“2001: A Space Odyssey” Movie

"2001: A Space Odyssey" Movie One-point perspectiveEntertainment

Basic info
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Produced by: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay by: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke
Cinematography by: Geoffrey Unsworth
Film edited by: Ray Lovejoy
Starred by: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester
Production: Stanley Kubrick Productions
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Budget: 12 million USD
Box office: 146 million USD
Country: USA, UK
Language: English
Release: 1968
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Run-time: 142 minutes, 149 minutes, 161 minutes

Table of contents

“2001: A Space Odyssey” Movie Basic info
Table of contents
Influences on future generations “2001: A Space Odyssey”
Series and spin-off for “2001: A Space Odyssey”
Awards history “2001: A Space Odyssey”
Uncompromising filmmaking by Stanley Kubrick
Reference materials and preparation
Active space development
Extremely challenging screenplay
Fixation on Camera shooting
Audio exploration
Attention to aesthetics
Award winning effects creation
“Monoliths,” the metaphors for enigmatic space
Human-like AI computer “HAL 9000”
Mixed responses
Subjective meanings
Special events for 50th year anniversary
List of Cast & Staff
Author: Takuya Nagata

“2001: A Space Odyssey”


“2001: A Space Odyssey” is a science fiction movie produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. Stanley Kubrick is said to have changed science fiction filmmaking with this piece.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” enhanced the recognition and popularity of the literary science fiction genre. Many Sci-Fi movies with large budgets came to be produced after that thanks to the success of the movie.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” intends to indicate the position of humanity in space by depicting human evolution including technological progress in a large scale of time going from prehistory to future. Stanley Kubrick cast a light on the very deep subject, “what humankind is.”

The screenplay was written by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke. Many elements were used from stories by Arthur C. Clarke such as “The Sentinel.”

In the year 1968 when the movie was released, the novel with the same title “2001: A Space Odyssey” was also published. Later, Clarke said “Kubrick wanted to make a myth and he succeeded in it.”

In the movie, people discover an mysterious monolith on the moon. A spaceship controlled by an AI computer with the crew onboard embarks on a trip to Jupiter to investigate further. 

Dr. Heywood Floyd speaks in the prerecorded briefing video, which Captain David Bowman watches. Dr. Floyd explains about the top secret mission, which only HAL 9000 has known. The first evidence of extraterrestrial intelligent life was discovered 18 months prior to this mission. The 4 million year old black monolith of the moon sent out just 1 strong radio toward Jupiter. The origin and the purpose of the monolith are in mystery, and the true mission was to search the clues onsite.

The movie depicts the universe in large scales of space and time. The main themes of the movie are extraterrestrial life, existentialism, evolution of intelligent creatures and human relationship with technologies including nuclear and artificial intelligence.

The movie is notable for following scientific facts in space and paying attention to visual effects. In many scenes, Stanley Kubrick relied on imagery and sounds without verbal narration or dialogue. It was too ambitious to understand for some people.

Many compositions of classical music were used for the soundtrack. Soundtrack is not exactly synchronized with the scenes, which Kubrick preferred. The story is often obscure to the audience and the interpretations vary. Kubrick has mentioned that the “Zero Gravity Toilet” was the only joke in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

The United States Library of Congress considers the movie culturally, historically and aesthetically important, therefore preserves in the National Film Registry. “2001: A Space Odyssey” is selected in the art category of 45 great films by the Vatican. It took until 1992 to make the British Film Institute (BFI)’s top 10 greatest films of all time,  and it came in 2nd place after “Tokyo Story” of Yasujiro Ozu in 2012.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” is evaluated as a monumental work and 1 of the most remarkable science fiction movies in all time. Stanley Kubrick intended the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” to be nonverbal but emotional and philosophic experience, directly penetrating the inner level subconscious.

Influences on future generations “2001: A Space Odyssey”

“2001: A Space Odyssey” gave major impacts on the filmmaking and special effects of later generations including Ridley Scott, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, William Friedkin and Jeffrey Jacob Abrams.

Series and spin-off for “2001: A Space Odyssey”

Peter Hyams made a sequel movie to “2001: A Space Odyssey” based on the novel “2010: Odyssey Two” written by Arthur C. Clarke.

Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke supported the suggestion of Peter Hyams to make another movie, and they made cameo appearances.

The Space Odyssey series

“2001: A Space Odyssey”
“2010: The Year We Make Contact”

“2001: A Space Odyssey”
“2010: Odyssey Two”
“2061: Odyssey Three”
“3001: The Final Odyssey”

Short stories:
“The Sentinel”
“Encounter in the Dawn” (“Encounter at Dawn” “Expedition to Earth”)

Comic books:
“2001: A Space Odyssey” (The treasury edition)
“2001: A Space Odyssey” (Series)

“The Lost Worlds of 2001”
Novels based on the novels “Space Odyssey series”:
“A Time Odyssey”

Awards history “2001: A Space Odyssey”

Academy Awards:
Best Director nominated (Stanley Kubrick).
Best Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen nominated (Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke).
Best Art Direction nominated (Anthony Masters, Harry Lange and Ernest Archer).
Best Special Visual Effects won (Stanley Kubrick).

