From the Page to the Screen – 2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 science fiction novel written by Arthur Clarke. It is one of the best books of all time and a seminal work of this genre as it explores all the major SF elements from artificial intelligence to extraterrestrial life to human evolution. It is one of my personal favorite novels and an undisputed masterpiece by which all other sci-fi books are measured. Both the movie and the book came out in 1968 and I am going to compare these two masterpieces in five categories.
THE FILM ADAPTATION
Kubrick’s film came out in 1968 and actually it was released before the novel as the two were created simultaneously interestingly enough. It was not as praised when first released, but thankfully now it is considered to be the finest science fiction film of all time and a masterpiece by all means. Its status is more than deserved as it is one of my five favorite movies, the one that gets better and better with each viewing.
The film is a very different animal than the book. It has that overarching story and it follows it pretty closely and is a great adaptation by all means. But it doesn’t delve deeper into it as it is mostly an audio-visual and highly artistic experience which develops the story well, but also leaves some things ambiguous. Clarke, on the other hand, went into a lot more detail when it comes to the story and thus I have to say that I preferred the book here.
WINNER – BOOK
The characters in both the book and the film are not as important as the overall story is too big and the scenario is too epic for them to have much impact on it. I thought that in the book the human characters were mostly much better developed, but the acting in the film is very good and HAL 9000 leaves a much bigger impression in the movie.
WINNER – TIE
Again this story does not need emotion and it may even be too cold for some. However, the film itself makes you feel at awe almost consistently, it moves you in terms of inspiration with its sheer epic feel. The atmosphere is both creepy and majestic and I definitely left the theater feeling as if I witnessed a grandiose display. That is why the book could never compare emotionally.
WINNER – FILM
Again the film does not rely too much on each of its themes and it mostly underlie them and leaves most of it ambiguous to interpret for viewers. The book, on the other hand, is very clever because it is written by Clarke who is a very smart man with a mind of a scientist and thus we get a lot of great themes so beautifully explored thanks to fittingly very scientific and detail-heavy writing.
WINNER – BOOK
Clarke wrote the novel so well, but he does leave something to be desired on an artistic level and in that department Kubrick trumps him with simply amazing special effects (the best of all time in my opinion), beautiful sets, amazing use of classical music in its score and beautifully conceived atmosphere. This is the definition of a film that needs to be seen on the big screen as both its audio and visual qualities are out of this world and breathtaking.
WINNER – FILM
BOOK 2: FILM 2
I know that this is a cop-out in a way, but this is honestly a tie for me. I cannot possibly pick one as being the better when both are so great in their own right (though I did put the film in first place in my ranking of the entire series). They complement each other perfectly as the film is visually and auditory an amazing experience and in terms of art it is profound whereas the book is much heavily plotted, much more detailed and more scientific. This is the textbook example of a book and a film that are both equally amazing and yet so different from each other.