I just finished watching 2001 in high definition. I had forgotten how visually beautiful the film is, having seen it over the years in its VHS version, but seeing it in 1080i resolution on a wide screen LCD TV brings me back to my first viewing of the film, on a lovely summer day in the Washington DC of 1968, on a huge wide screen. In those days the theaters were pristine clean, and there really was an intermission in the middle of the film. As part of the price of admission we received a full color booklet on the film, which is probably a collector’s item now. I still remember the incredible sense of wonder inspired by the film. I couldn’t wait until the real 2001 arrived.
Among the things that strike me now watching the film 5 years after the year 2001 are how amazingly real the space special effects are, even by today’s standards, although in the final part, Beyond the Infinite, Kubrick is trying to do more than was possible in that era. Another strking characteristic of the film is its technological optimism, by far overestimating where we’d be in the real 2001, at least with regard to space exploration. It seems we have been frozen in time after the moon landings, still using the same space shuttle technology from the 1980’s into the 21st century. 2001 the movie came out a year before man landed on the moon. Now there are whole generations who were born after the last man set foot on the moon. When I was a boy landing on the moon was almost unimaginable, now it again seems unimaginable, but for different reasons.
The space program of the 1960’s was a wonderfully optimistic time, and 2001 captured that optimism. If the people of that time can be accused of being overly naive and guileless in their enthusiasm for space exploration, I believe people of our present time can be justly accused of being overly cynical and jaded. A lot has happened to change our country over the last 40 years, and the changes have not necessarily been all to our credit as a people. The saddest thing about watching the movie 2001 is comparing it to the events of the real 2001.