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YMMV / 2001: A Space Odyssey

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  • Adaptation Displacement: This film was inspired by Arthur C. Clarke's short story "The Sentinel", which isn't nearly as well known as the film.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Does the famous bone-to-satellite Match Cut indicate technological progress - from the use of primitive tools to complex machinery - or does it, when you consider that said bone was used as a weapon by a man-ape to kill another ape, indicate a lack of progress, when you consider that the satellite that matches the bone is actually a nuclear weapons launching platform? Note that despite the 4-million year cut, it's all included in "The Dawn of Man" segment of the film.
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    • Right when the lobotomization of HAL is complete, a prerecorded message from Dr. Floyd starts playing, giving full details about the discovery of the Monolith, details that only HAL had been privy to. Was the broadcast accidentally triggered by Dave Bowman's actions, or was it intentional on HAL's part, to share the information with Dave to complete the mission?
    • Some fans see HAL in a much more sympathetic light. Midway through the movie HAL has a sit down with Dave, asking about the peculiarities surrounding the mission. Dave knows that the ship A.I. would know exactly what is going on and catches on that HAL is fishing for something. HAL, realizing he slipped up, changes the subject by saying the AE-35 unit is acting up, and that it needs to be repaired. Dave and Frank try to do so, only to realize that it is working perfectly, and later discuss if HAL is malfunctioning and the possibility of disconnecting him, which appeared to be the equivalent of lobotomizing or even killing HAL. It is a bit harder for the audience to sympathize with HAL, since he is a faceless A.I. who decided to prioritize completing the mission at the expense of the entire human crew. If he were human, since HAL's colleagues were planning to harm him out of distrust at best, and for a trivial mistake at worst, having an emotional break and responding by taking action against Frank and Dave would have been completely justified.
  • Award Snub: Considered one of the greatest and most influential films of all time, and yet it wasn't even nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
    • Kubrick received Oscar nominations for Director and Original Screenplay but didn't win either one.
    • The film did win the Oscar for Visual Effects, which was awarded to Kubrick. It remained the only Oscar he won for his entire career.
      • Even then, the film's only Oscar win for Visual Effects was still a snub as Kubrick wasn't the only one who contributed to the film's special effects. The film's credits list four other effects contributors: Douglas Trumbull, Tom Howard, Con Pederson, and Wally Veevers. However, according to Oscar rules at the time, only three people could be nominated for their work on a single film, so only Kubrick's name was submitted, snubbing the other four effects contributors.
    • The film was passed over for an Honorary Oscar in Makeup in favor of Planet of the Apes (1968), despite the makeup in 2001 being arguably superior. Many joke that the ape makeup in 2001 was snubbed because the Academy thought that the film used real apes rather than superior makeup, or more seriously, ascribe it to chicanery on the part of Apes producer Arthur Jacobs. It's probably more likely that the Academy specifically wanted to honor the make-up artist on Apes, John Chambers, who had worked on a huge number of movies and TV shows back when studios generally didn't consider make-up artist to be a role worth crediting on-screen. In addition, giving this film an award for its ape suits would have been redundant seeing how it had already won the Best Visual Effects award.
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    • Despite 2001's technical brilliance, it received only two Oscar nominations in technical categories: Visual Effects (which it won) and Art Direction. The film's editing, sound, and beautiful cinematography weren't even nominated.
  • Can't Un-Hear It: Try to hear "Thus Spoke Zarasthustra", "The Blue Danube" or "Atmospheres" and not think of this film.
  • Creepy Awesome: HAL is one of the most outright disturbing artificial intelligences in fiction, but also one of the most iconic.
  • Delusion Conclusion: Given the film's notoriously trippy ending, it's not surprising that some viewers have interpreted the final act as some kind of delusion experienced by David Bowman; some even claim that it's actually due to Bowman running out of oxygen and hallucinating as he slowly dies of asphyxiation in space.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: HAL in a weird way; there are fans who insist he only attacked the crew out of self-preservation.
    • Though to be fair it was revealed in 2010 that in a way what happened wasn't HAL's fault. He was ordered to keep the true nature of the mission a secret, which conflicted with his basic programming, which caused his actions in the film. The man who planned the Discovery mission was LIVID when he found out what had been done to HAL.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Ooh, 2001! It's that movie about HAL, the evil computer, and...astronauts, we think? Maybe something about monkeys?
  • Evil Is Cool: HAL is by far the coolest character in the film.
