Keir Dullea David Bowman
Gary Lockwood Frank Poole
William Sylvester Dr. Heywood Floyd
Daniel Richter Moonwatcher
Leonard Rossiter Smyslov
Margaret Tyzack Elena
Robert Beatty Halvorsen
Sean Sullivan Michaels
Frank Miller Mission Controller
Alan Gifford Poole's Father
Penny Brahms Edwina Carroll Stewardesses
Vivian Kubrick "Squirt"
John Ashley Astronaut
Douglas Rain Voice of HAL

Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke
(based on the short story "The Sentinel" by Clarke). 1968. Running time: 139 Minutes.

There are two kinds of people in this world - those who think that there are two kinds of people and those who think there isn't.

But seriously though: there are actually two kinds of moviegoers, those who fell asleep during 2001: A Space Odyssey and those staring slack jawed at the screen in awe.

I count myself to be among the latter. However, I can absolutely understand the sentiments of those who don't feel the same way. The other day I read a posting on a newsgroup in which the writer divides science fiction fans into two categories: the Star Wars fans and the Star Trek fans. While there is some truth to the statement, after all, I do know many people who wouldn't hesitate to go see the Star Wars - Special Edition trilogy but couldn't bother with Star Trek - First Contact, that is, besides the latter being one of the better science fiction films we saw on the big screen recently. But there isn't much truth to the statement. Many people (myself included) like both.

Where the posting on the newsgroup really went off the wall was when its author claimed that Star Wars fans are inherently right wing and Star Trek fans primarily left wing. The argument goes that the Star Wars films offer a "grungy" future whereas Star Trek is all zippers and high-tech, nary a dust speck in sight. This is, of course, the main distinction between left and right-wing ideologies: the left believes in progress and the right doesn't, the right view people as such with suspicion and the left believes that people can be educated and can attain a level of "perfection." The very idea of a Star Trek future in which private property has almost been abolished and the biggest good mankind can attain is its own "self-actualisation" (the last step in Maslow's scheme of things) is obviously anathema to right-wingers. (See the scene in Star Trek - First Contact where Captain Picard describes life in the 23rd century to Alfre Woodard.)

But this is digressing from the point, the point being that to my mind fans of 2001 tends to be fans of so-called "hard sci-fi" as opposed to the more whimsical Lord of the Rings fantasy variety. The odds of finding Clarke and Heinlein volumes, as opposed to numerous Terry Brooks and David Eddings tomes, in such a person's book shelf is more of a likelihood. Or then again, maybe not. But 2001 has the distinction of being one of the few "pure" sci-fi movies out there. And that isn't merely because the film was difficult to understand or anything, many of the ideas expressed in it are those we find in better sci-fi novels. 2001 rekindles that "sense of awe" many of us feel when watching news about the Pathfinder mission on Mars or the moon landing. It is more sci than fi, more science than fiction.

Despite the staggeringly obvious (that sound doesn't travel in a vacuum - unlike those Tie Fighters we always hear screaming in The Empire Strikes Back), take as example the "aliens" in 2001. Their only physical manifestation is the out-of-place monoliths, silhouetted against the primeval sky. They are as resistant to twenty-first century man's scientific probes and sensors as they are to the limited comprehension of early man. They are beyond comprehension.

If ever creatures do devise ways of spanning the enormous distances between stars and planets, they will be like the "aliens" in 2001 and not like those in Independence Day or the X-Files. (The singular failure of UFO believers is their lack of imagination. It is extremely unlikely that such extraterrestrials will visit the earth in tacky 1950s science fiction pulp style flying saucers and be humanoid sexless green dwarves.) Such beings, able to fold time and space in total contradiction to all the scientific knowledge we have at our disposal, will be completely incomprehensible.

Perhaps like 2001 the film itself. Those who find themselves in awe at the end of 2001 (and hasn't lost interest in this very slow-paced movie) often do so in bewilderment. What is Kubrick trying to tell us with the various images he has thrown at us? Books has been written about this, author Arthur C. Clarke offers a view pointers in his own novelization of the movie and the 1984 sequel tried to explain some of the events, but that isn't the point really. Despite unlike most of today's movies (both science fiction and non-genre) 2001 gives us something to think, talk and argue about afterwards. Maybe the point of all art. Or maybe the point is that aliens won't be using Apple compatible computer systems . . .


Copyright © September 1997 James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page



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Copyright © 1997-forward James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page (unless where indicated otherwise).