2001: A Space Odyssey
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Why Christopher Nolan thinks little kids should watch 2001: A Space Odyssey

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Jan 6, 2018, 11:10 AM EST

Adult viewers have been debating the meaning and themes of 2001: A Space Odyssey for nearly 50 years, which is why Christopher Nolan believes it's a perfect movie for kids to watch.

Stanley Kubrick's visionary masterpiece has been something of a mixed bag to viewers ever since it opened back in 1968: visually spectacular and conceptually bold, the film was also left deliberately ambiguous by the director, who was careful not to explain all its mysteries.

That's why Nolan -- the filmmaker behind epics like Interstellar and the Dark Knight trilogy -- feels it's a great movie to show to young children, which is exactly what he did with his kids when they were just 3 or 4 years old. Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Nolan explained why:

"I think they’re able to absorb it on the most important level at a young age. That’s what happened to me. I saw it when I was 7 years old, and that’s the level I think it works the best -- pure cinematic spectacle. I was extremely baffled by it, but excited by it."

He added:

"When people talk about the age of people watching a film, part of what they’re asking is, 'How does a 7-year-old parse the content?' And if you look at 2001 and you think about it, you can’t parse it anyway as an adult. The experience is the thing."

In other words, it's not about the movie's philosophical or scientific underpinnings -- for youngsters, 2001 is all about the pure sensation of the cosmos, the spacecraft, the mind-bending visions like the Stargate and more. Nolan said he had a similar experience watching the movie when he was a child himself:

"I saw Star Wars when I was 7, and the movie changed everything for people my age. They re-released 2001 on the basis of that success and I went to see it with a bunch of my friends. We all had the same response ... 'We don’t know what the hell that means, but it’s exciting.' We just wanted spaceships, we wanted space, we wanted that experience of leaving the Earth."

2001 may not be an easy sit for every toddler, but Nolan also suggests that the same visceral experience of seeing any imaginative film for the first time, whether it's 2001 or The Wizard of Oz or The Lion King, is what stays with us and draws us back to those movies as adults -- which is why so many of us are going to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi two, three, or four times.

Do you remember the first time you saw 2001: A Space Odyssey? What was your reaction to it? What other films had an impact on you as a child -- and would you show them to your own kids?