Films Revisited: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

by Joey Paur

2001: A Space Odyssey is always popping up at the top of the best Sci-Fi films lists. I have never really had a solid opinion of this movie, when I was younger it was a hard movie to sit through and I never understood why people thought so highly of it. For some reason I had this idea in my head that the movie was overrated. I recently picked up and popped in the blu-ray for this movie to give it another go because it has been over 15 years since I have seen it. I needed to get myself a solid opinion of it

After re-visiting the film and being blown away by it, I believe it has earned its spot on the top of the best sci-fi film list. It was just so ahead of its time! How did I not see this before? ‘Star Wars' brought sci-fi movies to a whole new level but it couldn't have been done without the inspiration from this film, ‘Blade Runner' was amazing for what it was as a future noir film, ‘Alien' was an incredible sci-fi horror film, but 2001 had so much more depth than any of those! It felt like it was as true as a science fiction film could get. It ushered in a whole new era of sci-fi films.

I became immersed in the film. It had a hypnotic effect on me and I just stared at my TV taking it all in, basking in its glory. This is such a beautiful film! The cinematography was brilliant and the music that was added to it took the film to a whole new level of greatness. I pumped up the volume for this thing and it was such a cool and relaxing experience. For 1968 this movie was seriously prophetic and ahead of its time. The special effects, costumes, make-up, and story pushed the limits to what could be done in the movies and what was acceptable at the time.

I also went through the special features for the film and found out some really interesting things that I thought would be cool to share with you if you have not taken the time to check them out.

The monolith was originally to have been a black tetrahedron, however, it did not reflect light properly. Stanley Kubrick then decided to use a transparent cube, but that proved to be too difficult to use because of the reflections created by the studio lights. Then they moved onto a rectangle that had video images on it. Next came a rectangular monolith cast from Lucite that looked unconvincing, and finally they ended up with the familiar black slab.

The monolith is a teaching machine.

Most people believe that the famous "jump cut" is from the bone being tossed in the air to a ship floating in space, thing is it was not a spaceship, it's a nuclear device circling the earth. So the bone being used as the "first" murder weapon is thrown to the "ultimate" weapon.

At the end of the film they originally wanted to bring aliens into the mix, but due to the fact they were running out of money and time they didn't do it.

In order to get the relaxed tone for HAL's voice, Douglas Rain spoke his lines barefoot with his feet resting on a pillow.

Stanley Kubrick worked for several months with effects technicians to come up with a convincing effect for the floating pen in the shuttle sequence. After trying many different techniques, without success, Kubrick decided to simply use a pen that was taped to a sheet of glass and suspended in front of the camera. In fact, the shuttle attendant can be seen to "pull" the pen off the glass when she takes hold of it.

The subsequent novel and the screenplay both give HAL's birthday as 12 January 1997, but the date given on screen is 12 January 1992.

At the "Dawn of Man" part at the beginning of the film, it shows a dead zebra. The zebra was actually a dead horse painted with stripes.

In order to get the relaxed tone for HAL's voice, Douglas Rain spoke his lines barefoot with his feet resting on a pillow.

The apes in the "Dawn of Man" sequence would not have been on a nomination list for an Academy Award because the award for Best Makeup was not created until 1981. The award given to John Chambers for Planet of the Apes (1968) was an honorary award. Which is total bullshit because the ape costumes in 2001 were so much better than the costumes in Planet of the Apes.

If you consider the relative positions of Bowman when he first arrives in the suite, when he is next standing in the room, when he is in the bathroom, when he is at the table, and when he is in the bed, these points form a star.

Aside from the film's music, no sound is heard in the space sequences. This is because technically in space, there is no sound.

The sun and the crescent moon aligned with each other (in the opening shot) was a symbol of Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion that predated Buddhism and Christianity and was based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra). This particular alignment symbolized the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Appropriately enough, the famous "2001 Theme" is from "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (Thus Spake Zarathustra), the symphonic poem by Richard Strauss, based on a book by Friedrich Nietzsche, which contained his famous declaration "God is dead". One can assume, given Stanley Kubrick's working methods, that none of this was accidental.

The process that was used to create the wild, kaleidoscopic images Bowman experiences going through the Stargate is known as "Slitscan photography". It was developed by Douglas Trumbull (later special effects supervisor on Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)) and involved moving the camera rapidly past different pieces of lighted artwork, with the camera shutter held open to allow for a streaking effect. The overall effect gave the audience the sense of plunging into the infinite.

Arthur C. Clarke has said, "If you understand '2001' completely, we failed. We wanted to raise far more questions than we answered." Well, they have not failed.

HAL sings "Daisy Bell" ("A Bicycle Built for Two") as he is shut down; this was the first song ever "sung" by a computer, a IBM 7094 computer at Bell Labs in 1961. Furthermore, the lyrics include the phrase "I'm half crazy".

If you have not seen this movie yet you have to see it. If you have not seen it in a long time I suggest you watch it again. It is worth another look. In fact ,I am going to go watch it again.



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