Stanley Kubrick’s Sci-Fi masterpiece (in collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke to produce the definitive Science Fiction Film,) still transcends all that followed it in the near fifty years since it graced the silver screen back in 1968, one year before Apollo 11’s Moon Landing made History in making “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”. Kubrick ensured the Sci-Fi film genre took a leap out of the stone age and into the modern age. One would argue that what followed (with the exception of ‘Silent Running’ and Gerry Anderson’s ‘Space 1999′) didn’t take up the mantle laid down by Kubrick. It would be left to film makers like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott to take up the sci-fi baton and run with it, taking us and our imaginations to places other film makers of the genre failed to take us for much of the 1970s.
One could argue in his time that Stanley Kubrick with this one film became the Father of the Modern Science Fiction Film and the above-mentioned merely his sons. Others would argue He is now the Grandfather of the Modern Science Fiction Film in that Spielberg with ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, Ridley Scott with ‘Alien’, ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Prometheus’ and George Lucas with his masterful storytelling via the Star Wars Trilogies, are now Fathers in their own right of the genre and Kubrick now merely the fondly remembered Grandfather who is now no longer with us.
What cannot be denied was the science fiction film came of age in 1968 (much like the Western did in 1939 with ‘Stage Coach’,) in that everything of the genre that came before 2001, looked so inferior when compared to it. Of course many will denounce the above and cite the many classic serials such as ‘Flash Gordon, ‘Buck Rogers’ and movies like ‘This Island Earth’ and ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’. I would not argue they are classics in their own right. I have watched many of the Science Fiction films of that era – Indeed I have always quoted Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ as a classic but like 2001, no one was making a science fiction film like it in 1926, much like no one was making a movie like 2001 in the mid-1960s. Both pushed the boundaries and are still debated. Indeed, Metropolis has never gone away. I first saw the Film in the mid-1970s and was one of the films that captured my imagination, despite growing up with Gerry Anderson Sci-fi. The rock bank Queen’s cover of their Album ‘News of the World’ had a robot that always reminded me of the Film, which itself was re-released with a modern rock musical soundtrack in the mid-1980s with contributions from Freddie Mercury and others in collaboration with Producer Giordio Moroder, A stage Musical of the same name opened at the Piccadilly Theare in London in 1989. And if all of the above wasn’t enough, artists such as Kylie Minogue, Queen, Madonna and Whitney Houston have all paid homage to the Film in their Music Videos whether using actual film footage from it or used the film’s concept. A good Science Fiction film can inspire one generation after another. So too does 2001 but in a very different way.
2001’s minimum use of dialogue forces its audience to think. Nothing is explained. One has to work out for themselves what is going on. Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ does something similar, even though there is more dialogue. The ending of the Film (2001,) itself has provoked much debate. A film maker I auditioned for told me he could never rate 2001 because its ending is too random. I would argue that is the reason why it is such a classic. So much has been written about what the ending could mean. Even the ‘Stargate Sequence’ as many have called the beginning of Dave Bowman’s journey to where we can only stretch our brains and imagination to think of, has also been the subject of much debate. What makes 2001 a classic for me is that no one had not only conceived of doing a science fiction film of this type and magnitude but had not created a whole process and technology in order to bring such a vision to the Silver Screen. But Kubrick did. The resulting effect of his completed film vision of where Mankind as been, currently is, and will eventually be, can be seen in films such as ‘Silent Running’, ‘Star Wars’, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman: The Movie as notable examples because the people who worked on these movies all worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey. The real test of a classic film of any genre is how well it crosses over into the everyday consciousness of the populace. Unlike films such as The Matrix where this is instantly noticeable (via the ‘Bullet Time’ sequences where we see fired bullets slowly flow through the air,) 2001’s influences are much more subtle but once you have seen the film a few times and study it, its influences are clearly visible.
A short cut to understanding the Film can be found at this excellent Website:-
I already had my own view and ideas of what 2001: A Space Odyssey was all about but after watching the film numerous times and feeling I knew what the film was about, each new viewing presented new ideas. I discovered this website purely by accident in September 2000. The animation is now clearly dated but what isn’t is its ability to condense and explain the bones of the story and give the audience a concise view of 2001’s story and the concepts that lie behind it. Take a look and let me know what you think.