Kubrick's decision to avoid the fanciful portrayals of space found in standard popular science fiction films of the time led him to seek more realistic and accurate depictions of space travel. Illustrators such as Chesley Bonestell, Roy Carnon, and Richard McKenna were hired to produce concept drawings, sketches, and paintings of the space technology seen in the film. Two educational films, the National Film Board of Canada's 1960 animated short documentary Universe and the 1964 New York World's Fair movie To the Moon and Beyond, were major influences.
According to biographer Vincent LoBrutto, Universe was a visual inspiration to Kubrick. The 29-minute film, which had also proved popular at NASA for its realistic portrayal of outer space, met "the standard of dynamic visionary realism that he was looking for." Wally Gentleman, one of the special-effects artists on Universe, worked briefly on 2001. Kubrick also asked Universe co-director Colin Low about animation camerawork, with Low recommending British mathematician Brian Salt, with whom Low and Roman Kroitor had previously worked on the 1957 still-animation documentary City of Gold. Universe's narrator, actor Douglas Rain, was cast as the voice of HAL.
Searching for a collaborator in the science fiction community for the writing of the script, Kubrick was advised by a mutual acquaintance, Columbia Pictures staff member Roger Caras, to talk to writer Arthur C. Clarke, who lived in Ceylon. Although convinced that Clarke was "a recluse, a nut who lives in a tree," Kubrick allowed Caras to cable the film proposal to Clarke. Clarke's cabled response stated that he was "frightfully interested in working with [that] enfant terrible", and added "what makes Kubrick think I'm a recluse?" Meeting for the first time at Trader Vic's in New York on 22 April 1964, the two began discussing the project that would take up the next four years of their lives. Clarke kept a diary throughout his involvement with 2001, excerpts of which were published in 1972 as The Lost Worlds of 2001.
Kubrick and Clarke privately referred to the project as How the Solar System Was Won, a reference to how it was a follow-on to MGM's Cinerama epic How the West Was Won. On 23 February 1965, Kubrick issued a press release announcing the title as Journey Beyond The Stars. Other titles considered included Universe, Tunnel to the Stars, and Planetfall. Expressing his high expectations for the thematic importance which he associated with the film, in April 1965, eleven months after they began working on the project, Kubrick selected 2001: A Space Odyssey; Clarke said the title was "entirely" Kubrick's idea. Intending to set the film apart from the "monsters-and-sex" type of science-fiction films of the time, Kubrick used Homer's The Odyssey as both a model of literary merit and a source of inspiration for the title. Kubrick said, "It occurred to us that for the Greeks the vast stretches of the sea must have had the same sort of mystery and remoteness that space has for our generation."
Other examples of modern furniture in the film are the bright red Djinn chairs seen prominently throughout the space station and Eero Saarinen's 1956 pedestal tables. Olivier Mourgue, designer of the Djinn chair, has used the connection to 2001 in his advertising; a frame from the film's space station sequence and three production stills appear on the homepage of Mourgue's website. Shortly before Kubrick's death, film critic Alexander Walker informed Kubrick of Mourgue's use of the film, joking to him "You're keeping the price up". Commenting on their use in the film, Walker writes:
In The New Yorker, Penelope Gilliatt said it was "some kind of great film, and an unforgettable endeavor ... The film is hypnotically entertaining, and it is funny without once being gaggy, but it is also rather harrowing." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote that it was "the picture that science fiction fans of every age and in every corner of the world have prayed (sometimes forlornly) that the industry might some day give them. It is an ultimate statement of the science fiction film, an awesome realization of the spatial future ... it is a milestone, a landmark for a spacemark, in the art of film." Louise Sweeney of The Christian Science Monitor felt that 2001 was "a brilliant intergalactic satire on modern technology. It's also a dazzling 160-minute tour on the Kubrick filmship through the universe out there beyond our earth." Philip French wrote that the film was "perhaps the first multi-million-dollar supercolossal movie since D.W. Griffith's Intolerance fifty years ago which can be regarded as the work of one man ... Space Odyssey is important as the high-water mark of science-fiction movie making, or at least of the genre's futuristic branch." The Boston Globe's review called it "the world's most extraordinary film. Nothing like it has ever been shown in Boston before or, for that matter, anywhere ... The film is as exciting as the discovery of a new dimension in life." Roger Ebert gave the film four stars in his original review, saying the film "succeeds magnificently on a cosmic scale." He later put it on his Top 10 list for Sight & Sound. Time provided at least seven different mini-reviews of the film in various issues in 1968, each one slightly more positive than the preceding one; in the final review dated 27 December 1968, the magazine called 2001 "an epic film about the history and future of mankind, brilliantly directed by Stanley Kubrick. The special effects are mindblowing."