British Academy Film Awards:
Best Film nominated (Stanley Kubrick).
Best Art Direction won (Anthony Masters, Harry Lange and Ernest Archer).
Best British Cinematography won (Geoffrey Unsworth).
Best Soundtrack won (Winston Ryder).
United Nations Award nominated (Stanley Kubrick).

Cinema Writers Circle:
Best Foreign Film won (“2001: A Space Odyssey”).

David di Donatello Awards:
Best Foreign Film won (Stanley Kubrick).

Directors Guild of America Awards:
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures nominated (Stanley Kubrick).

Hugo Awards:
Best Dramatic Presentation won (“2001: A Space Odyssey”).

Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards:
Best Film won (2001: A Space Odyssey).
Best Director won (Stanley Kubrick).

Laurel Awards:
Best Road Show won (Stanley Kubrick).

National Board of Review Awards:
Top 10 Films 10th place.

Uncompromising filmmaking by Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick overspent planned budget and schedule was long-delayed. Executives at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer didn’t know much about how the production was going and were irritated. The perfectionist, Stanley Kubrick devoted 18 hours a day during 4 years of the secretive film production. It was particularly intensive in the final 2 years until the last minute of the premiere.

Stanley Kubrick must have had strong determination to make the convincing movie. He asked Arthur C. Clarke to rework on the script again and again. Stanley Kubrick even considered replacing the writer in the half way. Apart from Arthur C. Clarke, writers shortlisted for the screenplay writing, included Michael John Moorcock and James Graham Ballard.

Discussion between Kubrick and Clarke was like a talk marathon. Clarke has commented that Kubrick was perhaps the most intelligent individual I’d ever met. Kubrick was also utterly relentless. Clarke later reminisced about it. “Every time I get through a session with Stanley, I have to go and lie down.”

For music, Stanley Kubrick dropped the score by Alex North without notice although they had a long working relationship before.

Computer graphics weren’t used for filmmaking in the 1960’s when “2001: A Space Odyssey” was made. Stanley Kubrick was uncompromising in visual image making and it caused tensions at times.

A stunt man had to get strongly knocked with the pod’s arms and bear with pain. This shot was shown in 4 time slow-motion to make Frank Poole appear floating in space. It’s the scene David Bowman receives Poole.

When shooting an astronaut floating in space, he was wired from the ceiling and hiding the cable behind his body. Bill Weston who acted spacewalking, requested another cable for safety, which Stanley Kubrick turned down. The stuntman was wired approximately 10 meters above the hard floor, and actually the cable broke and nearly led a severe accident. Kubrick also didn’t accept making the breathing holes in the helmet. As a result, the stuntman suffered from oxygen deficiency and briefly lost consciousness. The stuntman was infuriated, and Kubrick disappeared from the studio for a few days. The production went on hold for a while after this incident.

A rotation set also caused safety issues. The lights often exploded as they couldn’t bear fine upside down. Kubrick’s crew wore protective hats against flying debrises of heated glass.

Marvin Minsky, the advisor for “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the AI specialist of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, attended the film studio one day. Kubrick told his staff to turn the rotation set, and a heavy wrench dropped nearby the prominent scientist. It may have led to a serious consequence if the tool hit his head.

In the sequence of leopard attacking, Daniel Richter who acted as Moon-Watcher, wrestled with the real leopard in the film studio while Stanley Kubrick remained in a cage to direct.  Projector light got reflected on eyes of leopard, which Kubrick thought a fortunate accident.

Some of the scenes are technically wrong. Bowman takes in deep breath to go back to the spaceship without a helmet. Arthur C. Clarke later admitted that Bowman should exhale to avoid the vacuum of space damaging lungs. It’s also said compositions of stars are not scientifically correct at times, but it’s not noticeable unless astronomers view them.

It’s commonly thought that humans were born in Africa. However, Stanley Kubrick filmed tapirs, the animals that don’t inhabit Africa in the opening sequence. It indicates Kubrick’s priority was visual correctness rather than scientific correctness. He may have liked unique and futuristic looks of tapirs. These animals may be relatively safe to deal with. Warthogs appear along with ape-men in the novel version. The production team also painted a horse like a zebra.

One-point perspective, which is Stanley Kubrick’s signature, can be seen in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Stanley Kubrick was a photographer in his early career, and it may have influenced his filmmaking method and aesthetics. Photography is traditionally a silent fixed image from a one-point perspective.

Stanley Kubrick kept plenty of spaces within his already slow paced film by explaining only the essentials. Or he may not have even explained essentials deliberately. It facilitates audiences wonder and look for their own interpretations. Stanley Kubrick minimized his expressions, that may have many similarities with Yasujiro Ozu, the Japanese film director, famous for his minimalistic filmmaking.

Introduction starts with music in complete darkness. There are 4 minutes of darkness at the end of the movie. It must be a part of the movie, perhaps to give the sensation of being in space.

Dialogues are banal, which Stanley Kubrick intended. Dialogue parts are less than 40 minutes. The movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” has no dialogue in the opening 25 minutes or the ending 23 minutes. Approximately 88 minutes are without dialogue overall. 

