Asking the Experts What They See in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (on 4K)

On October 30, the great 2001: A Space Odyssey will make its way to ultra-high definition 4K disc, based on the recent restoration by Christopher Nolan.

But instead of just focusing on the details of the disc, the  Comic-Con panel promoting the release featured stars Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood (both still going strong 50 years on) along with a long table full of writers and science experts, delving into what they see, and always have seen, in the film itself.

While Dullea pointed out that it always bears repeating that everything you see onscreen had to be done practically back then, one key detail was missing on set: the smooth, sometimes scary voice of computer HAL 9000. Assistant director Derek Cracknell read the lines aloud during shooting, and he had an amusingly strong Cockney accent. Perhaps some of Dullea’s best acting is simply keeping a straight face during scenes with the robot.

Sheldon Brown, director of the UCSD Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, said he knows why Dullea got cast: it was his bright blue eyes, to visually contrast with HAL’s big red one. Dullea responded, “I wasn’t thinking about my eyes in those scenes, so thank you Stanley!”

After joking that the monolith is actually a smartphone, XCOM CEO Paul Jacobs regaled us with the tale of how Samsung used 2001 as evidence in a suit against Apple that the idea of a tablet computer was not invented by Steve Jobs. UCSD Professor of Robotics Laurel Riek, comparing the technology depicted in the movie to now, said her favorite robot in the movie isn’t HAL, but rather the EVA pods, and NASA has something quite similar (but unmanned) in the works now. XCOM’s Matt Grob added, of the depiction of space travel, “This film introduced everyone to these concepts right at that perfect time when it was actually coming to pass.”

But for writer David Brin, what 2001 predicted was more societal, a culture “dominated by snooty white males. Today there’d be one woman onboard who’d actually listen to HAL instead of bullying the poor guy!” And while most viewers take note of the evolution of tool use from bones to spaceships, Brin take it further, pointing out that HAL is also a tool we create that nearly destroys us, and Bowman’s final evolution is a step towards no longer needing tools at all.

Given how many different things people see in the movie, it’s surprising to hear that the script was constantly being worked on up until the last minute. Dullea and Lockwood would try to improvise their dialogue scenes to make them shorter and Lockwood himself came up with the idea of the two men conspiring inside the pod; after he was publicly negative on set, and Kubrick plied him with tequila and deli food and dared him to think of something better than what was in the script at the time.

See if you can make your discoveries when 2001: A Space Odyssey hits 4K this fall!

Images: Warner Bros. Pictures

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