Jess Chua: content specialist and award-winning writer/artist. Passionate about UX, writing, and design.

2001: A Space Odyssey

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Holy smokes, just thinking about completing this blog post gets me all sorts of excited!

WARNING: There will be some spoilers, so please keep that in mind if you know nothing about this film.

I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey some time last year when it was on Netflix.

I’d been warned by a couple of people that it was an extremely slow-paced film, so that’s the mindset I had going into it.

It was the 4th or 5th Stanley Kubrick film I sat down to watch.

FYI, the other Kubrick films I’ve seen in order are: Lolita, Eyes Wide Shut, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The classic red space suit in 2001: A Space Odyssey

“What the heck did I just watch??!!”

That was the reaction I had at the end of A Clockwork Orange and 2001: Space Odyssey.

I mean that in a good way. There are scenes or themes in both films that elicited a very visceral and emotional response from me as a viewer.

I’d like to preface this by saying that my book and other reviews on this blog are not always academic or analytical. When I enjoy a work of art, I enjoy it immensely in a way that is often not very rational. So this post or review will be coming from a mostly emotional perspective.

If one of my recommendations inspires someone else to check it out and they get an equal amount of joy and satisfaction from it, I’d consider my blog posts and accompanying audio blog episodes to be a success.

Summary of Space Odyssey (Emoji Version)

Speaking of emotions, if I had to summarize this film’s storyline in emojis, here’s what it would look like:

🏜️ ⬛ 🎶 🐵 🦴🪐 🎶🌙 💻 🛑 💀 🚀 ⬛ 🎶 👶 🤯 😍 🔥🔥🔥

i.e. desert – monolith – music – ape – bone – outer space – music – moon landing – AI – murder – time travel tunnel – monolith / music / space baby – music and head explosion – heart eyes – fire (in terms of the film being exceptional)

Kubrick and Music

The iconic 2001: Space Odyssey theme song is actually titled “Also sprach Zarathustra.”

I initially thought that it had been composed specially for the film (oops).

“Also sprach Zarathustra” was composed by Richard Strauss way back in 1896. It was originally inspired by the book of the same name by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

This rendition by the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra is out of this world. Gustavo Dudamel is the name of the Venezuelan conductor in the YouTube. His hair and energy levels are also out of this world.

P.S. The Berlin Philharmonic orchestra consistently ranks as one of the top orchestras in the world, often holding the number one spot in this regard.

Pace and Buildup


This film definitely has a slow start…but the pace became less noticeable to me after the first half hour.

Some of the scenes that I’ll always remember include:

  • the ape learning how to use a tool with its hands for the first time
  • the community of chimpanzees doing what they needed to do at the watering hole to guarantee their survival
  • the bone being thrown up in the air seamlessly transitioning to the satellite in space
  • the scary music that played during the moon landing (seriously, it was very chilling and haunting when I watched it close to midnight)
  • the sense of vast expanse out there in soundless space
  • the triple zoom-in sequence to the red eye of the HAL 9000…goodness, that was pure terror
  • HAL’s killings, which were more existentially terrifying than the average horror movie

There wasn’t a ton of conversation in many scenes of this eerily quiet movie. There’s no dialogue at all in the first ten minutes. But that simply made the speech and musical score stand out all the more.

One of my favorite exchanges was between the AI HAL and Dave:

Dave: Alright, HAL. I’ll go in through the emergency airlock.
HAL: Without your space helmet, Dave. You’re going to find that rather difficult.

Dave: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Dave: HAL, I won’t argue with you anymore! Open the doors!
HAL: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

When HAL is deactivated by Dave, the AI repeats “I can feel it” numerous times…and that made me sad to the depths of my soul despite the AI’s insidious actions not too long ago. As a YouTube comment by Boniface Ax pointed out, the genius thing is that “we can’t really be sure HAL meant what he was saying or if he was only trying to convince Dave not to shut him down.”

I had to Google the end sequence to get a better understanding of what was going on. It was a mind-blowing sequence, from the illuminated tunnel time travel to the weird white and pastel room mixed with accelerated aging, dinner, and a death bed monolith before the final showdown.

A Couple of Fun Facts

According to Wikipedia, Kubrick built an exceptionally large model of the ship so that focus changes did not give away the true small size to the audience. He also built a large, expensive, rotating carousel for the artificial gravity scenes.

As for the apes in the beginning, more than a dozen young dancers played the man-apes, with the alpha ape being played by mime artist Dan Richter, who also trained and choreographed them all.

Upon Finishing

There have been many films I’ve enjoyed watching, but not many have made an extremely long-lasting impression like 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It wasn’t just the futuristic (which are by now, utterly realistic) components or the music that was unforgettable. It was the multiple layers behind the story that the director took his time to unfold:

  • the evolution of species
  • mankind’s drive for adventure and exploration
  • the ethical considerations when an AI becomes “better than us”
  • the question of life and what’s beyond our world…

It made the 2 hr 19 min runtime of the film seem so short as you’re led on this engaging journey by the director’s vision.

I went into several Kubrick films not knowing what to expect. For me, that’s been the best way to fully experience a work of art for the first time.

P.S. Other sci-fi films I’ve enjoyed are Alien, Bladerunner, and The Thing. They’re such great classics and I’m always looking for similar recommendations.

One response to “2001: A Space Odyssey”

  1. […] Portfolio). I’ve caught up on certain books and films this year like Brave New World and 2001: Space Odyssey (update: linking to a review I posed in 2022), which were absolutely mind […]

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