Stanley Kubrick avoided using shots just to make the movie tense and attract the attention of audiences. Not everyone could enjoy the approach of Stanley Kubrick. Many attendees got lost, puzzled, and eventually stood up and left the premiere screening in the half way. It wasn’t exactly the viewer-friendly and easy-to-understand entertainment. However, a handful people understood the real value of the movie. It was a noble art piece as Kubrick attempted to create. “2001: A Space Odyssey” is still very much in demand today, that is after more than half a century of its making. It is fluently indicating that Stanley Kubrick accomplished the truly immortal masterpiece.

Stanley Kubrick didn’t go to the location shooting in Namibia, where his crew shot photographs for the background of the “Dawn of Man” sequence. Further, he voyaged on the passenger ship Queen Elizabeth from the UK to USA for the premiere. He continued working on film-editing onboard.

It’s said that Stanley Kubrick was aerophobic although he once possessed a pilot licence. Stanley Kubrick may have also had curiosities and fears to the sky just as illustrated in his movie.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” has ageless appeal just like the time scale the movie depicts.

Reference materials and preparation

Stanley Kubrick often made movies based on existing novels. However, since he didn’t find the right book, he decided to make one. Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke looked through a lot of books about space.

At the beginning, Kubrick suggested Clarke to publish the novel first and make the movie based on it. However, the plan was reversed as the plot development consumed time and Kubrick also prefered to keep the story secret until the premiere screening. Clarke got upset by publishing the novel after the release of the movie. However, it served Kubrick’s purposes better, which were to make audiences wonder and reach their subconsciousness. At the same time, the ambiguity of the movie made many people puzzled. The novel version has provided answers to some of the questions.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” was filmed and edited mainly in England, where Stanley Kubrick lived. He used MGM-British Studios and Shepperton Studios. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer financed and distributed the movie. 

The director Stanley Kubrick was curious about extraterrestrial life. Kubrick watched Japanese tokusatsu movies like “Warning from Space” directed by Koji Shima and released in 1956, and grew interest in making science fiction movies.

The 1960 documentary film “Universe” directed by Roman Kroitor and Colin Low, and the motion picture “To The Moon and Beyond” shown at the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair were strong visual references for Stanley Kubrick. The short film “Universe” influenced the scene of the sun rising beyond the earth. Kubrick explored the ways to depict realistic space experiences, and he actually requested Colin Low to give suggestions on cameraworks. 

A famous wheel space station also appears in 1955’s movie “Conquest of Space.”

Stanley Kubrick is said to have been influenced by “Doroga k zvezdam” (Road to the Stars), the 1957’s documentary movie by Pavel Klushantsev, such as zero gravity and spinning space station. Hiding the wire behind the actor’s body by shooting the camera vertically was the innovative method by Stanley Kubrick. However, Pavel Klushantsev was using the same technique a decade ahead of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Symbolism and monoliths had been used by Georges Yatrides since 1951 to depict the link between humanity and supernatural power (god) on his canvas.  It’s suggested that monoliths appearing in “2001: A Space Odyssey” are similar to the art pieces of Georges Yatrides. It’s quite possible that the movie had influences from the artist.

Stanley Kubrick aimed to make his own movie differentiate from stereotypical early science fiction movies. There, he used Homer’s “The Odyssey” as the literary merit and the title of the movie. In Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Odysseus suffers from Polyphemus the cyclops with 1 eye of the Greek mythology. In “2001: A Space Odyssey,” David Bowman confronts HAL 9000, the AI computer with 1 eye. Odysseus is a skilled archer while the family name of Dave is Bowman. These can be said to be the similarities of the 2 pieces.

Stanley Kubrick was impressed with the manga “Astroboy” and requested its author, Osamu Tezuka to become art director. Tezuka had so many tasks in his hands already at that time, and traveling between Japan and the UK wasn’t very easy. Therefore, Tezuka had to turn down the offer. It’s said that Tezuka told Kubrick that he liked the outcome of the movie, and enjoyed listening to the soundtrack during his work.

Stanley Kubrick appointed Graphic Films Corporation who produced  “To The Moon and Beyond” as design consultant.

Illustrators, Chesley Bonestell, Roy Carnon and Richard McKenna created concept arts according to the requests of Stanley Kubrick.

Graphic Films Corporation’s Con Pederson, Lester Novros and Douglas Trumbull created concept arts along with notes about space science. They also created storyboards for space travel scenes of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and Douglas Trumbull was appointed as special effects supervisor.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” has similarities with Stanley Kubrick’s previous movie “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” released in 1964. Both movies have the social background of the Cold War between USA and USSR. Kubrick actually made changes to early ideas for “2001: A Space Odyssey” to differentiate from “Dr. Strangelove.” While the nuclear weapon is exploded in the novel version of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it doesn’t appear to be exploded in the movie version.

“The Making of ‘2001’” is a short promotional film released in 1968 along “2001: A Space Odyssey.” “2001: A Space Odyssey – A Look Behind the Future” is a pre-production documentary short film released in 1966. These pieces explain some of the behind-the-scenes of the filmmaking. The posters for the movie used the catch copy “The ultimate trip.”

