I'm ashamed to admit it, but I had never seen this until last week. In my defense, finding a movie-mate for an epic three hour plus sci fi picture where the first line isn't spoken for nearly an half hour is tough. Besides, everyone I know had already seen it (or at least claimed they had–I think 2001 is the second most lied about movie, next to Lawrence of Arabia of course).
Well, now that I have finally seen it, all I can say is Wow. It's mind blowing. I thought I pretty much knew the gist of it from all the scenes and clips I'd seen, many of which have become iconic and are always popping up in documentaries about filmmaking or special effects and boring tributes to filmmaking, special effects, old Hollywood, dead people, etc at the Oscars. But I was very wrong (the Oscar tributes had totally misinformed me), because there is no other movie quite like it in the world and the whole experience is bigger than the sum of its parts.
The fact that geniuses were behind it is abundantly clear. Arthur C. Clarke spent many years working on the script with Kubrick and the stories that combine to make the narrative are intriguing and, at times, harrowing. It's important to note, however, that the film and the book do differ. Although I haven't read it (yet), I have read elsewhere that there's a more cohesive, less confounding ending, which makes the book form sound like a perfect companion to the film for all of you (myself and Arthur C. Clarke included) who didn't understand the trippy ending in the movie. (but I would kill for that room).
But don't lose heart, some dude who is far smarter than us all (I quote: “I am amazed that the story of 2001 is misunderstood by so many; to me, the story is easy to understand… THINK”) has written an essay “For the benefit of those who say they still don't understand 2001”. The theories are many, and of course that was Kubrick's intention.
The look of the film, its award winning and ground breaking special effects as well as the art direction and cinematography are unreal. They hold up today almost 40 years later and they look ten times better than anything in current mega hits like Wing Commander or Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid. And who else is with me when I say the shot of the cheetah attack during the Dawn of Man sequence is one the coolest visuals ever?
I can only imagine how brilliant this looks in the theater on a big screen. I hope I someday have the opportunity to see it. After all, for me (an atheist), it's the film's filmic qualities that keep me entranced far more than the search for answers to the mystery of God, life, the universe, and everything that the film asks us to ponder–I'm much more into man's achievements, including this amazing film, than our heavenly father's. *I should also mention it has a soundtrack worth listening to.
I realize this is full of hyperbole (and long), but when faced with a piece of art like this, it's hard not to get carried away. I mean, in between watching Heavyweights and Access Hollywood, seeing a film like this is worth getting worked up about.