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2001: The Book, The Movie, And Kubrick’s Unused Aliens.

December 8, 2010

So I just finished re-reading Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of my absolute favorite books.  And before I inevitably sit down to re-watch Stanley Kurbick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (my absolute favorite movie) I thought I’d share some thoughts on the masterpiece.  Now, when I say “masterpiece” there may be some of you who wonder “whose masterpiece?”   Both film and book are often designated their respective creator’s “masterpiece” so which came first?  Was the movie an adaptation of the book?  Or was the book an adaptation of the movie?  The answer is neither.


A different Discovery One.

2001 was the creative collaboration of two artists, each a master of their craft.  Sometime in the mid 1960s, Kubrick approached Clarke with the intent of making, what he joked, “the proverbial good science fiction movie”.  Clarke suggested adapting a few of his short stories, most notably “The Sentinel.”  Together, over the course of a few years, Kubrick and Clarke created the framework of their novel/film (sadly, I’ve never read – or been able to find – The Lost Worlds of 2001, a companion book, written by Clarke a few years after the film’s release, chronicling the collaboration.) Pleased with the result, each went off and did what they did best:  Clarke wrote one of the greatest sci-fi novels of all time.  And Kubrick make one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time (if not the greatest.)


Encounter with TMA-2.

Any fan of the movie, or fan of the book for that matter, will immediately note a handful of differences between the two. Many of the changes came about due, as they often are, to budgetary reasons; others due to Kubrick’s desire to make the film more cerebral.  Probably the most notable difference is that, in the novel, Discovery One’s mission is to Saturn, not Jupiter, as it is in the film.  Other differences found in the novel include a slightly different looking monolith, an explanation for Hal’s neurosis, and a much more descriptive, and comprehensible, Stargate sequence.


The Stargate? On Japetus? Or the Monolith? On the Moon?

Oh… and least I forget, a dramatically different homicide attempt by Hal (hey, look at me not ruining it for you!)


A sailor's funeral. In space.

As for the Stargate sequence, I find it amazing that both the film and the novel’s sequences differ so greatly yet both are my favorite moments of each.  The film’s sequence is one of the trippiest, mind-blowing, thought provoking scenes ever shot… as well as inventive.  Without question, my favorite scene from any movie I’ve ever seen.  The book’s sequence, though much more descriptive and far less mysterious, is equally trippy, mind-blowing, and thought provoking… as well as imaginative.  Undoubtedly, my favorite chapter from any book I’ve ever read.


Getting comfortable. In a deleted scene.

It’s interesting that early drafts of the script, as well as early storyboards and effects tests, are much more similar to the novel.   It’s kind of fitting the film evolved so far from the other considering a central theme between the two is man’s evolutionary destiny. And what’s really crazy…

Kubrick even considered including the actual aliens grooming Bowman in his film:

Kubrick's aliens.

Note: all of the images in this post come from Douglas Trumbull’s website.  Trumbull was Special Photographic Effects Supervisor on 2001: A Space Odyssey and, much like Kubrick, was/is a master of his craft.  Some of the greatest special effects of the 70’s, 80’s, and ‘90s came from this man (including Back to the Future The Ride!)  His website itself is a spectacular resource; I highly recommend you check it out and appreciate his work.  You can find a lot more 2001 concept art, storyboards, and model work here!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2010 4:29 pm

    I absolutely love Clarke and Kubrick. Best team ever.
    PS: Thanks for the “like”. Though I’m curious how you’ve read that post, cause it was in Romanian. : )
    Keep up the good (klock)work.

    • December 9, 2010 5:45 pm

      The Romanian is the best part… even if I don’t understand any of it! It’s like a mystery… i know you’re talking about Clarke and 2001… I have no idea WHAT you’re saying… but that’s cool. And incredibly intriguing. I “like.” 🙂

      In fact, I find your blog very entertaining to look through… the pictures, the videos, the bits of English I do pick up… it makes me wonder why I spend anytime on English blogs at all! 😛

  2. December 9, 2010 6:47 pm

    gotta run to catch my train (yay, out from the noisy bucharest, going to spend the weekend home, yay again), but i’ll be back. hopefully not as literally as the terminator, but still… i’ll be back. 😀 i’ll translate one of these days that “2001: a space odyssey” post.
    i’m goneee

    • December 10, 2010 12:40 am

      Ha. Have a good weekend. I look forward to some more Romanian next week!

  3. December 10, 2010 11:10 am

    ei bine (well) – dupa cum (as) ma (i) asteptam (was expecting) – am (i) pierdut (lost) trenul (that train). intr-o (in one) ora (hour) mai (i’m going to) fac (have) o incercare (one more try). poate (maybe) de data asta (this time)… 😀

    have a great weekend, too. 🙂
    ps: looking forward to get back to my wonderful (and by “wonderful” i mean not slow like this one) internet connection and go through your archives. i’m a sucker for creative playgrounds.

  4. King Hulk Marco permalink
    December 13, 2010 9:17 am


    That is a very comprehensive review on one of my favourite films ever.

    Well done that man. Keep up the good work!

  5. King Hulk Marco permalink
    December 13, 2010 9:21 am

    Question for you, what are your thoughts on two of Charlton Heston’s finest offerings :-

    Soylent Green & Omega Man?

    • December 14, 2010 2:18 am

      thanks King Hulk!! I’ve really been swinging toward the sci-fi recently. As for Heston… Omega Man I like. But Soylent Green I’ve never seen! It’s been in my netflix cue for sometime… I should really bump that up. Perhaps rewatch Omega Man and post about it. Aren’t they similar? Like… VERY similar?

  6. King Hulk Marco permalink
    December 15, 2010 7:40 pm

    Nope both films are quite different my friend. Here is what wiki has to say about both films :-

    Enjoy young man!

  7. King Hulk Marco permalink
    December 17, 2010 8:51 am

    Hi Chris,

    I have sent you an entry with some useful entries it is still waiting moderation.


  8. unclesporkums permalink
    July 15, 2018 10:03 pm

    Reblogged this on Lair of the Lost Films and commented:
    The Unused Concepts for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

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