The Legacy Of '2001:' How Stanley Kubrick's Masterpiece Changed Sci-Fi And Film

By | December 14, 2017

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Actors Keir Dullea & Gary Lockwood in publicity still from motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Photo by Dmitri Kessel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

The powerful science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968, was a collaboration between director Stanley Kubrick and leading science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. Kubrick had already established himself as a gifted director with the war film Paths of Glory, the swords-and-sandals epic Spartacus, the cold-war black comedy Dr. Strangelove, and the adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita. But science fiction was surprising and risky territory for a serious director -- to date, the genre had been about clunky robots, flimsy sets and unconvincing aliens. Kubrick's film changed all that, although science fiction movies didn't catch up to his innovations for many years after.

2001: A Space Odyssey was a groundbreaking and mind-bending film that introduced us to space and time travel. It was like nothing we’d seen before. Not only was there extraterrestrial life -- hinted at, but never seen -- but the film was a tense competition and showdown between man and computer. It was a real nail-biter.

The film addressed human evolution, extraterrestrial life, space travel, science and technology all in one. It was really deep. Producers responsibly went above and beyond to be scientifically accurate. Additionally, some of the special effects in the film were groundbreaking. 2001: A Space Odyssey was a pioneer science fiction film.

The criteria for a film to be chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry is that it must be deemed culturally, historically and/or aesthetically significant by the United States Library of Congress. 2001: A Space Odyssey has checked all of the boxes and is included in the registry. It is widely regarded as one of the most influential films ever made.

Our Ancestors

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2001: A Space Odyssey begins in prehistoric times, with a group of man-apes who lose their watering hole to a rival tribe. Without access to this necessity, the group could die out -- but one of them has a revolutionary idea. He takes up a bone that is lying on the ground and begins swinging it, and notices its power. This is the first weapon. Wielding the bone as a club, this inventor leads his group in an attack on their rivals, and they reclaim their turf. This breakthrough, involving the previously unconsidered ability to kill each other, launches the man-apes on their trajectory of strife and violence, through to the present day, and into the future. The movie cuts straight to this future, and mankind's efforts to explore and dominate outer space.