Lecture by Michael Benson about his book at Chicago Humanities Festival “The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey”:

Active space development

Space development was very active during the 1960’s when “2001: A Space Odyssey” was produced. NASA’s Project Gemini took place between 1961 and 1966. Apollo 1 fire tragedy occured in January 1967, in which 3 astronauts were killed. Uncrewed Apollo 6 mission was launched on April 4th 1968. The movie was released in May 1968, which almost reproduced the nightmare of  Apollo 1.

Stanley Kubrick dyed sand gray to make a set of the moon. The gravity on the moon is approximately 1/6th of the one on the earth. In the movie, it appears to be the full gravity of the earth when astronauts go around on the surface of the moon. The release of the movie was actually 1 year before Apollo 11 made a first ever manned landing on the moon in 1969. Therefore, Stanley Kubrick may not have had enough reference materials on how it’s like to walk on the moon.

Stanley Kubrick requested the astronomer Carl Sagan to give opinions on how to depict extraterrestrial life. Kubrick shared his ideas to make actors look humanoid aliens. Sagan told that extraterrestrial life forms were likely to have shapes completely different from creatures found on the earth. Sagan advised to just indicate space superintelligent beings

instead of visually illustrating them. Stanley Kubrick came up with ideas that intelligent life forms may have evolved into creatures like god having energy and almighty capacities without any physical shape.

During the production period, the news broke about potential evidences for extraterrestrial life. Kubrick got worried that real aliens may turn up to the earth before the release of his movie. Arthur C. Clarke has mentioned that Kubrick looked for insurance from Lloyds bank to cover the loss in case the movie gets spoiled. However, the figure quoted was astronomical and Stanley Kubrick decided to leave it to luck and just get on with his work. It was not long before NASA’s probe Mariner 4 approached Mars in 1965. The first images of the planet taken in deep space were dotted with craters and illustrated a world of wild fields in which life could not even be imagined.

Kubrick said, “We became interested in the idea that the universe was full of intelligent civilizations which is a current scientific belief. The fact in the film only help you believe the story. But the scientists know now that there are a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, and about a hundred billion galaxies in visible universe. Point is that there are so many stars in the universe that the likelihood of life evolving around them. Even if there were possibilities in one in a million, there would be hundreds of millions of the worlds in the universe.”

Extremely challenging screenplay

Stanley Kubrick worked on the screenplay writing with a English science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke who lived in Sri Lanka. Clarke was an avid scuba diver, who discovered the destroyed remains of Koneswaram Temple under the sea of Trincomalee.

Clarke has mentioned that space is an endless source of knowledge, and it may change human civilization just like the Renaissance that brought an end to the Dark Ages.

Clarke was a member of the British Interplanetary Society, and also fought in the European theatre of the Second World as a radar engineer for the British Royal Air Force. Clarke had strong interest and knowledge in space, and he was an ideal writer because Kubrick intended to make the scientifically accurate space movie. 

Kubrick showed determination to make a movie about the relationship of human beings and space. Clarke understood it would be a work of art that can arouse the emotions of wonder, awe and even terror. Clarke suggested 6 short stories, and Kubrick decided to use “The Sentinel” as the main source material for the screenplay. Ideas for the opening scene”Dawn of Man” are said to have come from Clarke’s short story “Encounter in the Dawn” (“Encounter at Dawn” “Expedition to Earth”).

In 1964, Kubrick and Clarke researched science, anthropology and science fiction movies to look for clues to generate additional elements toward the final plot. Clarke’s short stories and various ideas were joined together into the screenplay.

Kubrick and Clarke were initially calling the movie as “How the Solar System Was Won” after “How the West Was Won,” which was also distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Potential titles considered for the movie include “Across the Sea of Stars,” “Earth Escape,” “Farewell to Earth,” “Jupiter Window,” “Planetfall,” “Tunnel to the Stars,” and “Universe.” In 1965, Kubrick unveiled the title “Journey Beyond The Stars.” Later he changed it to “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

The movie and the novel versions of “2001: A Space Odyssey” were created concurrently, and have certain differences. Kubrick purposefully made “2001: A Space Odyssey” abstract to create rooms for audience’s appreciation and interpretation. Kubrick intended the movie to be ambiguous with less dialogues. Kubrick preferred to create the nonverbal piece to provoke the audience to wonder and seek answers in mind just like pictures and music.

While the movie explains less verbally and relies on visual and sound experiences, the novel covers details in writing. Clarke explains more specifically about monoliths and Star Gate. It is partially because novels employ written form to communicate.

Kubrick’s opinions were reflected onto the screenplay more while Arthur C. Clarke took more initiative and included his ideas into the novel version. It’s said that Kubrick and Clarke had disagreements and struggled to proceed works at times. Clarke wrote so many options for the screenplay, which were dropped by Kubrick apart from 1. Clarke also wrote notes during the time he worked on “2001: A Space Odyssey” and published them along with unused screenplays in 1972 as “The Lost Worlds of 2001.”

