I was questioning one minor part of the film, and it appears there is more debate about it than that, so I thought I'd share these random thoughts from a fan of the film...
"Dave. Stop. Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it..."
2001: A Space Odyssey. Of all the science fiction movies ever made, this one stands as the pinnacle of the genre. 2001 took the realm of special effects to an unsurpassed degree of realism, and even today this film is the standard by which many movies are measured. Before 2001, futuristic gadgets such as computers or spaceships were designed primarily for flashy, gaudy effect of the type displayed in such movies as This Island Earth or Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers. They were obviously fake, aerodynamically impossible, and described in silly pseudo-scientific terms that had no meaning at all. 2001 paid such attention to detail that it has been said a more realistic movie could only be made if it were filmed on location in outer space.
This film shattered the juvenile notion that all alien beings in the movies were "invaders" with antennae on their heads, whose sole reason for existence was to conquer Earth. The Aliens of 2001 were neither menacing, nor were they actors in cheap foam-rubber costumes. After 2001, aliens in the movies became more realistic-looking and believable. Later science fiction films with extraterrestrials, including Star Wars and E.T., owe their existence to it.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, 2001 was a box-office hit when it premiered in 1968. Hippies would go to the front row of the movie theatre and lie on the floor as its "cosmic light show" swept over them. Reaction to this film by the moviegoing masses was extreme: it was either loved or hated by critics and laymen alike. There was no middle ground.
The film's popularity has not waned over the years, although it is no longer used for "tripping". Today, 2001 stands as a triumph of science fiction on the silver screen. Other films have tried to imitate its style and its vision, such as Planet Of The Apes and Silent Running, but none have come close.
Yet for many people, the film remains a mystery. It has been called "slow-moving," "ponderous," and even "incomprehensible." Pauline Kael has called it "a monumentally unimaginative movie," while negative reactions to the film were emotional as the positive ones.
In 1984 the movie 2010: The Year We Make Contact was released to theatres, and a large portion of the film was spent explaining "exactly what happened" in 2001. However, the explanations offered in 2010 did not even come close to the mark, and the mystery of 2001 remains. Exactly WHAT was the movie about? Where did the Monolith come from? Why did HAL go berserk? Just what happened to Dave Bowman anyway? And what was the meaning of the ending, with the hotel room and the Star Child? These are only a few of the questions asked by people, many of whom have been puzzling the meaning of the film for years.
Arthur C. Clarke's novel, 2001: A Space Odyssey, is the most obvious book to turn to for anyone looking for the answers to the movie - but the novel is not the final authority on the film. Clarke's novel is based upon an earlier version of the movie screenplay; he and Kubrick co-wrote the story while the movie was in production, and Kubrick made many changes to the film after the novel was finished and before the movie was released. Therefore, there are passages within the novel that do not take place in the movie at all, and likewise there are elements of the film that are not found in the book. For instance, in the novel the spaceship Discovery travels to the planet Saturn and its moon Japetus, while in the movie the destination is Jupiter. Hal (the computer) opens the airlock doors and lets all of the air out of the spaceship Discovery while Dave Bowman is still aboard in the novel; in the movie he lures Dave into outer space and refuses to let him back into the ship. The idea of letting the air out of Discovery had been included in the screenplay to the movie (which is why we see Dave wearing a spacesuit and helmet during his attack on Hal's memory banks), but it was later cut.
Clarke himself was confused by many elements of the movie. He tried to offer concrete, rational explanations of some of the questions raised by the film in his book, and in doing so he took many creative liberties. However, the answers offered in the novel are often contradictory and even inaccurate. They do offer clues and, in some cases, explanations to the symbolism and behind-the-scenes action that takes place in the movie, but because of the differences between the novel and the film, the novel cannot be considered the last word on 2001. To discover the subtleties and concepts of the movie, the best course of action is to watch the film carefully and make your own conclusions.
The following essay is, therefore, merely my own opinion of 2001. Feel free to disagree with any of the arguments I put forth. I seek merely to enlighten those who claim not to understand 2001 at all, and to shed a little light on the mysteries of the film.
