“I think you know what the problem is, just as well as I do”
It may be slightly too operatic for most of today’s popcorn munching 3D generation, but without doubt Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey is still one of the most intelligent and analysed films of all time. From the patient and chilling The Dawn of Man scene, through to the mysteriously metaphorical transcendence to the birth of a star child, which has left even the most hardened movie goer feeling like they just sat through a silent lecture on the philosophy of evolution.
But amongst all the layers and achingly patient space ballets, there is one defining image that became arguably the most iconic: HAL 9000. This bar-setting villain laid the way for countless copycat artificial intelligences for many years to come, with its calm and calculated tone and one, unblinking eye. Representing the post-modern fear of relying on technology, its inhumane decision-making serves only to highlight the idea that humanity’s tools have far exceeded its ability to control them.
Not only does it contain the most famous line to ever to be spoken by a computer in science-fiction, this scene was also light-years ahead of its time in the depiction of space. The overriding feeling of silence, of loneliness and detachment, are ingeniously crafted as Dr. Dave Bowman’s pod sits waiting at the entrance to the spaceship. I absolutely love the way that HAL, despite being able to communicate with the pod, condescendingly waits several moments before answering Dave’s calls, a human trait from an imperfect machine built by an imperfect species.
Whether HAL has gone “mad” or not, is up for debate, but perhaps the overriding goals for the mission, are simply a cover for its own development and mirroring of humanity, as its instinct for self preservation starts to dictate its decision making. This is seen further in HAL’s suggestion that Dave knows what the problem is, “just as well as I do”. The “I”, being the now dangerously autonomous intelligence becoming self aware.
It really is incredible how far down the rabbit hole one can go in just a two minute scene, but that is just testament to how incredibly ground-breaking Kubrick’s masterpiece was, and why it has more analysis on it than any other science-fiction film. If you haven’t seen it in a while, I think a re-watch is definitely in order, I know I will.
Hope you like my Movie Clip of the Week! Look out for next week’s coming soon!