2001, A Space Odyssey - Raving Classics

There are some movies we never forget; because they single-highhandedly redefine the movie-going experience. There are some movies that do even more than that - they redefine the limits of our imagination. 2001, A Space Odyssey is one of those movies and it is our Raving Classic being reviewed today.  

2001, A Space Odyssey was released in 1968, a unique time in our history as we were rushing ever-closer to reaching the moon in the Apollo program. We arrived on the moon just one year later - anything seemed possible - we had taken the giant leap from an earthbound race to space-farers. Or so it seemed. While this movie is pure Science Fiction from a genre perspective; it is a movie completely grounded in science fact and that's one of the qualities that made it so fascinating when it was released and which still intrigues us today. Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the screenplay for the movie, had a impressive track record of inventing technology breakthroughs in the context of his science fiction stories. For example, Clarke came up with the modern concept of Geo-synchronous satellites, future space colonies (which shows like Babylon 5 tried to depict) and space elevators.

We wish our gym looked like this.
Stanley Kubrick directed the movie and this film along with Dr. Strangelove and The Shining stand as some of the most profound cinema ever attempted. Kubrick had planned to follow up on the topic of Artificial Intelligence with another film, but ultimately never got a chance to finish it and the project was handed off to Stephen Spielberg who did produce it as "AI."  Kubrick approached each of those movies very differently - in 2001 he deliberately created an epic canvas. The storyline in 2001 is not so much character-driven as it is history-driven. The main character in 2001 is humanity itself and the story arc is our rendezvous with destiny. Along the way though, Kubrik treats us to some of the most spectacular imagery the world had ever seen up to that point. Even now more than 40 years after its release, the visual landscape he creates is simply awesome. The soundtrack was a groundbreaking effort as well. And it's all the more powerful because the story and presentation seems absolutely plausible.

Are you - talking to me ? 
We had no way of knowing in 1968 that President Nixon would cut the Apollo program (of course we found out the real reason why in the movie Apollo 18) and all of NASA's plans to colonize the Moon and Mars. Back then those next steps seemed only a few years away and yes NASA did actually have plans to do all of that at one point. We have at least managed to build a mini-space station, but it is nowhere nearly as cool as the one depicted in the 2001 film. So much of the imagery from this movie is iconic; it's hard to pick any one portion as being more impressive than another.

This is the original trailer for 2001, A Space Odyssey (cover your ears)

We'll try to pick out some of our favorite parts anyway. Here are the top 10 coolest or most iconic scenes from the movie:
  1. The Dawn of Time monkey boys giving up on their vegan lifesyles.
  2. The Bone to Shuttle transition - one of the most memorable in the history of history.
  3. The Shuttle ride to the Moon Base - too bad Pan AM went out of business.
  4. Landing inside the moon base - wow.
  5. The Televideo call from the Space Station - at least we've still got AT&T.
  6. The Blue Danube Waltz between the shuttle and space station.
  7. Jogging on the Jupiter - the coolest artificial gravity ever.
  8. Open the pod bay doors, Hal - while HAL was busy turning off everyone's life support.
  9. Turning off HAL's brain - it just never gets old. "Daisy, Daisy..."
  10. Dave's bedroom in alientown - Time flies when you're living in multiple dimensions simultaneously, right?
Welcome to the Hotel Monolith - you can check in but never check out... Didn't we see this in Tron Legacy?
2001, A Space Odyssey was crammed full of big ideas and big questions - more than 40 years later those ideas are still current and the questions haven't really been answered. Questions like:
  • What's our place in the universe, are we alone? 
  • What is intelligence and what makes intelligence sentient?
  • What set us on our trajectory and where will that trajectory take us?
And along with being great entertainment, 2001 has had a significant impact on our popular culture as well as inspiring countless parodies and popular references. We've including one of the better examples below. 

We don't have Space Stewardess' yet - but Elon Musk is working on it.

We promised we'd take a deeper dive and explore a possible confrontation between HAL and Watson - we will publish that in a follow up post. In the meantime, we will leave you with the super-creepy chorus - "Jupiter and Beyond." For those who don't remember, not too many years ago people used to test out their new home theater systems by playing 2001 and cranking up the speakers, it was almost a cult experience.

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