The Dawn of Man
The original theatrical screening of 2001 included a three-minute musical overture set against a blank screen. The music played during this prelude is Ligeti's Atmospheres, and its purpose is twofold. First, it is an eerie, unusual music that puts the audience into an expectant mood; the feeling is of something important about to happen. Atmospheres is repeated twice during the movie's running time, at certain key moments (the Intermission, and Dave Bowman's journey into the Unknown). The meaning of this music will become clear later in the film.
The tone of 2001 is set in the very first scene, before the opening credits themselves: Sunrise over the planet Earth. It's a breath-taking sight as the triumphant Also Sprach Zarathustra echoes through the heavens, the Moon moves away and the Sun rises in its dazzling brightness across the face of the Earth. This planetary alignment has always been significant to Man, and Kubrick makes the most of it here. "The mystical alignment of the Sun, the Moon, and Earth, or of Jupiter and its moons, was used throughout the film as a premonitory image of a leap forward to the unknown," he says. The image is repeated several times throughout the movie, to signify an important event in human history.
Filmguide to 2001 offers an additional explanation of this scene that makes sense: it may be the point-of-view of the Aliens themselves. Travelling through our Solar System, they come across a bright little planet teeming with life -- and this is what they have been looking for. There may be other possibilities, including one theory that says that the open credits are, in fact, the same scene that takes place at the very END of the movie. This view of the Earth could be the point-of-view of the Star Child himself, and we are seeing the world through his eyes. If this is so, then the entire movie becomes a flashback, finally ending with this exact same moment - and the same music, as the movie also ends with Also Sprach Zarathustra.
Daylight. The sun rises upon a vast desert, and with the credits we realize that this is the prehistoric era. It is the African landscape, and the land is in the midst of a drought - this becomes obvious when, in one scene, we see a pile of bleached bones on the ground. Some of those bones look like humanoid skulls - and that is exactly what they are.
The man-apes appear. They are our ancestors, and at first glance it's hard to believe that these creatures will one day evolve into the masters of the planet. In fact, the man-apes are not surviving. They're foraging for plants and bugs; they're scavengers, and they're not having much luck finding things to eat. Furthermore, they're obviously not very dangerous, for a group of tapirs is competing with them for the same food. They cannot even scare the animals away.
Their number is diminishing. As a leopard pounces upon one of the man-apes, the others flee in terror; they cannot defend their comrade, and they have no desire to anyway. In the harsh world of this prehistoric era, every creature must fend for himself, and he cannot grieve for anyone else. Besides, the man-apes are too weak from hunger to properly defend themselves.
These man-apes are not the only ones in the vicinity, however. As they are drinking from a pool of muddy water, another group of humanoids comes upon the scene. But the man-apes lack the strength and the natural weapons to defend their territory, and they are driven away by the intruders. They are not surviving, and it is obvious that they will die soon.
The novel 2001 states that one of the apes is called Moon- Watcher. This name is not important to the story, but it helps to identify the chief man-ape as the central figure here. It is he who will be the subject of the great experiment. The first signs of intelligence are appearing in him, but they may not be there for long - for Moon-Watcher, like the rest of his tribe, is starving to death.
That night, the man-apes huddle together under a big outcropping of rock. This is the best protection they have against the terrors of the night. But this night is different from many others. There is something else out there, something that even makes the great predators and hunters nervous. A leopard glances up from its kill, its eyes glowing in the dusk sky. (The glow of the cat's eyes was a lucky accident during the filming of the movie.) Other animals, normally silent, growl and roar as fear overcomes them. The man-apes sense this, and Moon-Watcher growls as well - though in his case, it is merely a gesture to show the world that he is not afraid, when inside he is just as scared as his fellow man-apes. In a close-up of his face, we see eyes that are definitely human - the same curious eyes that Moon-Watcher's descendants will have, four million years later.
The night falls.
As dawn brightens the sky, the great event takes place. The eerie strains of Gygory Legeti's unearthly Requiem resound, and the man-apes awaken. A look of outright terror appears on their faces. Something is wrong; they see something that strikes them dumb with fright.
Then the camera pulls back, and the Monolith appears.