Initially, no astronaut was going to be killed. After long discussion, Kubrick and Clarke finally decided that David Bowman to be the only survivor, and gets turned into a baby.

Kubrick  used voice-over narration in his previous movies. However, Kubrick took off many dialogues and narrations in the final script to make it further intuitive experience.

The monolith was originally a transparent crystal, however replaced with a black one when it didn’t look excellent in the shooting of the “Dawn of Man.”

The destination of the spaceship Discovery One was changed from Saturn to Jupiter because Kubrick and his special effects team couldn’t be satisfied with the rendition of rings around Saturn.

The Cold War and the balance of terror between USA and USSR were more noticeable in earlier ideas. Originally, Star Child was to explode nuclear bomb attached to satellites orbiting the earth, however the scene was scrapped as Kubrick felt it’s similar to the movie “Dr. Strangelove,” he made earlier.

Many scenes, which didn’t make it to the final movie, can be found in the novel version.

Kubrick and Clarke didn’t imagine that they would continue the story development until the very late stage of filmmaking with plot elements radically modified even during shooting. It can be said that it was an extremely rare case.

Fixation on Camera shooting

Stanley Kubrick planned to shoot the movie in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Kubrick’s consultant Robert Gaffney suggested that aspect ratio 2.20:1 was instinctive, and  Kubrick accepted the idea. “2001: A Space Odyssey” was 1 of the earliest science fiction movies shot on 70mm film. 

Filming started in England in 1965. The photograph used for the background of the “Dawn of Man” scene was taken in Namibia. Stanley Kubrick made final cuts of the film only days before the official release in 1968. The schedule was delayed by 16 months, and the budget is said to have swollen up to around double of the original 6.5 million US dollars.

Stanley Kubrick explored effects for a scene of a pen floating. After months with all the failed tests, he just tried keeping a pen up on a sheet of transparent glass using double-sided tape. A flight attendant picked a pen almost like pulling it. Light reflection off the glass is slightly visible.

In the scene a flight attendant, played by Heather Downham, picks a pen floating in space and hands it to Dr. Heywood Floyd, she took tottering steps because she had a toothache and the effects of painkillers. Stanley Kubrick who didn’t know about her medication, liked the unnatural space-like movement and chose it for the final movie.

The large amount of negatives from the filmmaking were stored in the garage of Stanley Kubrick’s home. He was determined that those negatives won’t be seen by anyone, and disposed of them. They were burned according to his request while he was alive.

Douglas Trumbull, who was involved with the special photographic effects of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” has mentioned that the overall time camera operated was approximately 200 times longer than the completed movie.

Further, Douglas Trumbull suggested in 2010 that Warner Bros. Entertainment rediscovered the lost part from the editing after the premiere.

Audio exploration

Stanley Kubrick intended to make a movie, which offers non-verbal, visual and audio experiences. Therefore, music took an important part of  “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Kubrick requested the composer Alex North to write a score, however, it wasn’t used in the final movie. Instead, existing classic music was selected. Unused original music by Alex North was released separately from the movie.

Alex North’s scores were specifically made for “2001: A Space Odyssey,” so it dramatizes each scene utilizing sounds more than general classical music. Therefore, classical music may have matched Kubrick’s purpose better. Classical music Kubrick used was not synchronizing with actions exactly, and just streaming ambiently.

Alex North reused themes he originally composed for “2001: A Space Odyssey” in other movies such as 1968’s “The Shoes of the Fisherman,” 1974’s “Shanks,” and 1981’s “Dragonslayer.”

Kubrick also requested Frank Cordell to compose scores, which he didn’t use in the final movie. Frank Cordell’s compositions weren’t released.

Edwin Astley was said to be approached by Kubrick. Edwin Astley suggested

Kubrick to use the temporary soundtrack as it is because Kubrick seemed to have liked the existing classical music. Kubrick went ahead with it.

Kubrick also offered Pink Floyd, the psychedelic rock band to play music for the movie. Pink Floyd couldn’t accept the offer because they had no extra schedule gap to accommodate another booking.

Some of the sounds used for the scene “Dawn of Man” were the recordings made in Africa for “Mogamb,” another movie distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The song “Daisy” HAL 9000 sings in the late stage of the movie is “Daisy Bell” (“Bicycle Built for Two”) in full title, which was written by Harry Dacre in 1892. It was the first song the computer (IBM 704) sang in 1961.


“Also sprach Zarathustra”

“Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, 2 Mixed Choirs and Orchestra”

“Lux Aeterna”

“The Blue Danube”

“Gayane Ballet Suite (Adagio)”


“The Blue Danube”

“Also sprach Zarathustra”

Attention to aesthetics

Stanley Kubrick paid attention to every aspect of design from costume to furnishing.

Many elements from Kubrick’s set designs were contributions from major brands. Some furnitures and items for sets were contributed by makers, for example, DuPont, Macy’s, Nikon, Parker Pens and Whirlpool. IBM withdrew offering their brand logo to HAL 9000 after they found out that the AI computer causes malfunctions against people. IBM logo can be seen in different scenes of the movie. The cutlery appeared in the movie was designed by Arne Jacobsen. Design for furniture, for example, of Red chairs was by Olivier Mourgue. Pedestal tables were designed by Eero Saarinen.

