewer am not entirely sure. There seems to be remnants of a very creative and interesting plot, but it simply is not all the way there. It hints at extraterrestrial beings inventing this strange monolith, and it hints at them either watching or aiding human evolution (with the monolith appearing near the ape-like creatures and then shortly afterwards discovering the tool and so on), but none of this is really explored. The monolith is simply there and it does nearly nothing but advance the plot, and the supposedly aliens do nothing but have the monolith be there. Then near the end of the movie it looks like Dave discovers some sort of other dimension outside of time and space, and he turns into the infamous star baby fetus whatever. How is that better than exploring HAL? I absolutely believe HAL should have been in the movie more. Two astronauts battling a computer in a game of wits for their lives sounds fantastic, and could even tie in (in some symbolic way) to the game of chess they had earlier in the movie. But I digress.
        The movie does have some pretty realistic, or at least convincing, space physics, though. I'm actually really impressed by their use of centripetal motion to produce artificial gravity.

This circular room is spinning in space at such a velocity than the force acted on the man (centripetal force) is equal to the force due to gravity on Earth, thus artificial gravity. A second good physics example is a short one, and that is the accurate portrayal of sound in the vacuum in space. In real life sound cannot be heard in space, because sounds are basically vibrating air. They show this in the movie just as it would happen in real life.
     The movie as a whole has some pretty great physics, so it was really difficult for me to go back, but there is one clear example. While on the moon the astronauts casually walk as if they were on Earth. But this is, of course, not possible. They should be bouncing around in a silly fashion during their serious scene, but I suppose that's exactly why the omitted it.
     Overall I think I really did enjoy this movie. I do feel it should have explained just a teency bit more (but not too much! It's fun to leave things to the imagination), and I would have appreciated more of a focus on HAL, but it wasn't terrible. The long shots portray a certain atmosphere I can't quite describe, and in reflection it seems like most people just have short attention spans.

I give "2001: A Space Odyssey" a  2001 out of 10.