The appearance of something so artificial, so PERFECT, in the prehistoric era of the man-apes is one of the greatest shocks of the entire film. This Thing has appeared, as if from nowhere. The man- apes flee in terror from it at first, but their curiosity overcomes them and they slowly approach it. It is Moon-Watcher who first performs the act that will be repeated twice later in the film: He reaches out to touch the Monolith.
There is something mystical and emotional about this scene: the man-apes, almost childlike in their innocence, running their hands over the smooth surface of the Monolith. They do not know where it has come from, nor can they comprehend the beings responsible for intruding upon their world in this manner. They only know that this is something new, and their curiosity is compelling them to find out what this new thing is. It's as if they have received a gift from the gods.
In fact, this is precisely what has happened.
Stanley Kubrick chose the rectangular form of the Monolith because of its simplicity and its perfection. There is no question upon viewing the Monolith that it is artificial -- it is the work of an intelligent mind. Its simple shape is likewise impressive, as it towers over to the man-apes, silently looking down upon them (and upon the audience, as well). Indeed, as the weird music reaches its peak, the "magical" alignment occurs once again: the Sun and the Moon in the sky together, rising over the silhouette of the ominous ebon form.
But at this point the scene suddenly changes, and the normal routine of life takes over once again. In the harsh world of the man- apes, the Monolith is quickly accepted as a part of the surroundings; they no longer pay attention to it. To quote the novel: "They could not eat it, and it could not eat them; therefore it was not important."
The man-apes continue their desperate search for food, as the Monolith silently observes them. They forage among the rocks and the stones, and they pick through the skeletal remains of other animals, whose bones have long since been picked clean and dried out by long exposure to the Sun.
Then something new takes place. For the first time, Moon-Watcher looks at the bleached bones with curiosity. With a faltering, hesitant grip, the man-ape takes one of the bones in his hand. He has obviously never done this before, as evidenced by his clumsy moves. But slowly, his grip on the bone tightens, and as the triumphant chords of Also Sprach Zarathustra sound, as if from the heavens themselves, Moon-watcher acquires that one trait that puts him above all the other creatures of the world: He takes the bone and uses it as a weapon, gleefully smashing the animal skeleton to pieces. An image of a falling tapir also flashes across the screen: This man-ape knows that what he is doing to these bones can also be done to live animals - and he has found a new source of food! The Moon-Watcher has taken the first step down the long road to Mankind.
One point in this scene is vital to the story of 2001: Of all the man-apes in all the world, it would be Moon-Watcher who, at this particular moment, first discovers the use of this tool to get food. It is no coincidence that he was in the shadow of the Monolith when this historic event took place. Furthermore, as Moon-Watcher was eyeing the dried bones, there was a single, abrupt flash back to the image of the Monolith. The fact that the man-apes discovered tools when the Monolith was present is not a coincidence: the idea was planted in their minds by the Monolith itself. It was the Monolith, and the Aliens who made it, who gave the use of tools to the man-apes, and the camera's focus on the Monolith and Moon-Watcher serves to associates the two with each other. At this time, the tribe was starving -- indeed, it might have died out completely within the next year or so. But now the man-apes have been given a gift; this gift would ensure their survival for the next four million years.
The next scene shows that the man-apes have put their new tools to good use, and that they have taken another step toward survival: they are no longer groping and scratching among the rocks for plants and little bits of food. They're eating meat. They've seen the potential food supply that could easily last for the rest of their lives; and so, in order to survive, the hunted have become the hunters. They have made their first kills, and with this new supply of food, the man-apes find themselves growing stronger. They are no longer weak with hunger - and now that they have the time and the energy to make their world a better place to live, they can at last overcome the obstacles threatening their survival. Through the use of tools, the man-apes can become the masters of the world.
As they are filling their bellies, the man-apes are oblivious to the other major change that has taken place. The camera pulls back and we realize with a shock what has happened.
As suddenly as it came, the Monolith has disappeared. Its purpose has been fulfilled.
