What more can be said about 2001: A Space Odyssey? This month celebrating its 45th anniversary, it’s one of the most influential science fiction films ever made — with its DNA spliced and replicated in a host of other films from Blade Runner to Inception — despite being so very singular. It transformed sci-fi from the sex-and-monsters exploitation schlock that glutted the genre in much of the ‘60s and showed that sci-fi could be transcendent and spiritual. It baffled many upon its first release — Pauline Kael and Stanley Kauffman were among its high-profile detractors, while Steven Spielberg called it the “big bang” for his generation of filmmakers. Its meanings have been so endlessly scrutinized and dissected that any further analysis seems redundant. And yet, there are so many details about its origins, production, and initial release that you probably don’t know. Here are 20 things about 2001: A Space Odyssey that we’re guessing you’ve never heard of before. You’re welcome.
1. Though 2001: A Space Odyssey and the novel of the same title were conceived at the same time, Kubrick didn’t think at first that sci-fi novelist Arthur C. Clarke would be willing to take on the job. The science fiction writer was living in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and was thought to be a recluse. When his agent telegraphed him about the offer to work on Kubrick’s project, Clarke’s response was, “Frightfully interested in working with enfant terrible… what makes Kubrick think I’m a recluse?”
2. Alternate titles considered for the project early on were Journey Beyond the Stars, Universe, Tunnel to the Stars, Planetfall, and How the Solar System Was Won. The last was a reference to MGM’s 1962 epic Western How the West Was Won, which 2001: A Space Odyssey was originally going to copy by using that film’s three-camera super-widescreen Cinerama format.
3. Though the 2001: A Space Odyssey novel, released shortly after the film in 1968, only listed Clarke as its author, originally, the film’s screenplay was going to be credited to “Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke,” while the novel would list “Arthur C. Clarke & Stanley Kubrick” as its authors.
4. In his book The Cosmic Connection, celebrity astronomer Carl Sagan wrote that Kubrick and Clarke asked him how they should portray extraterrestrial life. They had been thinking about showing the aliens that transform astronaut Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) into the Star Child as humanoid themselves. But Sagan said that the chances of alien life looking like humans would be so remote that to include human-looking aliens in the film would immediately render it false. So Kubrick and Clarke decided not to show the aliens at all.
5. HAL 9000 was originally to have had a female persona and to have been named Athena. A female HAL (named SAL, of course) does appear in the completely un-Kubrickian sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact.
6. There was originally going to be a lot of voiceover in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which would have made certain plot points much more obvious. For instance, the satellites orbiting Earth were originally to have been specifically identified as carrying nuclear weapons. That means that the famous million-years-spanning match cut of the bone the ape tossed in the air to the shot of the satellite wouldn’t have indicated how far humankind had come as how little it has changed, at least when it comes to our love of weapons.
7. 2001 was originally going to have ended like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, with the Star Child detonating the nuclear bombs that humanity has in orbit. However, a fireworks show of nuclear blasts was thought to be too similar to the ending of Kubrick’s previous film, Dr. Strangelove.
8. The Discovery’s final destination was originally going to be Saturn, but special effects guru Douglass Trumbull and his team weren’t able to make convincing-looking rings, so Jupiter became the last stop instead.
9. Pavel Klushantsev, a Russian documentary filmmaker of the 1950s, strongly influenced Kubrick’s vision of weightlessness in space — and the idea of a spinning space station — with his film Road to the Stars. 2001: A Space Odyssey, in turn, would influence Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky to make Solaris, which the director intended as a humanistic response to Kubrick’s film, which he thought was antiseptic.
10. For the famous shot of the astronaut running around the circumference of the cylindrical Discovery fuselage, Kubrick commissioned a 30-ton rotating “Ferris wheel” to be built, at the cost of $750,000, that would make it look like the astronaut was at times running upside down.
11. The movie was originally to have opened with a 10-minute black-and-white prologue featuring interviews with real-life scientists like Freeman Dyson discussing alien life. (Star Trek: The Next Generation fans will know Freeman Dyson for his work in hypothesizing a Dyson Sphere, a massive structure that theoretically could be built around and enclose a star.) After MGM execs balked, that beginning was deleted.
12. All the deleted footage other than the 17 minutes of scenes that Kubrick subsequently cut after 2001’s April 1968 premiere in Washington D.C., including that 10-minute documentary prologue, he had burned shortly before the director's death, in order to prevent posthumous reedits or “deleted scenes” to be included on future DVD releases.
13. Kubrick had all of 2001’s sets, props, and miniatures destroyed so they would never be able to be recycled for future movies, the way Forbidden Planet’s props surfaced in later films.
14. Unused Stargate footage from the end of 2001 made its way into the instrumental “Flying” sequence in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour movie.
15. Ray Bradbury shared Andrei Tarkovsky’s view that 2001 is anti-humanistic, suggesting that audiences don’t care, or aren’t supposed to care, when astronaut Frank Poole dies.
