2001: A Space Odyssey is to me the quintessence of Cinema and visual art! So much has been written about the fourth best film of all time. (#1 Citizen Kane #2 Vertigo #3 La Règle du Jeu on the 1000 greatest films list of all time by They Shoot Pictures Don't They?). Easily the best Science-fiction film of all time, for many critics and maybe to me too it's considered as the best film of all time! However, to me Kubrick only made memorable films. And 2001... is one of the rare films that qualifies as perfect films. The story transcends Science-fiction and Cinema itself. Every second, every frame, every image of the film is unforgettable and untouchable. It won't be easy to rate this film...
The story told here is about humanity, its past, its near-present and its future. Having read the book by Arthur C. Clarke and having seen 2001... 5 times, I can say that everytime I rewatch it, I rediscover it and everytime it impresses me more than the last time. The rythm is so slow that it feels like the film was shot in slow-motion or like if the time stands still. Even if in the story there are millions of years of gap between some scenes. I agree that the story can annoy some viewers and the unnarrated parts are uncommon to some viewers that need to get explanations on what is going on the screen. I would recommend to these picky viewers to read the book to fully understand some of the subtil elements of the plot.
The classical tunes used in the soundtrack give so much depth to the images that it feels like a religious experience to watch an ear. Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra is now considered has a classic and could not be used without being a direct reference to 2001.... And the Blue Danube ballet has never been used in a better situation than in this film.
2001... has often been compared to its Soviet follower Andreï Tarkovsky's Solaris and I think that both are equally perfect films. Tarkovsky has always said he thought Kubrick's film was too cold and unhuman. This is an interesting argument, because in 2001... Kubrick opposes man against the machine, an old confrontation that always bothered creators of all time (Wegener's Der Golem, Shelley's Frankenstein, etc.). Human's creation becoming envious of its creator and trying to destroy its fatherhood. "The slave becomes the master"... I think the cold aspect of 2001... comes from the fact that it is so near the religious experience that it fells more than human. It's the story of humanity and its evolution and how it should become god-like.
Starting on the basis that Man created God to fill his spiritual emptiness. In the 20th Century, Nietszche exposed the idea that god is dead and that it is to humanity to take his place and role. His whole theory of Man accessing the "Superman" state. The grand finale of the film represents the "Superman" born to protect the planet earth. Kubrick's vision included the protection from a potential Nuclear war that already obsessed him as a theme he exploited in his earlier film Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb.
Well, the odyssey of 2001: A Space Odyssey is a journey that takes its viewer in places that only the mind can go and that only 2001... can bring the mind in these places.