Now once again, we are at the drinking pool. And once again, the other tribe is there, making their threats, trying to keep their rivals away from the water. But something has changed, as one group of man-apes - Moon-Watcher's tribe - is now carrying bone tools and weapons. The other tribe does not notice this, for they have not made the great intuitive leap that was needed to use tools. They merely think that the intruders are back, to be driven away again. So one of the Others (as the novel calls them) crosses the stream - and Moon- Watcher strikes him down with his bone club. Because Moon-Watcher's hunting skills are still minimal, he hits his foe again and again to make sure he is dead. The other members of the tribe join him in the brutal murder.
The Others are frightened out of their wits - something like this has never happened before! They flee in terror, and they are pursued by the fierce roar of Moon-Watcher and the other man-apes. If they ever come back to this water again, they will surely be killed.
Moon-Watcher has indeed become, as the novel states, "master of the world." He has conquered his enemies, and he is the lord of all he sees. In triumph, he throws his weapon into the air...
...where it suddenly becomes an orbiting satellite. In one of the most famous scenes in motion picture history, the story has shifted forward four million years, to the year 2001 AD.
There is a great deal of symbolism in the scene of Moon-watcher and the man-apes conquering the Others. Among other things, it can be noted that:
The man-apes were given the use of tools by the Monolith, but they learn to kill other man-apes AFTER the Monolith has disappeared. Murder, apparently, is entirely a human invention.
The tool that the man-apes use to survive becomes a weapon of destruction. The new tools that the man-apes have gained are useful - they have saved the man-apes' lives - but they are also dangerous. Man's tools are always as much of a threat to him as they are a benefit, and this two-edged sword has never dulled, even after four million years of history.
The Making Of Kubrick's 2001 states that the first satellite to appear in the film is, in fact, a satellite carrying nuclear weapons. Man's desire to kill other men has not diminished in four million years, and it can even be said that the simple weapons of the man-apes have evolved, like Man himself, into the complex weapons of the year 2001. The sudden switch from bone to satellite shows how the two are actually very similar to each other in purpose: they kill.
As the novel states: "Man had been re-made by his own tools." Man has come to depend on his tools so completely that he is a slave to them. Without his tools, Man would not have survived, four million years ago. Even today, Man needs tools to continue his existence - but those tools threaten to destroy Man as well. This is one of the central themes of 2001: IS MAN STRONGER THAN HIS OWN TOOLS, OR ARE THE TOOLS REALLY THE MASTERS? The answer to this question lies further ahead in the movie.
The Blue Danube floats gently across the screen, calming the audience down and instilling an atmosphere of relaxation. Space-ships are travelling through the skies at a leisurely pace. The first ships to appear on the screen, according to Making of 2001, are the nuclear weapons platforms used by the superpowers of Earth. (The actual declaration that these are nuclear weapons was taken out of the final print of the film because it was merely an unnecessary red herring; Kubrick believed that details on the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union were inconsequential and not important to the story of 2001). Even if the satellites are dangerous, however, their slow and easy movements lessen their threat. From this point of view, any apparent danger from them is so small as to be non-existent, and the satellites moving through the sky are mere decorations adding to the celestial backdrop. The apparent slow motion of the spaceships makes them seem as if they are travelling with elegance and grace - in fact, they are graceful indeed, as their movements are being precisely controlled.
The Space Station appears, turning serenely in its orbit, adding to the feeling of calm and order. Kubrick says that this sequence is "a kind of machine ballet." The scene is, in fact, very beautiful.
People have complained about this lengthy space travel sequence, saying that it is plodding and even "boring." The reason why this scene moves at such an unhurried rate is because Kubrick wanted space travel in 2001 to be as realistic as possible. If, as Roger Ebert mentions, the ships in 2001 merely "zipped around like props on Captain Video," the illusion of realism would be destroyed. The audience would not be admiring the care that went into the special effects; they would, rather, be laughing at such an unrealistic piece of "space opera." Kubrick has attempted to present a vision of space travel as it may happen in real life. Thus, we have the grandiose, awesome, and slow-moving spaceships of 2001.
Note also that, other than the music, the scene is completely silent. There is no sound in vacuum, and thus the spacecraft do not make a sound. Few science fiction films have bothered to obey this law of nature, and thus the spaceships of Star Wars and Star Trek zoom across the screen like the screaming fighters of a World War II action movie. 2001 stresses realism, however, and thus the ships are silent. This is just one of many instances in the film where sound - or lack of it - is used to enhance the effect of the picture.