16. George Lucas stated upfront in 1977 that he thought 2001 was better than Star Wars. He said, “Stanley Kubrick made the ultimate science fiction movie, and it is going to be very hard for someone to come along and make a better movie, as far as I'm concerned. On a technical level, [Star Wars] can be compared, but personally I think that 2001 is far superior.”
17. As part of their legal defense that Samsung had not stolen Apple’s design for the iPad, Samsung’s lawyers pointed to the tablet computers used in 2001 as “prior art.” Specifically, their legal brief said the following: “Attached hereto as Exhibit D is a true and correct copy of a still image taken from Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers. As with the design claimed by the [Apple iPad] Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table's surface), and a thin form factor.”
18. Rock Hudson was among those mystified at 2001’s L.A. premiere at the Pantages Theater. Roger Ebert, in attendance, bears witness that Hudson said, upon storming out before it had ended, “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?”
19. Malcolm McDowell’s Alex De Large sees a soundtrack album for 2001 when he enters a record shop in A Clockwork Orange.
20. Conspiracy theorists — like one featured in Room 237, the new documentary about the multitude of diverse readings that fans hold regarding Kubrick’s later film The Shining — suggest that NASA commissioned Kubrick to stage the moon landing footage after seeing 2001. However, they ignore the most important bit of evidence that debunks that idea: the moon footage would have looked a hell of a lot better if Kubrick really had directed it.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
From Our Partners:Eva Longoria Bikinis on Spring Break (Celebuzz)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Sift through comments on franchise sequel announcements and you'll find many crying afoul to Hollywood's insistence of resurfacing every last brand in their bank of titles. The desire for original content is reasonable but occasionally a cinematic follow-up does have the potential to be rich and rewarding. Revisiting characters who've seen time pass in their own lives is worthy of exploration — Peter Bogdanovich's Texasville Richard Linklater's Before Sunset and even A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas prove that theory. American Reunion reaches for that same dramatic arc reentering the lives of its core cast eight years after American Wedding. But instead of mixing comedy with any weighty issues the movie only tickles the nostalgia bone (and without f**king one pie in the process) — a hurdle that keeps American Reunion from being nearly as riotous as the original.
Life hits a wall for Jim (Jason Biggs) in 2012. He's a happily married man a father and a moderately successful employee of a faceless company. But after catching his wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) enjoying the company of a shower head it dawns on Jim that he's in need of a shake-up. Perfect timing: Jim packs up the family and heads to his hometown for his 13th high school reunion (sure why not) where he reunites with the old gang: Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) currently whipped into submission by his girlfriend Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) back from a trip around the world Oz (Chris Klein) now a superstar sportscaster fresh off a celebrity dance show stint and Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott) a law firm temp who continues to turn women into his own personal squeeze toys. The high school buddies devolve quickly into their old habits alcoholic antics and potty-mouthed rants by the red solo cupful. Good fun for Jim no fun for Michelle.
Instead of digging deep into its well-founded characters (which I swear is allowed in a raunchy R-rated comedy) American Reunion sticks to the familiar goofball scenarios of its predecessors. Which is passable because the core group who stuck through all three movies — Biggs Nicholas Thomas and Scott — make poop-infused pranks and slapstick shtick like a scene in which Jim and co. must get a drunken naked eighteen-year-old back into her parents' house without looking like total creepsters highly entertaining. Scott once again proves him an underused comedic talent making Stifler one of the few characters who can rattle off colorful cuss words while showing a glimmer of humanity. Same goes for Eugene Levy as Jim's Dad who finds his role beefed up now that he's once again single. Grieving for years over his wife's death Jim helps his advice-dealing pop hit the dating scene and Levy spins gold out of the silliest of situations.
The problem with American Reunion is everyone else. Chris Klein never clicks with the rest of the group (that's what he gets for skipping out on Jim's wedding) while the rest of the ensemble feel ham-fisted for cameo purposes rather than complimenting the storyline. Tara Reid and Mena Suvari return to the franchise to stand around and react to the ineptitude of their male counterparts. Natasha Lyonne is in and out faster than Jim's first time. Other brief character appearances are like bigfoot sightings. The idea of bringing the entire cast of the original back for more seems perfect but without proper pacing from writers/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay) there's never a moment to enjoy it.
American Reunion is a flaccid entry servicing fans while coming through with enough laugh out loud moments to make one scream (In one scene Jim takes a page out of Michael Fassbender's Shame that will elicit audible reactions). If these were fresh characters we'd brush it off — but at the film's core is a lovable familiar bunch of knuckleheads that can't be ignored. And if Stifler wants to party you party.
Forget Black Swan – Natalie Portman’s real crowning performance is to be found in the romantic comedy No Strings Attached in which director Ivan Reitman asks her to convey sincere unqualified affection for Ashton Kutcher. Portman much to her credit gamely complies and though she may not have the emaciated figure bloody nails and bandaged ankles to tell of her labors the psychic scars must no doubt be just as severe.
