An amazing new book that presents a mountain of information about one of the greatest American movies, 2001: A space Odyssey.
“George Lukas said of '2001" that is was "the ultimate SF movie" [...] I agree and even think it's one of the greatest movies ever made.”
There are few things that can increase the awe I have for this movie. This book adds so many I can’t believe it has been written by a single person. These gems of knowledge include the immense, four-story-high set built for the “Discovery” wheel scenes, a 100 foot-long model of that space ship, and the unbelievable effort that went into creating the early hominids who appear in the “Dawn of Man” scene at the beginning of the film. Each of the independent segments of this movie required creating tools that weren’t available at the time, and which benefited many famous movies that woud come after.
And it wasn’t just technology, but also physical risks for actors. The space sequences were dangerous, and there were problems with oxygen-deprivation when wearing those cool helmets. Some movie sets were lit to the point of overheating the people under them, only designed with the aim of creating atmospherics scenes in space—the book’s cover shows one of them, a truly amazing shot. And there was even a live leopard, which had to attack one of the humanoids—interesting, Kubrick hid inside a barred metal cage during the shooting. There were also career risks, as the film stretched past its original schedule—and way past its budget—to the point people started to jump ship and the studio considered to shut down the whole thing.
When I saw the film for a first time, I was a child and couldn’t understand its connections with Homer’s Odyssey (the title’s homage was mostly ignored, as the film was too difficult to follow). I was sure, like most, to have seen something extraordinary and at the edge of our ability to tell a story. Even after 50 years—and I encourage you to watch it again, during its anniversary—it’s something that one can’t believe wasn’t done with CGI. The movie holds remarkably well and it’s a wonderment of ideas. It has stories on top of stories, meshed with overarching symbols of our path to be human, and then more than human. I should remind you that it was premiered before we’d been for a first time to the Moon.
Time has placed ‘2001’ very close to the best movies ever made in America—second only to Citizen Kane. It was surprisingly well-received by the young public of the sixties, with its long and winding road of a psychedelic trip near the end, although it was also unanimously condemned by critics, and even by SF writers—like Ray Bradbury—who should’ve known better.
George Lukas said of ‘2001’ that it was the “ultimate SF movie”. As a reader, watcher, and writer of SF, I agree and even think of it as one of the greatest movies ever made. This awesome book by Michael Benson is “the ultimate book about the ultimate SF movie.”