50 years on, 2001: A Space Odyssey remains the greatest sci-fi movie of all time. In celebration of its 1968 debut, the film will be getting a 70 mm theatrical re-release in May.
Even more interesting, it's an unrestored version that has been pulled from the original negatives, meaning audiences will get to enjoy the film just as they did 50 years ago. This is truly unique compared to other classics, which usually get a 4k restoration, something that certainly has its merits but can never perfectly recreate what audiences were originally intended to see.
It's amazing that 2001 has become part of the cultural zeitgeist the way it has. The film was ahead of its time then and, although we've caught up a bit, its ahead of our time now.
Essentially an art film, the story doesn't really seem to get going until around an hour in. And even then you're not 100% sure what's happening. It has minimal dialogue, with only 100 lines total over its 2 hour and 20 minute run time. Extended sequences consisting of images of space and classical music are visual and auditory feasts but they're hardly the stuff of hollywood blockbusters. The movie is highly visual but not in a way that's always driving the story. Then, when it's all over, the ambiguous, albeit stunning, ending leaves you with more questions than answers. At best you have theories as to what it all means. If you do have any answers, you've missed the point entirely.
Although countless people have ascribed different meanings to the film over the years Kubrick never fully gave his thoughts on the matter, preferring to leave people to assign their own meaning to the film in the same way they would a panting. Arthur C. Clarke, who co-wrote the film, released a novel after the film came out that elaborated on the story and filling in some of the blanks, if only because of the nature of print a as a purely word-based medium.
All of this is without mentioning 2001's mountain of achievements in cinematography and special effects, both of which influenced countless films that came after. To put it simply, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a stunning piece of cinema and represents Kubrick operating at the peak of his powers, which is saying a lot when every one of his films can be considered a classic.
I could go on forever about the merits of 2001 but it's probably best to let some of the masters do the talking. The mini-doc below includes interviews with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, William Friedkin and many others discussing the impact of 2001.
Warning, some spoilers lay ahead, to the extent that you can spoil a film like 2001, anyway.