A 1968 science-fiction film, written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, with help from Arthur C. Clarke (who also wrote a novel version in tandem with the film's production), and inspired in part by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel". Nearly universally recognized by critics, filmmakers, and audiences as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made, of any genre.The film's story tracks long-term human evolution as it is influenced by unseen aliens. The unearthing of one of their artifacts on the moon leads to an ill-fated expedition being dispatched to Jupiter, culminating in a famously incomprehensible climax. (The novel offers a if not the explanation for the latter.)Still one of the "hardest" sci-fi films ever made, it is known for its very slow pacing and enigmatic plot. It's also the reason you see Thus Spoke Zarathustra paired with sunrises, and Blue Danube Waltz paired with zero-gravity.Clarke went on to write several sequel novels (titled 2010, 2061, and 3001) which mostly followed the film's continuity, and one of them was made into a movie as well (2010: The Year We Make Contact).
Clarke's original short story, "The Sentinel", dealt only with the part about the Monolith on the Moon. Kubrick and Clarke then expanded the story into a film and book that were released simultaneously. Clarke stated the book should be credited as "Clarke and Kubrick", with "Kubrick and Clarke" credited for the screenplay. Unlike a Novelization, there are distinct differences between the two; for starters, Clarke's Discovery travels to one of Saturn's moons, while Kubrick's Discovery goes to Jupiter. The reason for this change was to avoid a Special Effects Failure: the film crew couldn't build a model of Saturn that Kubrick liked, so he changed it.
Years later, Marvel Comics published a short-lived, ongoing series based on the film, written and drawn by Jack Kirby. It depicts Monoliths appearing at various times throughout human history and prehistory, prodding us toward civilization. It's best remembered these days for having Aaron Stack the Machine Man's origin in the final issue. A Monolith visits him briefly and calms his mind, so he doesn't go berserk like his fellow androids. For licensing reasons, the Monolith's part in his origin was ignored for years, but writers eventually acknowledged it and claimed it was a tool of the Celestials.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: HAL goes rogue and murders the crew of Discovery because of a Logic Bomb accidentally created by his programmers. This became an archetypal example of "malevolent AI" in popular culture, especially since the film version doesn't adequately explain the reasons for his malfunction.
Alas, Poor Villain: HAL basically goes out begging for mercy and appealing to Dave's friendship while he is slowly lobotomized.
Aliens Steal Cable: In the novel, the "hotel" area constructed by the Firstborn to receive Bowman is based on TV broadcasts received by the Monolith. The hotel room is supposed to give Bowman an environment he's comfortable with, but in the movie the aliens clearly did not research things very well, because a room with lights in the floor looks intensely disturbing. They also put the bathroom mirror over the tub instead of the sink. In the book, there are other anomalies, such as writing that is blurry in close-up, and all the food containers have an identical substance that in no way resembles human food while still being perfectly nutritious.
All There in the Manual: Clarke's accompanying novel spends considerable time providing explanations for the more opaque aspects of the film.
And I Must Scream: The flash-cuts of Bowman's horror as he's taken Beyond The Infinite. The journey reduces him to a quivering wreck — then he appears in the alien hotel room. It appears that that will turn out to be Bowman's purgatory, but it's ultimately averted as Bowman Ascends to a Higher Plane of Existence.
Anti-Mutiny: Although not made explicit, HAL rebels in order to protect the true mission, which would die with him as he was programmed to keep it a secret until they arrive.
Battle Chant: Subverted with the hominids. When Moonwatcher's group first encounters another group at the waterhole, the two groups shriek and howl at each other until Moonwatcher's group retreats. Soon after, Moonwatcher's group has contact with the monolith. When the two groups meet again at the waterhole, the second group makes a cacophany, while Moonwatcher's group is silent. The second group mistakes this for weakness, and their leader charges. Moonwatcher easily clubs his foe to death, causing the second group to quail and retreat. Silence, in this case, proved more unnerving than bluster.
Cosmic Horror Story: This was the real reason for Kubrick's use of Leave the Camera Running and Mind Screw: to convey that space is an immense and hostile place in which humans are insignificant by comparison, where if we encounter aliens they'd be incomprehensibly advanced, refuse to explain themselves to us, and be interested only in using us as tools. Lampshaded in the out-takes book The Lost Worlds of 2001, which covers parts of the astronauts' pre-mission training. They are told simply to take lots of pictures and not to try too hard to make sense of what they see... and to hope their hosts (if any) are aware of their limitations.
Creepy Monotone: Inverted. HAL's voice isn't a monotone at all; while calm and unemotional, his voice is actually much more expressive than any other character. That's precisely why it's so damn creepy.
