A year before the first moon landing, Stanley Kubrick envisioned an outer space where vast spacecraft revolve weightlessly to the strains of Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube waltz. 2001 revolutionised the depiction of the cosmos on film, at the same time – with the HAL-9000 computer that fatally malfunctions during a mission to Jupiter – sounding a warning about unbridled technological advance.
Beginning with primordial apes discovering tools and climaxing with astronaut David Bowman (Keir Dullea) travelling beyond the limits of the known universe, Kubrick’s film was an intellectual (and psychedelic) event in the late 1960s. A ‘match cut’ which quickly replaces a bone thrown upwards by an ape with a similarly shaped spaceship floating through space, thereby compressing millennia of human evolution, is justly celebrated.
“‘If Kubrick could get rid of the human element, he could make the perfect film,’ joked Malcolm McDowell. But here, he almost does. By acting, arrogantly, as if nobody had ever made a really good science-fiction film before, Kubrick solves all the genre’s problems methodically but also pushes it into epic, mythic, spiritual terrain. It’s stately, bold, astonishingly beautiful. The great rationalist suddenly blasts us off into a psychedelic experience which doesn’t yield fully to reason. It’s not even certain if the film is optimistic or despairing (yet colourful).” David Cairns
“Kubrick’s epic contemplation on the nature and origins of humanity remains one of cinema’s greatest technical feats, and one of its most poetic and awe-inspiring.” Stuart Brown
“Human evolution, both physical and spiritual, translated into confoundingly hypnotic imagery.” Alan Mattli
“2001: A Space Odyssey created a vocabulary from a vacuum; there was nothing like it before or after. It does that with so much majesty, so much intrigue, yet it manages to go into a very deep philosophical, even spiritual, personal space.” Bedatri Choudhury
“It took the art of film somewhere it had never been before, and nothing has gone anywhere near it since.” Eric Hynes
“A space opera of the most ambitious kind. Kubrick weds his stunning imagery to a beautiful soundtrack and creates something that can only be cinema.” John Bleasdale
“A bold and confident work that makes no apologies for its bombast, and nor should it: this is cinema at its operatic peak.” David Heslin
“At the same time a science-fiction spectacle, an anthropological speculation and a philosophical meditation, Kubrick’s film created an unavoidable monolith in its genre.” Carlos Alberto De Mattos
“2001 is far beyond a technical achievement – it is a gateway to a vast universe where mankind is infinitesimal.” Naman Ramachandran
“Almost incomprehensibly massive, not just in its scope and scale but in its ideas and philosophies. It’s a genre movie asking the biggest of questions and it has a scary computer to boot.” Rosie Fletcher
“Retains its power to fill the mind with mystery and wonder, your head forever tilted skywards.” Peter Howell