Such fans would squirm incessantly through the opening sequence, an essentially mute 20-minute segment dubbed “The Dawn of Man,” where a troop of apes learns to use a bone as both tool and weapon. It ends famously when one of the apes tosses it into the air, where it miraculously match cuts with a satellite orbiting millions of years in the future.
Part of the plot, if you’d like to call it that, has two astronauts, Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), headed to Jupiter aboard Discovery One, “manned” by the computer HAL 9000 (voice of Douglas Rain), both a tool and, eventually, a weapon. At the center of the film are the black monoliths, which appear in each segment of 2001. Their origins are never revealed and their purpose remains an enigma, which forces most to say, “I don’t get it.” Neither do we.
The reason I write so little about the story is that you may find yourself not paying attention to it. This stems not from boredom (though that is a major claim for first-time viewers) but from awe. It’s impossible not to marvel at 2001’s achievements, none of which are dated despite being applied over 40 years ago: The music, from Richard Strauss, Gyorgy Liegti and Johann Strauss to name a few often serves as a replacement for dialogue; the special effects, which Kubrick won his only Oscar for, look more modern than the phony CGI and worn 3D used in movies today; the production design, completed by BAFTA winners Ernest Archer, Anthony Masters and Harry Lange, offers a clean, sleek look that no doubt inspired Apple’s signature color scheme that lures in consumers.
2001: A Space Odyssey did as much for its genre as it did for film. It showed and continues to illustrate that there is no such thing as “limits” when it comes to the medium. If one movie is to be selected to be preserved in a time capsule for future generations--and potential alien life--2001 is it.
Commentary by Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood: The actors, who play Bowman and Poole, respectively, get together to reflect on 2001, covering many behind-the-scenes details. It’s a fine track, but the below features give a more rounded look at the film.
2001: The Making of a Myth (43:07): Hosted by James Cameron, this documentary uses interviews and other footage (including some lame reenactments) to trace the evolution of the landmark sci-fi epic. This thorough doc offers just about everything one would want to know about the making of 2001, including the creation of the “Dawn of Man” sequence, the Oscar-winning special effects, the character of HAL-9000, and more. Interviewees include author Sir Arthur C. Clarke, special photographic effects supervisors Con Pederson and Doug Trumbull, special effects artist Brian Johnson, film critic Elvis Mitchell, and more.
Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001 (21:25): This piece observes how Kubrick and 2001 played a role in the life and careers of a number of notable filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Sydney Pollack, Caleb Deschanel, Dan O’Bannon, and more.
Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001 (21:31) uses the interviewees from the previous featurette to take a look at the Kubrick’s successes and failures in predicting what outer space, science and the year 2001 would hold.
2001: A Space Odyssey - A Look Behind the Future (23:11): This vintage documentary done by Look magazine, which Kubrick was once a staff photographer for, gives viewers a peek at the production of 2001.
What Is Out There? (20:42): Rounding out the trio of the more scientific-leaning featurettes contains excerpts from an interview with Clarke, placed in between actor Keir Dullea’s cheesy reading from notes concerning ideas explored by Clarke and Kubrick.
2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork (9:27): Here, special photographic effects supervisor Doug Trumbull discusses the creation of the “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite” sequence. Then, Kubrick’s widow Christiane introduces a collection of concept art.
Look: Stanley Kubrick (3:15) compiles a few dozen photographs Kubrick took in the 1940s while employed at Look magazine.
11/27/1966 Interview with Stanley Kubrick (1:16:30): In this audio-only interview that is by far the best supplement on the disc, Kubrick sits down with physicist and writer Jeremy Bernstein to share his thoughts on his childhood, his days as a photographer, his beginnings in the motion picture business, his love of chess, his features up to that point (Dr. Strangelove was his most recent), and much more.