You can tell that he sounds a bit annoyed when Frank keeps asking about computer error.
"None whatsoever, Frank! Quite honestly, I wouldn't worry myself about that!"
Cryonics Failure: HAL intentionally kills the three hibernating astronauts by forcing a malfunction in the coldsleep system; in the novel, he depressurizes the ship as Bowman attempts to wake all three of them.
Cukoloris: 2001 was the first movie to show computer monitors projecting their images onto the user's face. This is pure Rule of Cool, because in order to get this effect in real life you'd have to be staring straight into the bulb of a projector. There were 16mm projectors behind all the flatscreens on the sets, so all Kubrick had to do was take the screens off.
Electronic Speech Impediment: When Bowman disassembles HAL's neural circuitry, it reverts to demo mode and sings "Daisy Bell" in an increasingly slow, distorted manner before finally shutting down.
Energy Beings: The extraterrestrials have somehow woven themselves into the fabric of space-time in the novel.
Escape Pod: Technically, the EVA pods, although they are not used for this, and there would be no way to rescue them anyway, save sending another pod from the same vessel. They're more like Maintenance Pods, really.
Everything Is an iPod in the Future: Ur Example — the iPod was named after the space pods in this movie, and the white surfaces and black control panels on all of Discovery's equipment were an inspiration for its design. Similarly, the novel describes a device that is extremely similar to modern concepts of the tablet computer.
Evolutionary Levels: Self-evolution, but still mentioned - the Firstborn's status as Energy Beings is stated to be the ultimate stage in physical evolution. "And beyond that, there could only be God." The opening "Dawn of Man" sequence is about the Firstborn giving human evolution a kick in the pants.
Explosions in Space: In an aversion of the typical trope, the explosive bolts that decompress Bowman's EVA pod go off silently with just a puff of gas.
Explosive Decompression: Averted. (Though used in the literal, scientific sense in that Bowman went almost instantly from full external air pressure to vacuum when he blew the pod's explosive bolts.)
First Contact Math: In the novel, Bowman tries unsuccessfully to communicate with the Iapetus monolith by broadcasting primes at it. Unsuccessfully in this case because it already knows he's there and what it intends to do with him. There is some speculation as to whether the 1:4:9 ratio of the monolith's sides is significant in this respect; it is, but the details are never revealed.
Food Pills: Meals include a collection of zero-gee liquids sucked up through straws, horrible-looking preprocessed sandwiches, and trays of (essentially) Astronaut Chow on Discovery. It all almost makes the raw tapir meat the ape-men eat at the Dawn of Man look appetizing. The book, on the other hand, has the food on Discovery be designed to be just like "real" food, including fresh baked bread, in order to help make the years long space trip tolerable.
Word of God has it that the food in the movie was intended to resemble baby food, on the grounds that as far as space-faring civilizations go, the human race is extremely infantile. The three things all babies have to learn is how to eat, walk and control their own bodily functions. Space faring humans are shown taking baby-steps with Velcro shoes around the cabins of space liners, eating stuff that resembles baby food, and needing a lengthy instruction manual to use the space toilet (see Nobody Poops below) to highlight humanity's childlike status.
HAL: "Let me put it this way, Mr. Amor. The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error."
Lampshaded by Dave when he's discussing the HAL situation with Frank in the EVA pod. He points out that the statement about the 9000 series having a perfect operational record sounded rather too much like Famous Last Words for his taste.
In the sequel (for those who didn't read the original novel), the previous and following statements were proven true, making the foreshadowing truly epic, although the fate tempting loses a little credence.
HAL: "It can only be attributable to human error. This sort of thing has cropped up before, and it has always been due to human error."
Fun with Acronyms: Though Clarke claimed it was unintentional, many readers have noted that if you shift each letter in HAL one letter forward, you get IBM.
Gainax Ending: Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite, far more so in the film than the book, where it's explained in a fair bit of detail.
Government Conspiracy: The U.S. government tries to cover up the discovery of the Monolith by cutting off all communication to Clavius Base, spreading rumors about an epidemic, and concealing the Monolith's existence from Dave and Frank.
The Great Politics Mess-Up: The USSR is surprisingly healthy in 2001. On the other hand, relations between the US and USSR are remarkably amicable, from the point of view of the 1960s. (Kubrick's previous film wasDoctor Strangelove.) They have built a huge space station together, and are generally cooperating in the exploration of the moon. The Russians being suddenly shut out of the Clavius moon base is seen as a very unusual event.
Halfway Plot Switch: The monolith storyline does come back at the end, however people who start to scratch their heads as Dave deals with HAL and think "Wait - I thought this movie was about that monolith thing.." can be excused for doing so.
