'2001' was forgotten in 2001

2001 came and went, and with it one of the entertainment industry's great injustices last year: the failure of Warner Bros. Studios to give "2001: A Space Odyssey" a dignified re-release in America.

One of the year's most highly anticipated films, the 1968 science-fiction epic looked forward to the year 2001, when humans would travel to their colonies on the moon in the utmost comfort aboard Pan-Am spaceliners. The film's loose plot centered on a trip to Jupiter spurred by a mysterious alien artifact that beams its radio signals in the planet's direction. Its enduring themes spoke of man's almost self-destructive over-reliance on its machines.

In the real 2001, NASA and the Russian Space Agency are so underfunded that the current International Space Station (which resembles a dragonfly more than it does a ferris wheel, as in the movie) may never be completed as planned and a even a trip to Mars seems decades away.

2001 will be remembered more for mankind's tragedies than its triumphs. In the future, when people mention 2001, they're more likely to conjure up visions of the twin monoliths of the World Trade Center bursting in flames than they are the single black monolith that took man on an incredible journey beyond the stars in the film.

Though "2001's" promise has worn off, it's charm hasn't. Even after more than 30 years the special effects remain breathtaking, and the psychedelic stargate scene at the end is still one of cinema's greatest visual sequences. But few people had a chance to see them in all their glory.

On Jan. 1, 2001, the only place where "2001: A Space Odyssey" could be seen on the big screen was in London. The movie was later screened at the Berlin Film Festival and viewers in Europe and Japan saw a new 70 mm print in the spring. Rumors abounded of an American release in the fall. It made it to the United States only late in the year, but even then it played on few screens in markets such as New York and Los Angeles, and Warner Bros. offered virtually no advertising.

What a contrast to 1984, when John Hurt and Richard Burton starred in a movie based on George Orwell's classic novel of a bleak totalitarian society "1984," and Apple introduced its new line of Macintosh computers with a take-off of the story. In 2001 no one even bothered to publish a new edition of the Arthur C. Clarke novel upon which "2001" is based. The most exposure Clarke received last year was when he made an appearance on the Academy Awards telecast.

Director Stanley Kubrick never lived to see 2001, having died in 1999, and must be rolling in his grave about the treatment his movie has endured. In the last year his name was more often associated with "A.I." (which he developed toward the end of his life and to which he gave Steven Spielberg the blessing to direct) than it was with what many consider to be the highlight of his career.

Given the success of other recent re-releases of classic films such as "Star Wars," "The Exorcist" and "Apocalypse Now," it seems odd, not to mention sad, that one of the most important films of the last half-century was relegated like it was, when Warner Bros. could easily have staged an enormous public-relations campaign in 2001.

Instead they turned that PR machine on Harry Potter.

Write to Robert at rclopez@bsu.edu


More from The Daily

This Week's Digital Issue

Loading Recent Classifieds...