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It must be cultural - it was a short story, outsiders in a time and a place. Also, possibly the ultimate surprise ending of all time.
Waxing philosophical: what ever happens, anyway? Even in real life? Same sh*t repeated generation after generation. The accessories change - the story remains the same. And, even if were to change, what difference would it make?
The BEST Kubrick was Dr. Strangelove. Peter Sellers as Strangelove, the President, and a British officer named Mandrake facing off against General Jack D. Ripper? What could have a better ending than Slim Pickens riding an H-Bomb, buckin' bronc style to Doomsday? I ask you, what?
For me, the key to appreciating 2001: A Space Odyssey was to read Clarke's novel first and then see the movie. Large portions of the movie can be difficult to follow without the context the novel provides.
Book was as boring as the movie, just took longer to complete. But to be honest I was never a fan of Arthur C Clarke to begin with. I also did not read it in my first language, so I had to do it with a reference dictionary, which probably didn't help.