Hemisphere Bias: Although the Earth as seen from the moon looks unrealistically washed out (see Science Marches On), North America is always visible every time we see it.
Hitler Cam: The scene of Bowman unlocking the door to HAL's Logic Memory Center and crawling inside is shot from a worm's-eye-view: the camera is on the floor and Keir Dullea has to step over it. By making him look huge and threatening, Kubrick gives us the impression that Bowman is going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against HAL without him having to say anything.
Invisible Aliens: Sort of. While there is ample evidence for the presence of alien intelligences, neither humanity, nor Dave Bowman, nor the reader/viewer ever finds out what the actual aliens themselves look like. In the novel it's revealed that they had long since evolved into Energy Beings.
I Want My Jetpack: In 2001 we have manned interplanetary spaceflight, permanent bases on the Moon, suspended animation and sentient computers. Contrast with Zeerust below.
About two seconds before the famous Match Cut (see below), there was a jump cut that showed the bone tool spinning in the opposite direction. This cut is a bit jarring and piques the viewer's attention just in time for the cut-to-spaceship.
Two quick jump cuts straight into HAL's camera, right as he's murdering Frank.
The novel suggests that HAL might been able to eventually resolve the problem peacefully, had mission control not requested his temporal disconnection. HAL, being unable to grasp the concept of sleep, was convinced that the disconnection would have meant the end of his existence and his killing spree was therefore, all in all, a misguided attempt at self-defense.
Narrative Filigree: Many scenes, especially the middle. The subplot with HAL, which is the most memorable part of the movie, serves only to leave Bowman as the Sole Survivor, and it doesn't really have any connection to the Monolith plot except as a consequence of the Government Conspiracy.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Frank and Dave use the pod to speak privately from HAL. Good. They then have HAL rotate the pod so HAL can watch them talking through the window, and obviously not checking out the systems they said they were going to check.
No New Fashions in the Future: This is most obvious with the very '60s-looking women's hairstyles, and the matching plaid suit and pants worn by the photographer at the moonbase.
Nobody Poops: Averted by Floyd when he has to read through the entire set of instructions for the Zero Gravity Toilet before he can use it.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: In the film when Bowman exits the stargate the pod just appears inside the alien-built hotel room. In the book he emerges back into regular space, sees a red giant star surrounded by thousands of abandoned alien space ships (from other races who had been uplifted by the monolith aliens and found their way there). He flies closer to the star and the hotel room is assembled around his pod. The cost of filming this scene using 1960s special effects technology would've been astronomical, so they never even tried.
Offscreen Reality Warp: This provides much of the Mind Screw in the hotel room scene at the end of the movie. Bowman is in the pod, then he sees a slightly older version of himself in his spacesuit outside the pod, then the pod disappears. From the bathroom, he sees an older version of himself having dinner, then when the middle-aged Bowman gets up to look in the bathroom, the spacesuited Bowman has disappeared. The middle-aged Bowman sees an even older version of himself in the bed, then he and the dining table have been replaced by the Monolith....
Oh Crap: David Bowman as he is taken Beyond the Infinite.
Dave gets three Oh Crap's in a row in the space of about a minute.... First, "I know you and Frank were planning to disconnect me." He tries to bluff, but then Hal answers, "Although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move." Finally, the look on Dave's face when he realizes that he forgot his helmet.
"Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose any more. Goodbye."
HAL gets one of his own. "My mind is going... I'm afraid..."
Ominous Latin Chanting: György Ligeti's "Requiem" and "Lux Aeterna" are so ominous, you can't even tell they're in Latin anymore. (Or Greek, in the case of the Kyrie from the "Requiem"!)
Public Domain Soundtrack: Classical music, used brilliantly. There was a soundtrack by Alex North in the works for the movie, but until it was ready they used the classical music as a placeholder. Kubrick ended up liking the classical music version so much he never used North's compositions.
Besides technology progressing slower than the production team anticipated, there are two details of astronomy in this movie that have since become dated. Kubrick insisted that the artists paint the Earth very pale blue because its albedo is 0.38. Only a few years later, photos from the Apollo missions made everybody realize that this figure is averaged over the pure white clouds and the deep blue oceans. Jupiter and its moons were also intentionally depicted vaguely because of the limitations of ground-based telescopes.
The film's depiction of the lunar landscape owes much to the craggy, mountainous terrain that was common in science fiction before the Apollo landings. Nonetheless the film is surprisingly accurate given that the production predated even the Surveyor probes, let alone manned exploration.