Moving towards the Space Station is a Pan-Am shuttlecraft. This is the first of many corporate logos to appear throughout this sequence. Kubrick correctly guessed that corporate business would make its mark in space travel, and the first major attempts at making space travel a civilian activity would fall into the hands of the big businesses. As we move to the interior of the shuttlecraft, we see that civilian space travel is indeed a reality: the ship has seats for at least a hundred people. It doesn't look any different from the interior of a commuter train or a jumbo jet.
However, this particular shuttle is completely empty, except only for one passenger: Dr. Heywood Floyd of NASA. He has been sent, at great expense, on a special mission, and this shuttle is being used solely to take him into space. Exactly where he is going, and why, will become clear shortly. It is here that Kubrick begins to include another theme in the movie: the similarities between men and machines. Man has been completely re-moulded by his tools, since he first began using them on that day four million years ago - the tool-maker has been re-made by his own tools. He has come to depend on his machines so much that he is becoming a machine himself. The characters in 2001 are so machine-like that they seem incapable of feeling any kind of emotion. This is merely a reflection of what Mankind may actually be like today: machine-like. We are used to seeing movies where the characters are full of emotion - they may be violent or passionate or loving or murderous. But in real life, very few people are so intensely emotional - and thus, the realism of 2001 extends to its characters as well.
Heywood Floyd is asleep. Despite the grand spectacle of outer space outside his window, he has his television turned on - and he is still so bored that he has fallen asleep. Man's control over his environment through the use of tools has grown so complete that he is no longer excited by nature. Space travel is so commonplace that a voyage into outer space is merely another boring routine to be slept through.
In yet another display of the film's amazing special effects, a pen floats casually in the weightless environment beside Dr. Floyd, and his arm drifts aimlessly. Especial care has been taken in making every detail as accurate and as realistic as possible: the stewardesses walk on Velcro slippers to keep their feet on the ground.
The shuttlecraft aligns itself with the rotation of the Space Station and docks; Dr. Floyd leaves the shuttle and the first words of dialogue in the film are spoken:
"Here you are, sir."
Banal, pointless chit-chat, just as we hear in everyday life. The people of 2001 engage in meaningless banter and go through formal routines, just as they do on Earth. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
After meeting Mr. Miller and going through "Voiceprint Identification," Dr. Floyd heads for his next destination. The two figures pass through a strangely empty corridor. The Space Station is, in fact, an orbiting hotel, and except for the curvature of the floor it could easily be mistaken for any hotel on Earth. However, this place is strangely empty: there is obviously enough room to suit the needs of hundreds of people, but almost no one is here. Floyd stops off to make a phone call to his daughter, using a Bell "Picturephone;" this is another example of the care taken to make the Space Station look as realistic as possible. Aside from the use of the Bell Telephone logo, the phone booth even sounds like a phone booth. There is a hissing air conditioner that makes the booth look and feel like a cramped, small, enclosed space. Again, sound is used to enhance the visual image on the screen.
After making his phone call, Floyd encounters a group of Soviet scientists - and here at last the story begins to take shape. We learn why the Space Station is nearly empty: apparently, there is an "epidemic" at the Clavius Moonbase. From this, we can assume that the Space Station has been largely evacuated, and tourist activities halted, until the problem is properly dealt with. Unfortunately, Dr. Floyd cannot discuss the situation at Clavius with his friends at any length, for security reasons. Even amidst these startling plot developments, however, there is the pointless throwaway conversation that is used in everyday talk.
Dr. Floyd's conversation with the Russians is proof that in 2001, the Soviet states and the United States have settled into an uneasy peace (Kubrick couldn't have anticipated the events that caused the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s-early 1990s). With this sequence, Kubrick does not have to spend time discussing the political situation of the future - it can be assumed by the audience. In 1968 when the film was released, the Soviet Union was considered "The Enemy" by the United States, and this scene was probably an optimistic view of the future. Fortunately, it seems that this vision has at least partially come to pass.