  • Fandom Rivalry: Among cinephiles, 2001 is paired against Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972) with the debate on which is the better space movie. Tarkovsky claimed not to have seen 2001 when he made Solaris and after seeing it thought it was a very cold, sterile film. Interestingly enough both movies have the opposite views on Space. Kubrick's film is about the universe being filled with things beyond our comprehension, while Tarkovsky's film is essentially about the loneliness of being in space, being apart from Earth and the ability of astronauts to readjust to civilian life after spending time "up there".
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: One of the film's most famous scenes has HAL-9000 begging Dave not to deactivate him, and then singing the song "Daisy Bell" as his mind powers down. The exact opposite happened in real life: February 2019, when NASA lost contact with the Opportunity Mars rover (after it sent back its last message, "My battery is low and it's getting dark"), NASA tried thousands of times to revive it with recovery commands, and when that failed, the mission control team officially declared its mission complete by sending a recording to Mars of the Billie Holliday song "I'll Be Seeing You."
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • When Kubrick adapted the book to movie form, he changed a setting: instead of having Discovery head to Saturn and its moon Iapetus, he moved it to Jupiter and its moon Io. He did it because he couldn't create the special effects to make Saturn. Lo and behold, in 1979, the Voyager probes discovered that the next moon out around Jupiter, Europa, is very icy, and later observations have found it likely has a tidally-heated subsurface ocean of liquid water. Not only did it inspire 2010: The Year We Make Contact, but today Europa is considered more likely to harbor extraterrestrial life than Mars!
    • Also, Pan Am, in 1968, was all but ubiquitous—it was the international airline for the US, and a cultural icon. Pan Am folded in 1991, partially absorbed by United Airlines; its nearest rival for "official airline of the United States", TWA, was bought in all but name by American Airlines in 2001. Obviously, Kubrick had no way of knowing any of this in 1968, and so naturally extended current tendencies in the airline world to space...but that doesn't keep the presence of Pan Am spacecraft from being hilarious Zeerust to modern audiences.
    • As to the design of Kubrick's space liner...something about a winged orbiter with stubby delta wings with a cockpit of centralized computer displays that can rendezvous with a large space station should be a little familiar. Harry Lange, the head of NASA future-projects, helped design the ships of the movie.
    • MAD Magazine's parody of 2001 ends with the Monolith revealing that it's really a book called How to Make an Incomprehensible Science Fiction Movie & Several Million Dollars. In 2014, Taschen published The Making of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey by Piers Bizony, which is a large black hardcover book shaped exactly like the Monolith.
    • HAL's control panel monitors display text and graphics in white on a background of bright solid color, which makes them look a lot like the Microsoft "Metro" design language from Windows 8 and 10, Windows Phone and Xbox 360.
    • Not only is HAL a one letter shift from IBM, IBM later built the sophisticated AI Watson, who successfully defeated the two most successful Jeopardy! contestants ever WITHOUT being connected to the internet.
    • In one scene, crew members can be seen using devices that are remarkably similar to modern day iPads.
  • Hype Backlash: Arguably a poster child for this trope. People who don't like this movie tend to hate it all the more for the praise it receives. The film has breathtaking visuals, but it's sluggishly paced and deliberately unexplained. The story is also great, but you need to read the novel to understand what's actually happening.
  • It Was His Sled:
    • Does anybody not know what HAL does by now?
    • Dave becomes a space fetus in the Gainax Ending.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: It is very common for people to only watch the movie for HAL's scenes or the infamous ending.
  • Mainstream Obscurity: There are way more people who know about the monolith and the HAL 9000 than the amount of people who have seen this film, especially thanks to the "Weird Al" Effect, and the fact that it's status as the first real sophisticated science-fiction film was usurped later on by the likes of Star Wars, Blade Runner and The Matrix.
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Older Than They Think: Most people who watch the film and do not know its age believe it to have come in the wake of Star Wars or thereabout - i.e., the late 1970s. Part of this is the impeccably accurate portrayal of modern spaceflight, technology, et al, and part because of the gorgeous quality of the cinematography and special effects, which rival Star Wars and make it appear as though it were made in the late 70s.
  • Out of the Ghetto: Kubrick made this film specifically to bring science-fiction into the mainstream. He was fascinated by concepts of the genre but disappointed by most science-fiction books and movies. Drawing from external references (modernist literature, painting and philosophy), he deliberately approached the genre in a more realistic and enigmatic fashion. His film eschewed some of the genre trappings of World Building (space jargon, technology, alien species) and focused on how mysterious and bewildering space travel and alien contact could actually be. The groundbreaking special effects and greater sophistication made many people treat 2001 as an art-movie and Epic Movie spectacle rather than the usual B-Movie contempt which science-fiction was usually treated with.
