“What the HECK did I just see?” was my first reaction to this film. Its bizarre visual effects, classical music, philosophical design, and surreal scenes make it one of the best movies I’ve ever watched, and certainly the most mind-boggling.
I had just viewed (not for the first time) the Star Wars saga—all six episodes—less than a week before watching this film, so, needless to say, it vastly changed my expectations of a great science fiction film. Even though Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) was released nine years after 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), both are very compelling.
The main shock is the focus on art rather than action. The first half hour is a very slow, creative one: something that a viewer would either love or hate. There’s no dialogue or any speech until the second section of four. Director Stanley Kubrick truly understood the meaning of “A picture is worth a thousand words.” A slowly moving picture with music is worth even more.
The film becomes more conventional when we encounter HAL, the supercomputer and main antagonist (though it is revealed in 2010: Odyssey Two that HAL’s malfunctions in the first episode were caused by its faithful following of contradictory human orders). Here is a nice philosophical, future-predicting moment—even with today’s technology, HAL is science fiction and not a real machine.
That. I had definitely seen it before, but hadn’t the slightest idea what it was until I watched 2001.
At the end, i.e., from the Star Gate scene onwards, the film becomes extremely mind-boggling. The best to which I can compare it would be this Magritte painting:
That’s a pretty accurate representation of the ending without giving away anything.