Now Dr. Floyd heads onward to the Moon. In addition to the tedium of space travel, we see more examples of human life in zero gravity. A waitress serves meals in liquid form, to be sucked through a straw so that food particles don't float all over the place. She brings the food trays to the cockpit where the ship is piloted, and in doing so she turns completely upside down and seems to walk on the ceiling. With no gravity, there is no need for the conventional vertical method of designing a spacecraft, with a set direction for "up" and "down;" in this case, the designers of the shuttle must have decided that the most convenient way (for mechanical reasons) to build the ship was to have the command deck at an angle differing from the passenger's quarters down below.
In what has been called the most obvious joke of the film, Dr. Floyd ponders the long, complicated instructions of a zero-gravity toilet. Since Mankind evolved in Earth's gravity, travelling into deep space with no gravity requires Man to suffer some hardships.
The shuttle approaches the Moon. There are figures moving on the lunar landscape below, and they see the ship coming in. (From this point of view, the shuttle vaguely resembles a human head. This was a deliberate design: it supports the symbiotic relationship between Man and his machines. The machine resembles a human, and the humans inside have become machine-like.) Finally, we come to Clavius, the American lunar base. Computers align the ship, and it settles down to a landing, where it is taken deep into the bowels of the Moon. The Blue Danube ends; the journey is complete.
The scene changes to what appears to be a corporate or board meeting. A photographer is taking pictures; it looks like any official meeting held anywhere. Dr. Floyd is introduced, and it is here that we learn why the lunar shuttle he rode in was empty: he had been rushed up to Clavius base especially to attend this meeting - a meeting of the highest importance. We also learn that it is not an epidemic that has forced the United States to isolate Clavius from any outside contact, but rather an important discovery of some sort made by the scientists at Clavius. This discovery must be of vital importance, because the Clavius personnel cannot even inform their friends and families to let them know that they are okay, despite the rumours of an epidemic.
The meeting ends, and the scientists take another shuttle craft to the site of the mysterious find. More small talk among the crew - they are obviously trying to hide their feelings by acting as if everything is normal.
Amidst the chit-chat, the fact does surface that this "discovery" is an object that was buried under the lunar surface - four million years ago.
We arrive at the excavation site, and at last the answer is revealed to us. This is what the scientists have discovered, and this is what has put the United States government into such a frenzy: the Monolith! It has been lying beneath the surface of the Moon for four million years. This is how long it has been since Mankind last encountered the Monolith, on that day in Africa when Moon-Watcher threw a bone into the air. This is the connection between the beginning sequence of 2001 and the current act.
The last time the Monolith appeared, Mankind was at a crucial point in his evolution. Now the ebon block has appeared again: does this mean that Man has once again reached a crossroads? Indeed it does. Mankind is leaving his planetary cradle and beginning to reach outward into the Universe. The children spawned on that day, four million years ago, have reached maturity and are preparing to leave the home where they grew up.
But has Mankind truly matured? He has reached the point where his ancient home, the Earth, is no longer able to contain him - but at the same time, Man's survival is still threatened by the very tools he uses to survive. Now, more than ever, Man has the ability to destroy himself. Despite his having survived through the millennia, Man's future is just as precarious as the Man-apes' future was.
The alien sounds of Ligeti's choral begin once again, as the spacesuit-clad scientists approach the Monolith. Here we see a clue that despite his evolution and his many achievements, Mankind is still the same curious beast that his ancestors were, for just as the Man- apes did, now Dr. Floyd reaches out and touches the Monolith, as if to prove to himself that it really exists. The group gathers around the ebon block for a photograph...
...when suddenly, there is an ear-piercing electronic shriek. The scientists stop dead in their tracks, reeling from the intense noise; it even causes discomfort in the audience. The sound is obviously coming from the Monolith itself. The Aliens' experiment, begun all those years ago, is approaching its climax. It's as though a cosmic burglar alarm has been set off, and now the entire Universe knows that Mankind is reaching for the stars - and once again, the "mystical" alignment of the Sun and the Monolith takes place.
After four million years, "TMA-1 had greeted the lunar dawn."