  • Padding: Done for artistic rather than budgetary reasons, but still, let's not kid ourselves: this is a veerrry looong and veerrry sloooowwww movie, one that's 140 (or in some versions, 160) minutes long but only has about 70 minutes worth of actual plot.
  • Re-Cut: In the early 2010s, Steven Soderbergh released a edit of the film online on his website (through Vimeo) as part of a personal project to practice editing techniques. His edit trims about half the length of the film off, and notably inserts HAL's eye frames into monolith-oriented scenes.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Some viewers may find that the "Star Gate" sequence reminds them of the audio visualizers in MP3 player software.
    • The film as a whole has become this in the eyes of many science-fiction fans, who praise it for it’s contributions to the genre but find that aside from HAL and the movie’s overall surreal tone it is a fairly standard sci-fi film.
  • Signature Scene: The film has multiple candidates.
    • The apes discovering the monolith.
    • The Match Cut showing a bone turning into a satellite.
    • The space flight sequence scored to "The Blue Danube".
    • HAL 9000 saying "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that".
    • HAL's death scene, growing increasingly less coherent as Dave disconnects him.
    • The Star Gate.
    • The strange, otherworldly "hotel room" with the monolith.
    • The Star Child.
  • Special Effect Failure: There are no truly bad special effects in the movie, but when seen on the big screen some shots are easy to identify as matte paintings or still images being manipulated rather than actual footage of the models. In any other movie, these would go unnoticed, but because the other effects in 2001 are so good, even minor imperfections jump out.
    • That said, at the end of the Dawn of Man sequence, as we view the ape man pounding the skeleton with his weapon before throwing it into the air, some of the low-angle shots make it clear that this is an individual in a costume, whereas suspension of disbelief is easier in the scenes leading up to it.
  • Squick: The novel describes how the man-apes pulled the leopard's tail out by the roots.
  • Tough Act to Follow: Cracked's "5 Works of Art So Good, They Ruined Their Whole Genre" calls 2001 a tough act to follow in its genre.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Many accuse the film of indulging in this trope, which isn’t an unreasonable conclusion. Though to be fair there aren’t many other ways anyone could convincingly portray an alien race millions of years more advanced than us.
  • Values Dissonance: It would probably be more difficult to film today a future where a massive space venture conducted by multiple nations is only staffed by men, with the only roles for women anywhere are wives, daughters, and stewardesses.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: This film was made in 1968. And it took five years to make, meaning they started in 1963. Try finding a subsequent non-CGI movie that has better space scenes. Heck, it was made over 40 years before the likes of Gravity and Interstellar but can still give those movies a run for their money!
    • Hell, even the computers look better than most of what came between this and the CGI era, or even the real life computers from The '80s.
    • And the technique used to create the "Beyond the Infinite" sequence — a camera trick known as "slit-scan" — was impressive enough to be reused well into the early CGI era, and still holds up excellently more than half a century later. So impressive was the sequence that it inspired a bevy of similar slit-scan sequences in other media, including ABC's "this is the place to be" ads of the early 1970s, the title sequence for Doctor Who from 1974 to 1980 (which became iconic enough over the years to serve as a template for later title sequences in the show from 1996 onwards), the Whooshing Credits for Superman in 1978 (which improved on 2001's techniques by using a computer-controlled camera), and a whole bunch of other pre-CGI motion graphics work in The '80s.
    • The floating pen deserves to be mentioned as it is awesome in its simplicity; they simply used scotch tape to tape the pen to a sheet of glass, then rotated the glass around.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: The Soderbergh recut mentioned above. Some of the cut scenes include exposition regarding the Moon monolith and even includes most of the EVA pod conversation, resulting in audio synchronization issues (e.g. during the moonbus landing sequence, the beeps from the landing guidance displays start long after the POV has changed to the Tycho base ground station, where they shouldn't be audible), and a lot of monolith and Stargate-related scenes include flashes of HAL's eye in places that don't seem to make much symbolic or narrative sense, especially one of HAL's still-on eye seconds after he's been disconnected.
  • "Weird Al" Effect: As time progresses, it becomes more likely that the first time somebody will see something related to the film will be as a Shout-Out made in another more current work rather than in the movie itself.
  • What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: The film's climax. Don't forget this was the late 1960s, too; many, many hippies saw it just to see that one sequence. Clarke (who didn't even drink alcohol, let alone use drugs) related an anecdote in which he was handed an envelope with a letter of thanks and an assurance that the remaining contents — a white powder — were "the best stuff". (He flushed it down the toilet.)
    • The filmmakers, or at least the distributors, apparently knew damn well who the movie's audience was; one of the ad campaigns was a poster with the tagline, "The Ultimate Trip."


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