In the 50 years since “2001: A Space Odyssey” was first released, on April 2, 1968, no movie has matched its solemnly jaw-dropping techno-poetic majesty. It’s still the grandest of all science-fiction movies, one that inspired countless adventures set in the inky vastness of deep space (notably “Star Wars”), remaking the DNA of cinema as we know it. It completed the transformation of Stanley Kubrick into “Stanley Kubrick,” and was greeted by critics with a mixture of ecstasy and derision (Pauline Kael: “a monumentally unimaginative movie”). But after its shaky original release, which resulted in Kubrick trimming 19 minutes out of it after opening weekend, “2001” was re-marketed as a psychedelic youth-generation cult film (“The Ultimate Trip”), and that’s how it finally caught on.
It remains such a staggering experience, so mind-bending and one-of-a-kind, that you’d be hard-pressed to think of a moment in the film that isn’t iconic. The awesome opening solar alignment, scored to the sweeping fanfare of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” which somehow comes to sound … extraterrestrial. The ape that picks up a bone and smashes down a weapon. The mystery of the monolith. The balletic spaceships twirling around Earth to “The Blue Danube.” The yellow eye — and softly perturbed voice — of HAL, the supercomputer that rivals human intelligence, and human ego too. HAL’s showdown with astronaut Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea), and the computer’s death scene, in which he sings “Bicycle Built for Two,” one of the most haunting moments in film history. The climactic light show that envelops the audience like a hurtling discotheque on acid, leading Dave through a wormhole of space-time, until he sees his ancient self reborn as a star child: a celestial infant baptized in technology. Continued at Variety.com