A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 2001: A Space Odyssey is the 1969 classic Stanley Kubrick adaptation of the Arthur C. Clarke novel. While many think it's one of the greatest films ever made and was the first of what would prove to be many big-budget Hollywood science fiction films, the film's slow build and heady subject matter make this best for inquisitive tweens and older. There is some violence, especially early on, when apes on the verge of evolving into humans learn how to defend themselves from predators and rivals while beginning to develop the tools needed to hunt and survive. The discordant music and hypnotic visual effects might also prove to be too intense for more sensitive viewers. Mild profanity includes "hell" and "damn." Families looking for more straightforward and easy-to-understand science fiction will be put off by the movie's lengthy scenes involving characters contending with weightlessness as classical music plays, as well as the jarring surrealism and the open-ended conclusion.
What's the story?
In 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Stanley Kubrick tracks the odyssey of mankind, from the dawn of man 4 million years ago to the exploration of deep space. The film begins with a desolate time when our ape-like predecessors led frightened and brutal lives, scrounging for food and huddling against the cold night while wild animals howled in the distance. In a few short minutes, Kubrick has spanned the epochs, depicting the origins of tribes and the miraculous morning when apes awoke and learned how to use tools. With this ability, mankind was launched on its journey to the stars. On Kubrick's time line, it's only a small next step to the exploration of the moon. And from the moon, mankind heads off to Jupiter. But what is triggering these immense changes? Why are humans evolving, and what is their destiny? At transforming moments along this odyssey, a mysterious black monolith appears, drawing humans ever forward. But toward what?
Is it any good?
This science fiction masterpiece can be a mind-boggling experience for kids old enough to handle it. In a series of dramatic vignettes, 2001: A Space Odyssey introduces kids to cosmic mysteries and gives them an opportunity and an incentive to grapple with issues that span the millennia. Younger tweens may be impressed by the drama, the special effects, and the beautiful music but may have a hard time following the plot. In addition, they will lose patience with some of the longer segments dealing with space exploration. (The special effects used by Kubrick were revolutionary in their day but will seem commonplace to children raised on Star Wars and Star Trek: The Next Generation.)
Even older kids may not appreciate the subtle references to political rivalries and intrigue on earth, the cover-up of mysterious developments on the moon, or the more ironic aspects of the clash between man and machine (HAL the computer plaintively crying that he is afraid and that he can feel his mind going is a poignant example). But most teenagers cannot help but be swept up in this film, which stretches their minds and gives them mysteries and uncertainty instead of endings where everything is neatly tied up with a bow. As kids strive to deal with the uncertainty of the ending ,and fill in its gaps and illuminate its gray areas by drawing upon their own personality and sense of the world, they are on their way to appreciating greater and more mature forms of art.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how 2001: A Space Odyssey laid the groundwork for the future blockbuster sci-fi films of the 1970s and beyond. How might it be viewed by some as a relic of the Space Age, a time when the United States was landing on the moon and seemed destined for further manned outer space exploration? How might it be viewed as a timeless masterpiece whose themes transcend the era in which the film was made?
How were music and sound used to set the mood and heighten tension?
"The future" has been an endless source of fascination for writers and filmmakers. Why do you think movies set many years from the time in which they were released hold such an appeal for so many? How does this movie explore, and in some ways predict, humankind's contemporary relationship with technology?
Themes & Topics
For kids who love sci-fi
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