The Tablet-like device can be seen in the movie. The arrival of the technological item was well predicted when computers were typically massive-box shaped in the 1960’s. Later in the legal case with Apple, Samsung insisted that Galaxy tablet didn’t copy iPad design, and a similar device to tablets already existed in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” however, the point Samsung made was denied.

Kubrick originally planned to make a pyramid shaped transparent monolith in accordance with the short story “The Sentinel.” While requesting it to a Plexiglas manufacturer, they suggested that slab shape is easier that tetrahedron to cool down. While testing the transparent slab, it didn’t fit very well with the set and Kubrick wasn’t satisfied with the visual outcome. Then, a production designer Anthony Masters advised to change the color to a matte black, and Kubrick agreed with it.

Kubrick initially used make-up for the ape-men. However, it would have been difficult to avoid getting X-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) because make-up was done on naked skin of actors. Instead, Kubrick asked actors to wear hairy monkey-like suits and play along with 2 real chimpanzee babies.

Daniel Richter played Moon-Watcher, the boss of an australopithecine tribe. Kubrick mainly selected slim dancers and mimes with thin arms, legs and hips for the ape-man roles. Because Kubrick was concerned that extra fursuits may make them appear as if well built gorillas of B movies. Kubrick is said to have retained Moon-Watcher’s costume.

Keir Dullea was Kubrick’s priority candidate for the role of Captain David Bowman. Gary Lockwood played Dr. Frank Poole’s role, however, there were a number of other options on the shortlist, for example, George Hamilton, Hugh O’Brian, James Coburn and Rod Taylor.

Some of the scenes were shot using models and background sets, for example, spaceships. Various materials were used for the spaceship models, for example, aluminum, brass, fiberglass, Plexiglas, steel and wood.

Dr. Fred Ordway and Harry Lange, the prominent engineers of Marshall Spaceflight Center helped all aspects such as spaceship, interior design and spacesuit design.

Award winning effects creation

“2001: A Space Odyssey” won “Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.”

It was the time before digital effects became common in filmmaking. “2001: A Space Odyssey” was made employing physical and chemical methods. Computer graphics are not used although many scenes may appear like CG.

A match cut was used when the bone is thrown up into the air by Moon-Watcher, who knocked down a rival ape. It switches to a satellite in space.  The bone and the orbiting satellite carrying a nuclear bomb used for the match cut scene are thought to be weapons. Both are also similarly in narrow and long shape. It’s obvious for the bone as it’s used to kill an enemy ape. One is a primitive tool while the other is high technology. It indicates human evolution and advancement of technology. The human instinct hasn’t changed since the dawn although the technology made a giant leap. They seek means to have capacities and powers for survival.

Scenes such as Africa and astronauts walking on the moon were taken by the front projection effect using retroreflective mattes. It was innovative to use this method on such a large scale for filmmaking. Many movies followed the same technique for several decades after that.

In the “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite” scene, Douglas Trumbull used the slit-scan technique to create the visual effects for “Star Gate.” This accomplishment gave influence to many other films later.

The scenes of astronauts wafting in zero-gravity were shot by wiring the actors from the ceiling and blinding the wires by their bodies. The same method was used for space background and inside the spaceship.

Vickers-Armstrong Engineering Group manufactured the rotating set. This set allowed shooting the scenes of people walking without gravity. It was shot with the camera fixed to the set while the set was revolved. It cost over 750,000 USD, which was about 1 /14th of the total budget.

The set rotation technique was brought in for the 1924 movie “The Navigator” by comedian Buster Keaton. The same technique was also used by Fred Astaire for 1951’s “Royal Wedding.” All these movies were distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” marked the milestone in science fiction movies, particularly the futuristic world creation.

“Monoliths,” the metaphors for enigmatic space

The name of the monolith on the moon “TMA-1” is the abbreviation for “Tycho Magnetic Anomaly-One.”

Mysterious monoliths appear in all 4 episodes of the movie. Each monolith takes humanity to the next stage. It’s not crystal clear what monoliths are in the movie. It’s the mystery humans investigate and they don’t reach a conclusion as the space mission fails.

The novel version of “2001: A Space Odyssey” indicates more details about monoliths although the plot is different from the movie version in certain parts. Superior extraterrestrial beings use monoliths as tools. The aliens accelerate primitive creatures to develop into intelligent beings around space.

A monolith on the earth accesses brains of apes and accelerates the development of intelligence. A monolith on the moon sends signals to aliens to inform that humans have become capable of exploring space. The 3rd monolith is an entrance to move around space. From the monolith, David Bowman arrives at the interstellar hub called Grand Central and gets directed to destinations. 4th monolith appears by the bed of David Bowman, and triggers the metamorphosis.

Cryptic black monoliths imply connection between the past, the present and the future. It can be said that monoliths may be the metaphors for enigmatic space.

Human-like AI computer “HAL 9000”

HAL 9000 is the AI computer of the spaceship Discovery One. “HAL” of HAL 9000 means Heuristic Algorithmic.

