Last week, we took a look at “Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001,” a 2007 documentary that explored the impact Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” had on other and later filmmakers. Today, to cap off the week, let’s examine ‘2001’ through another lens — that of it’s inconsistently prophetic ability to predict the realities of a then decades-distant future.
Directed by Gary Leva, the same documentarian who made ‘Standing on the Shoulders…,’ “Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophesy of 2001” compares the future Kubrick predicted when he made his film in the late 1960s to the “future” that we now live in. Turns out, there’s a lot the director correctly guessed.
“Kubrick and his team visualized space and the surface of the moon in a way that turned out to be prophetic,” explains unparalleled film critic Roger Ebert. And it’s true. Douglas Trumbull, the Special Photographic Effects Supervisor on ‘2001,’ and his team take great and well-deserved pride in their depiction of the surface of the moon, a place mankind wouldn’t visit until a year after ‘2001’ came out.
Director William Friedkin expresses that, “‘2001’ gave the audience in the theater the experience of space travel and made them think, ‘Wow, perhaps in our life time, we’ll be able to do this for real.’” Ebert adds, “When the movie came out, many people felt that, well by 2001, we may have space stations that look like that.”
Of course, today, we’re not exactly where Kubrick envisioned we might be. Why? David Hughes, an author who has written about Kubrick, offers that Kubrick “was only leaping 35 years into the future. There were some assumptions made by [screenwriter Arthur C.] Clarke and Kubrick in picking the year 2001 that, if the space race continued at the pace that it did in the ’60s — space kind of fell out of fashion in the ’70s, but we didn’t know that was going to happen — it was quite possible that we were going to have a man on Mars by the year 2000.”
Even with the slowing of the space race in the ’70s, as a film, ‘2001’ holds up phenomenally. Rob Coleman, an animation director who has worked on other space epics (such as “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith“) has a theory about why the film withstands the test of time so well. He says, “[Kubrick] was realistic about materials. He was realistic about design. And he was realistic about what it’s like to be in space.”
Perhaps Anthony Frewin, Kubrick’s assistant during filming, sums it up best: “It’s not how today looks or how 2001 looks. It’s a credible future seen from the perspective of the mid-‘60s, the late-‘60s.”
Watch the full 21-minute video below for more on the prophesy of ‘2001’ and what science-fiction as a genre gets right — or routinely fails to predict.