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United Kingdom 1968
Directed by
Stanley Kubrick
141 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

2001: A Space Odyssey

This iconic 1970s space age fantasy, adapted from a novella by Arthur C. Clarke who wrote the screenplay with Kubrick is regularly referred to as the "greatest" sci-fi film ever made although more often by cinéastes than sci-fi buffs.

Almost two and a half years in production at a cost of over $10 million (double the original budget), it is technically meticulous and hauntingly atmospheric, although somewhat lacking dramatically with an only at-best schematic "lost in space" storyline embedded in a loose reflection on time and human evolution. . 

Contemporary critics were understandably divided as to its merits as it offered little in the way of conventional film-goer's satisfactions however the remarkable, enigmatic final section goes a long way to excusing its head-scratching obscurities and two hour  twenty minite run-time. We should be grateful however as the very first print shown to MGM executives had an 10 minute explanatory prologue from a number of scientific talking heads which Kubrick dropped and although originally released at 160 mins the director cut it to 141 mins after its disastrous New York premiere.

What saved the film from popular indifference was that it chimed with the spirit of the times, being celebrated as both a "head" movie by a turned-on youth audience (MGM promoted it as "the ultimate trip") and for the broader public a timely preamble to the Apollo 11 Moon landing which occurred the following year (of which Kubrick has been touted as orchestrating the faking in the excellent mockumentary Dark Side of the Moon).

Over the years its stature has, if anything grown, as it has become a pop cultural icon and although there have been some technically impressive contenders since, its pre-eminent status remains intact.




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