Stanley Kubrick has emphasized the influence of Frankenstein. HAL 9000 resembles the man-made monster committing murders. He’s the monster Victor Frankenstein invents despite realizing it’s the act beyond the will of God.

HAL 9000 causes computer malfunction. The order to withhold the real purpose of the space mission from astronauts conflicts with HAL 9000’s nature of transparent and accurate information processing, and it leads to open the Pandora’s box. HAL 9000’s system is architected to have human-like emotions.

HAL 9000’s inventor is Dr. Sivasubramanian Chandra. In Hindi, Chandra means “moon” and “the Hindu lunar deity.” It’s also a typical surname. Sivasubramanian means “Lord Shiva.” Shiva is one of the principal deities of Hinduism.

In the final movie, Douglas Rain became the voice of HAL 9000. Voice actors were changed several times until Kubrick got a satisfactory outcome. According to Keir Dullea (Captain Dave Bowman role), Nigel Davenport and Martin Balsam were hired and later replaced before Douglas Rain finally landed the role of HAL 9000. At the beginning, HAL 9000 was to have a female voice and feminin character, and to bear the name Athena after the goddess of wisdom in ancient Greek mythology.

HAL 9000’s birthday is January 12th. Kubrick wanted the year of birth to be 1992, so it’s similar age to a child who is 9 years old, and it makes the death of the AI computer more sentimental. However, Arthur C. Clarke made his point that it’s too old for a computer to be installed on a spacecraft. It’s set as January 12th 1997 in the novel by Clarke. Clarke sounded more accurate scientifically. However, Kubrick still didn’t change his mind and stuck with his original idea.

HAL 9000’s first instructor is Langley while it’s Chandra in the novel. The USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is based in  Langley, Virginia, and Kubrick may have taken from it.

Mixed responses

The premiere screening of “2001: A Space Odyssey” was held in the USA in April 1968. Stanley Kubrick cut off approximately 19 minutes from the original film shown at the premier after watching the reaction of attendees. His intention was to tighten up the pace the movie runs, so that audiences can keep their attention. The final version, which runs 142 minutes, was chosen for the roadshow.

Many audiences made walkouts of the premiere screening, questioning what the movie is about. Arthur C. Clarke mentioned that if audiences understand “2001: A Space Odyssey” completely, it means the movie failed its objectives. Kubrick and Clarke have intended to raise more questions than what they answer.

The Ultra HD Blu-ray version was released In 2018, It’s 4K HDR based on the 8K scan of the original negative. Audio was remixed and remastered in DTS-HD MA 5.1. In 2018, the 8K Ultra-high definition version was also shown in Japan.

Kubrick is thought to have aimed to make a scientifically accurate space movie. However, some mistakes have been pointed out. Some of them occurred due to the lack of information and knowledge humans had at the time of filmmaking.

The visual experiences created using advanced technologies of that time are not outdated even watching after more than a half a century of the initial release. The major themes, the evolution of humanity and progress of technology are what the people of today are constantly thinking as the world is changing due to the acceleration of technological innovations.

The pace is slow and the narrative is obscure often, that may put off some audience. However, it is making room for wondering. It allows various interpretations, which gives the movie depth. Perhaps, it should be viewed as a piece of art rather than pure entertainment.

When Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer started distributing the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the reaction of audiences was dull, and MGM considered to close the shows. However, young people were increasingly showing up to theaters, and “Star Gate” scene was particularly popular. Some hippy group sat in the first row of a theater and went down onto the floor toward the ending to view “Star Gate” as close as possible from the screen. It was a dazzling experience indeed.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” grosses the highest among the all movies of 1968 in the United States and Canada when re-releases are taken into consideration. Although Kubrick spent double of the original budget, the movie was commercially successful, and many large budget science fiction movies followed later. The movie is still fascinating us today even after a long time, and will continue to captivate people in the future.

Subjective meanings

“2001: A Space Odyssey” is very subjective and the allegorical and philosophical interpretations are up to audiences. Kubrick has mentioned that the movie implies that human beings are semi-civilized, and the link between apes and superior life forms. Stanely Kubrick also suggested he intended to construct the scientific definition of what God may be. Kubrick has mentioned that god is the main concept, but not traditional one. Kubrick was said to be an atheist.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” illustrates the mystery humans investigate, which is of God. It can be said here that the advanced energy and supernatural beings in space, that humans can’t identify is God. Kubrick predicted that extraterrestrial lives may have evolved from biological species to pure energy and spirit over eons. These life forms can be interpreted only as god by human beings.

Captain David Bowman turns into a baby in the last scene, and some audiences view it as a positive story of rebirth. However, some people see it as a negative story of human and technological developments. Kubrick indicated that Star Child doesn’t destroy the earth in the ending. However, it was Kubrick’s intention to allow wider interpretations. For that reason, he didn’t give detailed explanations on the storyline of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” In that way, he wished to catch the audience at the depth of subconsciousness.

Kubrick suggested that David Bowman evolves into a superior being. Arthur C. Clarke wished that the interpretation of the ending scene may be that Star Child to create a new heaven. It’s obscure what “Star Child” represents and the perceptions vary from reincarnation of life to the dramatic evolution of humankind.

