So I actually attempted to watch 2001 the other day...
I didn't make it through because grandma wanted to turn itr off. It was interesting to see another viewer's reaction to the film, you know, just to keep me grounded.
I compare this film to a lesser known visual essay entitled, "Koyannisquatsi," by Francis Ford Coppola. That film uses nothing but images to tell a story of how civilization has thrown life, and/or nature, out of balance. "Koyannisquatsi," is marketed as a visual essay, so there's no confusion as to what you're getting into. Visual, as in, there will be no words in this film, and essay as in, this shit will be boring to a certain extent, although eductional. Here's where I make my startling comparison. 2001 was marketed as a Sci-fi film, an epic, if you will. How does a film that is a visual essay on humanity's progress pass it self off as a sci-fi film? The film includes about 30 minuites of plot, albiet, the plot itself doesn't become apparent until over an hour into the film. So basically the viewer is subjected to a montage of themes and imagery before the plot is brought to a head, and then after the plot's climax, there appears to be no resolution except in the symbolic sence of the word. Let me break this down a bit...
The 2001 film is broken down into a few categories that I've made up off the top of my head as I'm typing this. They are:
The dawn of man -- This is caveman ooga-booga at it's finest. It's like a docmentary on cavemen/apes without the narration. You wonder if the cavemen are played by actual actors or real apes, but it really doesn't matter because one simply can't imagine Kubrick trying to orchestrate the whole thing one way or the other. "You there! I want you to bellow louder, louder I said!" "And you, I told you to grunt, and then growl and shriek, not shriek, and then growl and gru... HEY! Who threw that at me!" It's a funny thought.
Space montage -- The film then jumps forward in time to the future and the viewer is subjected to a bunch of montages involving spaceships and planets. This part of the film is visually stunning in that special effects photography was used instead of CGI which was not available at the time. It still looks better than a lot of the modern stuff. At this point a small amount background plot begins to take shape.
Jupiter Mission - The viewer is subjected to more montages as Mel Brooks begins to write the movie Spaceballs. At this point the actual plot of the film begins to unfold as the members of the Jupiter crew and their supercomputer Hal have some dealings in and out of the ship.
Final Montage - This is immediately following the conflict resolution that occurs at the end of the jupitar mission, Viewers will be looking for som closure as to what happens next, and they aren't going to get it.
So basically, this film is more of a visual essay on the position of humanity and they're progress throughout the universe. Unfortunately the film is marketed as some sort of science fiction epic, which it clearly is not. Okay, so maybe it's got about 30 minutes of a sci-fi film hiddin in it, but if you want to be real with your viewers and not trick them into seeing a film that isn't what you say it is, then market it alongside, "Koyannisquatsi," and people will know what they're getting before they tune in.