2001: A Space Odyssey


Flipping channels this afternoon, we discovered that 2001: A Space Odyssey was playing on Turner Classic Movies. One of the things that occurred to me when we watched the film was how difficult it really is to determine what the future will be like. The future depicted in the movie was accurate about the following innovations, all available in 2001 (via Wikipedia):

  • Flat-screen computer monitors
  • Small, portable flat-screen televisions (we actually watched the film on a small flat-screen, although it’s not portable)
  • Television screens with wide aspect ratio
  • Glass cockpits in spacecraft
  • The proliferation of television stations
  • Telephone numbers (in the 1960’s, phone numbers had fewer digits; the film depicts 2001 phone numbers as having more digits)
  • Corporations such as IBM, Hilton, and Aeroflot still in existence (this one would be particularly tough to predict, I think)
  • Credit cards with data stripes
  • Biometric identification (I even had to use handprint ID to get in the dining hall at UGA when I was a student there)
  • The shape of the Orion III Pan Am Orbital Clipper was echoed in X-34, a prototype craft (though that may have been an intentional nod to the movie)

Other aspects of life in 2001 proved harder to predict. By 2001, we really didn’t have the following:

  • Proliferation of good-quality, high-resolution videophones
  • Commonplace space travel (do you ever wonder if the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger was responsible for that, to some degree?)
  • Moon colonies
  • Manned missions to Jupiter aren’t feasible (one could argue a mission to Mars is feasible, but not likely to happen for some time)
  • Orbiting hotels (à la The Jetsons?)
  • Routine commercial space flight
  • Technology to put humans in long-term suspended animation
  • Sentient computers that exhibit self-motivation and indepedent judgment
  • Computers with error-free performance records
  • Pam Am Airlines (in any form), the Bell System, and Howard Johnson’s (as of January, there are only three HoJo’s left) restaurants are no longer with us
  • The Soviet Union

In my opinion, however, the film is still ground-breaking. Not many filmmakers today have the nerve to do some of the things Stanley Kubrick did — the open ending, the use of quiet and sound (who can forget the segments when the only sound is Dave’s breathing).

My dad had the soundtrack to 2001 on vinyl. When I was a teenager, I put in on the stereo and listened. I remember tears streaming down my face as I listened to the Gayane Adagio from Khatchaturian. At the time, I thought it was the saddest music I had ever heard, and I believe it still is.

The scene in which Dave has to shut down HAL is one of the most moving scenes in science fiction cinema. I can’t find a video of the whole scene, but here is the end:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/WliFIfXNTEY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

I wish it had the part when HAL tells Dave he is afraid. It’s chilling.

What do you think this movie means?

[tags]Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2001, HAL 9000, YouTube[/tags]


One thought on “2001: A Space Odyssey

  1. Dana,

    I read this entry a few days ago and knowing that my daughter is such a "2001 Space Odyssey" fan and I mean that in every sense of the word, I encouraged her to read your entry and make a comment. She has read this book at least 6 times along with the other three. Anyways, today was a snow day in my parts so I encouraged her to share some of her thoughts. Here they are in her own words.

    The impossibility of knowing everything. We never learn the true nature of the monolith, nor its purpose. It is just there. In a way, the monolith can be viewed as a metaphor for life – we can discuss life and its purpose till kingdom come (and probably will) but ultimately, we have not (and cannot) come close to finding out about its ultimate nature and purpose.

    As a 2001 fanatic (I've seen the two movies and read the four books) I would like to apologize for the lameness of this comment. I just spent 6 hours on a paper about Huck Finn, followed by 2 hours researching Argentina and my brain isn't really in abstract thought mode. But my mom insisted I throw my two cents in, so here it is.

    PS Okay so maybe I did insist…

    I do have a slightly funny story about the movie, 2001 Space Odyssey. I went to a very small Catholic school. The principal had always been a nun, that is until for some unknown reason the school decided to hire a lay person.

    I was in the seventh grade at the time and we were all bewildered not to have a nun in a flowing habit running the show. The first thing our new non-nun principal did was hire her son as a teacher for the eighth grade.

    That teacher Mr. Lawson, was shocked that in the history of our school we had never been on a field trip! Well for the very first field trip ever, the seventh and eighth grade students were all loaded up on a bus and we went to see a matinee of 2001 Space Odyssey.

    All I can say is I came home totally spaced out about the experience. I am not sure if it was the fact that I had just gone on my very first field trip or if it was HAL.

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