I remember once when we were showing 2001: A Space Odyssey to a friend. She was around 25 years old. Ten minutes into the movie she said her chest started hurting. What caused this? The excitement of the movie? The tension building so quickly in the opening act? I think it was this: her brain was so bored by what her eyes were seeing, it assumed she was dead. Therefore her brain was trying to shut down her heart through cardiac arrest. A shame her generation only knows of Star Wars (1977) when science fiction comes to mind.
2001: A Space Odyssey was groundbreaking when it was released in 1968. Yet over 40 years later, it not only stands up well, it still rivals most science fiction released today. The production values, the set design, costumes, and yes, the special effects are still spectacular.
The sequence of the Pam Am Clipper ship (Pan Am? That alone takes you back, doesn’t it?) docking with the space station with music of “The Blue Danube” in the foreground makes you realize you’re watching visual poetry. And the sequence was how long? Five minutes? Pity it wasn’t longer.
Later, the “Gayane Ballet Suite” plays while we see the astronauts on their daily uneventful routines. No need to know the ship is 390 million miles from earth, we feel the distance and the loneliness through the music.
The sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984), showed that similar themes can be handled in a more straightforward (and still entertaining) way. 2001: A Space Odyssey took us there the long way.
Remember when gas was 35 cents a gallon? You weren’t on a timetable, so why not take the scenic route home. Sure it was longer, but so what? It was beautiful.
2001 A Space Odyssey is two hours and twenty-eight minutes long. Sure it’s long, but so what? It’s beautiful.