Floyd and everyone else on the Moon walk around completely normally. The Apollo landings later revealed that a loping gait was required in the Moon's 1/6 gravity.
The proto-hominids in the opening sequence are all about the same size, but current theories and fossil evidence suggest that the males should've been substantially larger than the females.
The notion that the Monolith's influence guided one of the hominids to pick up a bone and start hitting stuff with it loses much of its impact, now that it's known that tool use also occurs in our great ape cousins, as well as ravens, monkeys, elephants, dolphins, and dozens of other genera that aren't our close relatives. The scene still works as a metaphor, but in the literal sense, those creatures should've come up with tools as basic as clubs long before they left the trees.
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: When Bowman goes out to rescue Poole, the entire sequence is shown in real time in order to make it absolutely clear that there's no way Poole could survive that long without air. HAL takes advantage of Bowman's absence to kill the other crew members by Cryonics Failure. Bowman recovers Poole's body, but ends up having to release him back into space in order to get back onto the ship.
During HAL's death scene, he sings a brief snatch of the song "Daisy Bell" ('Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do...'); this was chosen because Arthur C. Clarke had, a few years previous, visited a Bell Labs demonstration of synthesized speech, which included singing the song in question, and was the first example ever of computer speech. This Shout-Out is itself a frequent source of shout-outs in other films.
A wheel-shaped space station and an interplanetary mission jeopardized by Space Madness were previously seen in George Pal's Conquest of Space, released in 1955.
The Odyssey, of course. HAL was even originally going to be named Athena, after Odysseus's patron goddess. See Sole Survivor.
In a 1969 interview, Kubrick specifically mentions the influence of Carl Jung on the monolith design. In fact, the entire "Beyond the Infinite" sequence is similar to a section of Carl Jung's autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, in which Jung dreams he is floating above Earth when a black monolith appears. He enters it, finding an entire Hindu temple, and undergoes a spiritual evolution.
Show, Don't Tell: This is why the novel works so well as a companion piece. Whereas the film has astonishing visuals, the story is deliberately vague. The novel obviously can't show any visuals, so Clarke devotes a lot of time to explaining the backstory, the history of the technology in the film, and what's really happening with the prehistoric humans and Bowman after he enters the Star Gate.
Silence Is Golden: Long stretches of the film have no dialogue, including the first 22 and last 24 minutes (not counting the overture and end credits/exit music).
The Singularity: The monoliths are machines left behind by a race of aliens that underwent one of these.
Social Services Does Not Exist: For HAL. Despite the magnitude of the mission, evidently this computer is not programmed to go into any sort of safe mode when conflicts pop up in its programming, nor are logs of his thoughts being beamed back to Earth to be reviewed, nor is there a teeny stripped down separate AI "subconscious" watching his thoughts and alerting Earth in case of problems, nor is there an automatic "kill switch" for Dave or Frank to use to cut off HAL's higher functions in case of trouble.
Stay with the Aliens: Spelled out in rather greater detail in the novel; the whole point of the Monolith setup is to "capture" the first human who makes it out that far into space.
Stock Shout-Outs: One of the poster children. The sunrise sequence, HAL's voice and red eye, the bone/satelite Match Cut... you can reference literally anything in this movie and every viewer will instantly get it.
Streaming Stars: Within the hyperspace gate, the psychedelic colors are intended to represent the incredible speed of Bowman's travel.
Typeset in the Future: HAL is the Ur Example of using Eurostile Bold Extended on computer screens to indicate a futuristic setting. The zero-gravity toilet instructions are set in Eurostile Bold, but most other signs and control panel markings (such as "Caution Explosive Bolts") are in Futura Bold, the standard font Boeing uses on the control panels of its aircraft.
The Unreveal: We never see any aliens. All we know of them are their tools, the Monoliths. This was due to the suggestion from Carl Sagan that they could never genuinely conceive of an alien lifeform without it looking like a puppet or a bad rubber mask.
Upgrade Artifact: The monolith is the ultimate one, it kickstarts or triggers evolutionary levels.
Vader Breath: Prominently featured during spacewalk scenes, reportedly performed by Kubrick himself.
Video Phone: The movie features a videophone in a phone booth, in a rotating space station.
Villainous Breakdown: HAL's pleas to Bowman become increasingly desperate as he realizes that he's about to be "killed" and has no way to prevent it. "I'm afraid, Dave."
Zeerust: HAL is a mind-bogglingly advanced, sentient computer, but can't print plain text onto looseleaf paper. Humanity in 2001 can build spectacular space-stations and has mastered interplanetary flight, but people are still using typewriters.
By 2001 the movie looks more like what the world would have been like with 1960's styles coinciding with a future space age.