25 errors in 2001: A Space Odyssey

In spite of 2001’s overwhelming attention to detail, and the crew’s on-set motto: “Do it right – Do it better – Then do it all over again,” single-frame inspections of the \ Stanley Kubrick Collection HD DVD from Warner Home Video will reveal flaws which, sadly, the late director was unable to go back and correct. Sure, some of them are nitpicky, but they exist nonetheless. Too bad Kubrick was never able to digitally fix these faux pas and make The Version You’ve Never Seen (Billy Friedkin-style), depicting the abandoned City of Light Stargate sequence, the deleted alien life forms and Frank Poole’s longer space walk, trimmed 17 minutes by Kubrick himself (some say thankfully) after the New York roadshow premiere. Still, it’s a great film, despite these so-called blemishes:

1. During the Dawn of Man sequence, the rods in the lithe leopard’s eyes reflect the light with as much proficiency as the background Scotchlite front projection screen. Kubrick serendipitously dubbed it: “A happy accident.” 3M should have renamed their Scotchlite material “Leopardlite.”

2. ‘Dem bones, dem bones, dem…rubber bones,’ when Moonwatcher strikes the enemy ape repeatedly.

3. When bone-weapon changes to orbiting nuclear device, line-angle is about 90 degrees off (perhaps intended to show the duality of man).

4. “Floating” pen glued to rotating 8-foot diameter glass casts stray light reflection off top left side of frame. Stewardess must “pluck” it off the glued surface. (Some claim to see wires holding pen in wide shot, but I’ve never seen this.)

5. Because this large-scale set could not be an actual rotating centrifugal force chamber, both Dr. Floyd’s and Mr. Miller’s bodies must naturally lean back while walking downhill at the beginning of their walk in the space station.

6. Considering current cellular rates, the phone company would probably charge more when Dr. Heywood Floyd telephones Kubrick’s daughter from space to wish her an “unhappy birthday.”

7. Dr. Floyd’s corn juice slides back down the straw. In zero gravity this would not happen. The crew should have used Bob’s Big Boy extra-thick milk shake formula.

8. Slight halos can be seen around the astronauts’ space helmets as the front-projected plate (background image) of the Clavius moonbase reflects off their shiny surface and back onto the 3-M Scotchlite screen material.

9. As the Aries shuttle and lunar spacebus land on the moon’s surface, each kicks up clouds of dust, not in keeping with the absence of air and footage taken of actual Apollo lunar liftoffs.

10. Continuity error as color photograph of moon anomaly changes to a different black-and-white photo for the medium shot in Dr. Floyd’s lap, then back to color again for the 3-shot.

11. Kubrick himself can be seen with beard during handheld shot as a ghost reflection in faceplate of astronaut’s helmet, as the crew investigate the Tycho anamoly. Perhaps this was meant to be his auteur Hitchcock signature.

12. Earthlight changes from gibbous phase on horizon to a different phase overhead near the sun when monolith sends its radio emission. The earth never changes position in the lunar sky, and if it could, cannot change phase that quickly, even with the help of alien intervention.

13. Poole must be strapped upside down in his chair unable to move as Bowman walks upright on moving centrifuge to meet him. Gravity plays its course.

14. The BBC still does not have 12 channels.

15. You’d think with all of NASA’s technology they’d invent space potholders so that Dave wouldn’t burn his fingers when grabbing for his meal.
16. During chess game with Frank, HAL checkmates in two moves, which should have been three.

17. Not really a mistake, just an observation: Both Frank and Dave must enter rotating centrifuge together because the inner one decelerates and stops just as the outer cylinder begins moving counter-clockwise in order to simulate zero gravity.

18. Since shot was filmed upside down against black to hide wires while simulating weightlessness, the shadow of the wire harness holding Frank can be seen across space pod.

19. “This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.” The HAL 9000 computer breaks Asimov’s First Law of Robotics and harms human beings.

20. “Oh, HAL, I’m home!” After HAL kills the four Discovery crewmembers and disables life support throughout the entire ship, Dave must wear his spacesuit in order to survive. When entering Hal’s brain center, a fatal flaw in the suit costume displays his left wrist exposed to the vacuum. He would, in effect, be dead in this scene!

21. In 2001, objects seldom cross in front of one another to avoid the telltale matte lines. Kubrick instructed the female artists to rotoscope (or draw) the holdout mattes slightly larger so that background stars would never “bleed” over the body of the spacecraft. Careful observation reveals stars appearing to extinguish slightly before they pass behind the ship.

22. Kubrick himself admits: “The trip and magical alignment of Jupiter and its satellites are the only things in 2001 that don’t conform to what is known to physicists and astronomers.”

23. ABC Tuesday Night At the Movies logo glimpsed during the Opening in the StarGate. [Actually, I have a transparency from ABC’s Movie of the Week slit-scan effect which should be substituted here.]

24. John Ford stagecoach sighted in lower left-hand corner of Monument Valley during Opening in the StarGate sequence (just a joke to make it to 25).

25. In the book’s ending, the Star Child accidentally destroys Earth by playing with the orbiting nuclear weapons. Had this occurred in the film, there would be no 2010. Need I say more…

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2 thoughts on “25 errors in 2001: A Space Odyssey

  1. jaimelobo

    I realized this post is 10 years old, but had to address a grievous error.

    #25, in the book, the Star Child does not destroy Earth, only the warheads are destroy to protect the population of Earth from destroying itself. The whole point is the Star Child is the protector of the sentient life on Earth to move it along, just as the monolith caused an evolutionary shift at the dawn of man.