Others were unimpressed. Pauline Kael called it "a monumentally unimaginative movie." Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic described it as "a film that is so dull, it even dulls our interest in the technical ingenuity for the sake of which Kubrick has allowed it to become dull." The Soviet film director Andrei Tarkovsky found the film to be an inadequate addition to the science fiction genre of filmmaking. Renata Adler of The New York Times wrote that it was "somewhere between hypnotic and immensely boring." Variety's Robert B. Frederick ('Robe') believed the film was a "[b]ig, beautiful, but plodding sci-fi epic ... A major achievement in cinematography and special effects, 2001 lacks dramatic appeal to a large degree and only conveys suspense after the halfway mark." Andrew Sarris called it "one of the grimmest films I have ever seen in my life ... 2001 is a disaster because it is much too abstract to make its abstract points." (Sarris reversed his opinion upon a second viewing, and declared, "2001 is indeed a major work by a major artist.") John Simon felt it was "a regrettable failure, although not a total one. This film is fascinating when it concentrates on apes or machines ... and dreadful when it deals with the in-betweens: humans ... 2001, for all its lively visual and mechanical spectacle, is a kind of space-Spartacus and, more pretentious still, a shaggy God story." Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. deemed the film "morally pretentious, intellectually obscure and inordinately long ... a film out of control". In a 2001 review, the BBC said that its slow pacing often alienates modern audiences more than it did upon its initial release.
The film won the Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation, as voted by science fiction fans and published science-fiction writers. Ray Bradbury praised the film's photography, but disliked the banality of most of the dialogue, and believed that the audience does not care when Poole dies. Both he and Lester del Rey disliked the film's feeling of sterility and blandness in the human encounters amidst the technological wonders, while both praised the pictorial element of the film. Reporting that "half the audience had left by intermission", Del Rey described the film as dull, confusing, and boring ("the first of the New Wave-Thing movies, with the usual empty symbols"), predicting "[i]t will probably be a box-office disaster, too, and thus set major science-fiction movie making back another ten years". Samuel R. Delany was impressed by how the film undercuts the audience's normal sense of space and orientation in several ways. Like Bradbury, Delany noticed the banality of the dialogue (he stated that characters say nothing meaningful), but regarded this as a dramatic strength, a prelude to the rebirth at the conclusion of the film. Without analysing the film in detail, Isaac Asimov spoke well of it in his autobiography and other essays. James P. Hogan liked the film but complained that the ending did not make any sense to him, leading to a bet about whether he could write something better: "I stole Arthur's plot idea shamelessly and produced Inherit the Stars."
Stanley Kubrick made the ultimate science fiction movie, and it is going to be very hard for someone to come along and make a better movie, as far as I'm concerned. On a technical level, it [Star Wars] can be compared, but personally I think that 2001 is far superior.
Others credit 2001 with opening up a market for films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, Blade Runner, Contact, and Interstellar, proving that big-budget "serious" science-fiction films can be commercially successful, and establishing the "sci-fi blockbuster" as a Hollywood staple. Science magazine Discover's blogger Stephen Cass, discussing the film's considerable impact on subsequent science fiction, writes that "the balletic spacecraft scenes set to sweeping classical music, the tarantula-soft tones of HAL 9000, and the ultimate alien artifact, the monolith, have all become enduring cultural icons in their own right". Trumbull said that when working on Star Trek: The Motion Picture he made a scene without dialogue because of "something I really learned with Kubrick and 2001: Stop talking for a while, and let it all flow". 2b1af7f3a8