I first watched 2001: Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick in the theaters when I was twelve. I don’t think anyone could really visualize what landing on the moon would look like, although Kennedy promised we would have a moon landing before 1970. We called it the “race to the moon.” We were determined to beat the Russians. The nations focus was on the construction of a space program that could produce a rocket capable of getting us to the moon first.
Most of us were infatuated with the idea of other civilizations. We read Robert Heinlein and fantasized about outposts in space. After reading Ray Bradbury, we would imagine what it would be like to colonize new worlds. To us kids, it seemed like the transition into a time with space travel would be like a portal in which everything we knew would suddenly become futuristic.
For the adults, the scientific discoveries that would lead to space travel generated feelings of apprehension as shown in The Brave New World and 1984. Advancements in artificial intelligence were met with guarded optimism as in the Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov published in 1953.
Space Odyssey was the first movie to put a realistic face on not only space travel, but an adaptive computer system that mimicked the mind. Of course, George Jetson had been talking to his computer since 1962 in the popular futuristic cartoon, The Jetsons. While the computer in Space Odyssey may have been a man and he was concerned with the welfare of the crew as is in the Jetsons, Kubrick must have watched the episode where the computers revolt after the mainframe computer takes offense at comments from the humans.
Scorsese noted the audacity and vision that Kubrick demonstrated when he segues from the time of early man to space travel when he throws the bone club into the air. He also observes that Kubrick’s linking of the computer and camera was the dawn of modern film making.
This film is a first in so many area. The first major film to have a computer that becomes a sentient life form. The first to create a metaphoric presence as the alien life force. The first to show realistic space travel through the merging of front screen technology.
Kubrick was so successful that many feel he also faked the first moon landing. The similarities between the 2001: Space Odyssey and the still and video shots of the actual moon landing as thought provoking at their least. Of course, many in the government of the time felt that H.G. Wells was privy to top secret reports because of the similarities between the weapons in War of the Worlds and the atomic bomb. For Kubrick being accused of recreating a moon landing because his show was so realistic is high praise.