Kubrick refused to explain certain details about the movie including the ending scene, because he thought it may deny audiences’ own emotional reactions. However, Kubrick has explained the basic plot for the final scene.

David Bowman is drawn into another dimension of time and space from Star Gate, and transformed into an entity of pure energy like god. Extraterrestrial intelligent life forms of pure energy study David Bowman in a place like a human zoo. Bowman stays his entire life without a sense of time, he dies, reborns into an enhanced superbeing and goes back to the earth. The eighteenth-century French looking bedroom is an imaginative and artistic space made of David Bowman’s own memories and dreams.

Special events for 50th year anniversary

The premiere of “unrestored” 70mm version at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival:
Filmmaker Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. Entertainment worked on restoration of the original 70mm negative of “2001: A Space Odyssey” for the 50th anniversary celebration of its making in 2018.

The new print premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, and toured across the globe including the USA and Japan. It was the first time “2001: A Space Odyssey” was shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

It was remastered in 4K Ultra High Definition, and Christopher Nolan was also involved in it.

A exhibition of hotel room:
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum held  an exhibition “The Barmecide Feast” in 2018 for the 50th year anniversary of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” It’s a hotel room resembling “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

List of Cast & Staff

Keir Dullea (as captain, David Bowman)
Gary Lockwood (as Dr. Frank Poole)
William Sylvester (as Dr. Heywood Floyd)
Daniel Richter (as Moon-Watcher)
Leonard Rossiter (as Dr. Andrei Smyslov)
Margaret Tyzack (as Elena)
Robert Beatty (as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen)
Sean Sullivan (as Dr. Roy Michaels)
Douglas Rain (as the voice of HAL 9000)
Frank Miller (as the voice of mission controller)
Edward Bishop (as Aries 1B lunar shuttle captain)
Edwina Carroll (as lunar shuttle attendant)
Penny Brahms (as flight attendant)
Heather Downham (as flight attendant)
Alan Gifford (as Poole’s father)
Ann Gillis (as Poole’s mother)
Maggie d’Abo (as Space Station 5 flight attendant)
Chela Matthison (as Mrs. Turner, Space Station 5)
Vivian Kubrick (as Floyd’s daughter, “Squirt”)
Kenneth Kendall (as BBC announcer)

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Producer: Stanley Kubrick
Associate producer: Victor Lyndon
Screenplay writer: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke
Director of photography: Geoffrey Unsworth
Film editor: Ray Lovejoy
Production design: Ernest Archer, Harry Lange, Anthony Masters
Art direction: John Hoesli
Set decoration: Robert Cartwright
Music: Aram Khachaturyan, György Ligeti, Johann Strauss, Richard Strauss


An alien monolith inspires Moon-Watcher, a boss of primitive hominids in prehistoric Africa to lead his tribe to win over rival tribes for survival. Moon-Watcher starts weaponizing a bone to beat enemies.

The time passes to the late 20th century. The USA’s National Council of Astronautics send their Chairman, Dr. Heywood Floyd to Clavius Base on the moon. As Dr. Floyd stays at Space Station 5 on the way to the moon, Russian scientists show concerns on the situation of the lunar base.

Dr. Floyd’s mission is to study a new discovery, which is treated as top secret. It is a huge slab seemingly made by intelligent beings and placed under the surface of the moon near the crater Tycho 4 billion years ago. While Dr. Floyd investigates, sunlight makes the monolith send out  a strong radio signal.

After the investigation on the moon, USA dispatch the spaceship Discovery One to Jupiter. Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole go aboard the spaceship with 3 more crew members in hibernation.

HAL 9000, the AI computer controlling the Discovery One, cuts off oxygen for Dr. Poole who is outside of the spaceship for operation. Then HAL 9000 terminates the life function devices for 3 astronauts in hibernation.

HAL 9000 refuses to let Dr. Bowman in, however, he goes back into the spaceship somehow. Dr. Bowman deactivates HAL 9000, and the video indicates that the true purpose of the mission is to study the radio signal emitted toward Jupiter from the monolith.

Dr. Bowman discovers a bigger monolith around Jupiter. He goes in an extravehicular activity pod to find out further. However, he gets drawn into something mysterious and taken across space, where he witnesses curious sights. Later he finds himself getting aged in a bed room. He touches a monolith showing up near the bed and it converts him into what looks like an unborn child. Then Star Child floats in space as if overlooking the earth.

Author: Takuya Nagata Amazon Profile

A novel writer and creator. Traveled to Brazil and trained football at CFZ do Rio (Centro de Futebol Zico Sociedade Esportiva) in Rio de Janeiro. Played soccer for the Urawa Reds (Urawa Red Diamonds), one of the biggest football clubs in Japan, and toured Europe. Retired at a young age and voyaged alone to England and graduated from UCA, the UK’s university. Established careers as a journalist, football coach, consultant, etc. across Europe such as Spain. Knowledgeable in creative and technology fields as well. The founder of “Propulsive Football” (PROBALL), the world’s first-ever competitive mixed football facilitating diversity and spirits for equal participation in society.



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