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“How could we possibly appreciate the Mona Lisa if Leonardo had written at the bottom of the canvas ‘The lady is smiling because she is hiding a secret from her lover’? This would shackle the viewer to reality, and I don’t want this to happen to 2001.”Stanley Kubrick.

This brilliant Kubrick’s though prompted us not go into depths trying to shed a new light onto this epic movie and we won’t try to “explain” and interpret it in any way. We are merely here to convince you to go and watch it immediately, in case you haven’t done so yet (for some obscure reason).

Social Context

“2001: A Space Odyssey” aired in 1968, the year when presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, which rendered this period rather barren for any kind of art endeavor, let alone such a bold project like a science fiction movie.

Needless to say, the movie was a disaster at the box office and with the most critics rejecting it as well, MGM was pretty close to pulling the movie only a few weeks after it premiered.

Then, something amazing happened.

Soon, many youngsters started an anti-war and pro-culture movement, a period during which the collective consciousness managed to rise above the primitive, paving the way for popular culture to make a comeback. Oh, yeah, and people started smoking pot. Forgot to mention that little detail…

Luckily, “2001: A Space Odyssey” managed to rise from the dead and soon became one of the most iconic sci-fi movies of all times. Let’s see why.

Going Beyond

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The screenplay for the movie was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was partially inspired by Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel”, while Clarke concurrently wrote the novel “2001: A Space Odyssey”, which was published soon after the film was released.

The story focuses on a voyage to Jupiter with the sentient computer Hal after the discovery of a mysterious black monolith that is somehow affecting human evolution. Evolution would be the main key word regarding this amazing movie as Kubrick and Clarke deal with such broad, out-of-the-box (remember, this was 1968) and relevant themes like existentialism, human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, and intelligent extraterrestrial life.

The movie was later praised for its scientifically accurate depiction of space flight, while its trailblazing special effects and ambiguous imagery amazed even the most skeptical of audiences. The movie also pushed the envelope of sound engineering, photography and narrative technique, becoming one of the most beautiful works of (now not so) modern cinematography.

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“The picture that science fiction fans of every age and in every corner of the world have prayed (sometimes forlornly) that the industry might someday give them,” wrote Los Angeles Times at the time. “It is an ultimate statement of the science fiction film, an awesome realization of the spatial future. It is a milestone, a landmark for a spacemark, in the art of film”.

So… Is mankind indeed merely a link between primitive apes and Übermensch? At the end of the day you will find that it is not really our niche to discuss it. Or is it? Time will tell, though. Until then, just lean back and enjoy the ride.