What is important right now is the fact that the revelation of the physical appearance of the aliens in the book is one of the most shocking in sci-fi history: they turn on to look like the traditional human folk images of demons – large bipeds with leathery wings, horns and tails. Maybe Kubrick was amused by this shocking revelation and the effect that it may have had on the audience?
I think “2001” might have been a completely different film, likely far inferior, had they have not gone the way they eventually did, in this regard.
It’s a very interesting coincidence that our mutual friend Caras mentioned you in a conversation we were having about a Questar telescope. I had been a great admirer of your books for quite a time and had always wanted to discuss with you the possibility of doing the proverbial “really good” science-fiction movie.
2001: A Space Odyssey is a film that somehow shouldn’t work at all, yet succeeds at every level. Well, I think so at least. In this longer write-up, James Maynard Gelinas takes a closer look at the many aspects of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 work that bring the story, such that it may be, together.
For unlike typical character and plot driven narrative, its structure is that of an odyssey portraying the span of millennia. There is no central protagonist in conflict with an antagonist to root for. The few depicted characters seem disconnected from one another, and their dialog is often irrelevant to expository action. Its pacing is slug slow, with excessive montage shots that while visually beautiful don’t move plot points forward. If classical music seems an odd score choice itself, several pieces selected are often disturbingly postmodern, evoking not a soothing softness of the musical genre but chaotic and disquieting emotions. Finally, the final sequence, rather than a climax and resolution to some character driven conflict, seemingly comes from nowhere leaving more questions than answers. In almost every way this film should have failed. But it didn’t. Instead, it’s considered a great masterpiece. Why?
HENRi is a short sci-fi film about a derelict spacecraft drifting through space that is controlled by a human brain, named, you guessed it, Henri. Yearning to be able to moved independently though, Henri builds a mechanical body from parts lying around the ship.
Henri is voiced by Keir Dullea, who portrayed astronaut David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and, if you ask me, gives the brain a sound not dissimilar to that of “2001” super-computer HAL.
Another mystery quickly developed when the studio received a call from the manager of the Loews Capitol Theatre, MGM’s 5,500-seat showcase theater on Broadway (second largest in New York after Radio City Music Hall’s 5,700 seats). The projectionist was threatening to go on strike and close the theater, which meant no more showings of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Someone saying they were from MGM had gone into the projection booth and was using a chisel to file the aperture frame to remove the built up dust from the carbon arc projectors so that there would be sharp, not fuzzy, edges on the theater screen.
That’s easy. Trying to learn the dialogue. I was supposed to say this line: “I’ve just picked up a fault in the AE35 unit. It’s going to go 100 percent failure in 72 hours.” I just kept screwing it up: “A3E5 unit,” “A53E unit.” I mixed it up every way you can imagine. Keir Dullea, who was a good friend of mine, was laughing so hard he popped a blood vessel in his eye. Eventually they had to unplug me and let me cool down for a few minutes. When they booted me back up, I nailed the line.
Does this sound like they are discussing what may be the most significant discovery in the history of science, or work as usual? Bill follows by asking, “You seen these yet?” Photographs of the alleged monolith discovery are then reviewed while they munch on sandwiches. If this is a genuine discovery, doesn’t it seem a little unusual that Heywood, the chairman of the NCA, would be presented with such fundamentally important material in this casual setting as an afterthought, rather than having been presented with the photographs earlier? Does it make more sense that Bill and Ralph are presenting a genuine landmark scientific discovery to Heywood, or that they are rehearsing their story lines about how this contrived discovery was made? The scene concludes with Heywood’s comment, “Well, I must say, you guys have certainly come up with something.” Laughter follows.
I did wonder about this bit in the film though, it really didn’t make any sense.