Exhibiting strong chick-flick leanings and a rambunctious soft-R comic tone (i.e. lots of F-bombs some menstrual humor and a few shots of Kutcher’s naked ass) No Strings Attached is built around a basic relationship role-reversal: The dude Adam (Kutcher) longs for a deeper lasting commitment; the chick Emma (Portman) insists on keeping matters purely physical. Emma’s motive is a practical one: As a doctor-to-be her busy residency schedule with its 80-hour work weeks and intensive exam preparations precludes a serious relationship. But alas a woman has certain needs (foreplay apparently not being among them) and who better to fulfill them than Kutcher’s non-threatening boy-toy?
Thus a “friends with benefits” arrangement is cemented whereupon the ripcord is to be pulled on the occasion that either of them develops stronger feelings. This does not last long for soon Adam is cloyingly lobbying for escalation. Emma demurs – not out of disinterest we are told but because she’s intimacy-averse and afraid of a broken heart. Why else would she resist a more permanent attachment to someone like Adam?
Perhaps it’s because Adam as played by Kutcher is about as interesting as cabbage. And yet No Strings Attached would have us believe he’s some kind of floppy-haired Albert Schweitzer. This despite the fact that his greatest aspiration in life is to join the writing staff of a High School Musical-esque television series the shallow inanity of which is one of the film’s recurring jokes. In vain support of his cause the filmmakers decorate Adam’s apartment with various props – vintage posters books about 1920s movies a guitar that is occasionally picked up but never actually played – that hint at a depth that Kutcher himself never manifests.
Still Portman sells us on Adam and Emma’s inevitable union with every ounce of her not inconsiderable talent. (And her comic chops are legit – as those who’ve glimpsed her appearances on SNL and Funny or Die can attest.) But she asks too much. And Elizabeth Meriweather’s script while witty and stocked with some keen observations on the evolving nature of relationships in the modern age becomes weighed down by sentiment unbecoming an R-rated comedy not directed by Judd Apatow. In the end Kutcher seals the increasingly contrived deal with the climactic line “I’m warning you: Come one step closer and I’m never letting you go ” (I’m paraphrasing but not loosely) by which time the film's already lost its grip.
Based on a series of six Marvel Comics created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby in 1962 The Hulk revolves around a scientist named Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) who following a laboratory snafu absorbs a normally deadly dose of gamma radiation. Bruce thinks he has escaped unscathed--until he gets mad ... real mad which causes him to turn into a huge rampaging green monster known as the Hulk. In order to make this 40-year-old gamma theory somewhat more believable for today's science-savvy moviegoers screenwriter James Schamus and his team decided to arm the script with a somewhat more convincing scientific rationale. The story follows Bruce's father David Banner (Nick Nolte) who as a young scientist conducted prohibited genetic experiments on himself thus changing his son's life before he was even out of the womb. While modernizing the scientific reasoning behind Bruce's transformation makes sense it's a pity it had to be done in such a heavy-handed way. By adding such an elaborate layer to the story The Hulk becomes more about Bruce and David's tormented past and any semblance of a plot is buried in melodramatic dialogue between the characters. The result is a comic book adaptation that is much too serious for its own genre.
Despite the theatrical discourse don't expect complex characters to emerge from The Hulk. Although Bana (Black Hawk Down) is a good choice for the lead of the nerdy scientist and reluctant hero his character is so busy pretending he doesn't have any problems that the audience never gets to see his emotional side. Bana's character grimaces convincingly as he represses his anger for example but he fails ever to open up on a personal level to his love interest in the film his co-worker Betty played by Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind). Betty is Bruce's old flame but the two are obviously still in love: she is obsessed with fixing whatever is broken about him. As the Hulk Bruce need only look at Betty once for his anger to subside and allow him to morph back into human form. They have weighty discussions about the significance of their dreams and Bruce's past yet they never seem to connect on any level. One of the film's best performances comes from Nolte (The Good Thief) in the role of Bruce's mad scientist father David. Almost Shakespearean at times Nolte--scraggly hair and all-- completely immerses himself in the role. The cast's performances however are muted by the general heaviness of this would-be actioner. Look for quick cameo appearances by Lou Ferrigno (from the 1970s TV series The Incredible Hulk) and Marvel legend Stan Lee.
For his follow-up to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Ang Lee has turned to bigger greener matters. The Hulk the director's visual effects-intense picture (with a little help from Industrial Light & Magic) is stunning and startlingly well done. The green beast's computer generated movements from his heaving chest to the single leaps that spring him well into a different zip code are convincingly real. Not only does the ground shake when this goliath lands but his momentum even throws him off balance at times sending his lumbering arms flailing. But while the CGI Hulk has been meticulously honed Lee's homage to the world of print comic books--using multiple screens to present concurrent storylines and alternate angles of the same scene--is off-putting: Rival researcher Glenn Talbot (Josh Lucas) suspiciously walks out of the lab Betty reacts in one panel Bruce sits back in another. The simultaneous screens don't necessarily show anything pertinent going on making the far and wide close and medium shots of the character's reactions a distraction rather than a helpful storytelling technique. But the most disconcerting thing about the film is that in its leap from the four-color paneled pages to the big screen it lost its wit.