Jupiter Mission: 18 Months Later
With the shock of the paralyzing radio voice of the Monolith still ringing in our ears, we are abruptly taken a year and a half into the future to the spaceship Discovery. Unlike the emergency situation that existed at Clavius, life here has settled into a normal routine. We are introduced to the central characters, Frank Poole and Dave Bowman. The first one we come across is Dave, jogging along the centrifuge of the ship to keep in shape. This part of the ship is spinning, creating enough centrifugal force to maintain a normal- gravity state here. There is no ceiling and no floor, because the room is always turning; this is how Dave can continue jogging non-stop in such a small area.
A BBC news broadcast flashes across one of the view panels of the ship, and it is here that we learn of Discovery's mission, of Dave and Frank, and of the hibernating scientists on board. They're being kept in a state of suspended animation, and they will not awaken until Discovery reaches the planet Jupiter.
We are also introduced to the caretaker of the ship: the HAL-9000 computer, or Hal. Hal, we are told, keeps the entire ship working and operational. He also takes care of Frank and Dave, so that they do not lose their sanity on the long voyage. In fact, Hal has such complete control of the ship that Dave and Frank themselves have very little to do. They're little more than caretakers for Hal. It seems possible that if some accident were to befall the crew, Hal could conduct the entire mission on his own. All too soon, however, we learn how true that statement actually is.
When Frank receives a birthday message from his parents, he seems passive and uninterested. This may have to do with his perspective: from eighty million miles out in space, events on Earth -- even other people -- might seem distant and unimportant. It also has to do with the roles that Frank and Dave are playing. They have nothing to occupy their minds for long, and they are lapsing into a dull routine. They have become so passive in their life aboard the ship that they are almost machine-like (which once again brings us to the recurring theme of man's similarity to his machines). They are, quite simply, bored to death.
Here again the central theme of tools becomes apparent: Hal, the computer, is another tool built by Man to insure his survival - in this case, on the voyage to Jupiter. He maintains all life support, keeps the ship running, and serves as travelling companion to Dave and Frank. Hal is, in fact, the ultimate tool: he is so advanced that in conversation, it is practically impossible to tell that he a machine and not a human being. The similarity of man to his tools has reached its peak in Hal, a tool similar to a man.
But, like all tools, Hal is as dangerous as he is useful. He is sustaining the lives of the astronauts, in the same way that the bone clubs and knives sustained the lives of the man-apes; but if Hal were to malfunction then he could easily kill everyone on the ship. Of course, safety measures and failsafe devices have been built into the ship to prevent this from happening -- but despite the best safety features, the threat of catastrophe is always there. In fact, it arrives in the very next scene.
More evidence of the crew's ample spare time and boredom: Dave is drawing a picture of the hibernating scientists. As he is showing his artwork to Hal, however, the computer asks "a personal question:"
"Well, it's rather difficult to define...perhaps I'm just projecting my own concern about it...I know I've never completely freed myself of the suspicion that there are some extremely odd things about this mission."
Dave, however, does not seem to share Hal's suspicions. He has obviously never considered the matter before, and he does not seem to think it of any importance. Just then, Hal reports that a real emergency is about to arise: the AE-35 unit is about to fail. (The AE-35 unit is explained in the novel 2001. It controls the ship's antenna and keeps the Discovery in constant contact with Earth. If it were to fail, all communication with Earth would be lost.)
This scene, the conversation between Dave and Hal, may be the most important scene in the entire film. Its importance is only realized later in the movie, however, when it's revealed that there is a secret purpose to the Jupiter mission, that even Frank and Dave do not know about - and Hal does.
But if Hal knows the mission's true purpose, then he would not have any reason to be suspicious of Mission Control's actions. If he knew what was going on, then why did he bring the subject up at all?
The answer to this question comes later in the film.
After receiving permission from Mission Control, Dave goes down to the pod bay and takes a "space pod" outside the ship to remove the AE-35 unit. He follows a standard procedure, taking his time and not rushing things. This is little more than another routine in life aboard Discovery.
But things begin to go askew when Frank and Dave look the AE-35 unit over, performing different tests on it, and they find nothing wrong with it.
As the AE-35 unit is being checked, however, something else is taking place. Hal is watching the astronauts - and Frank is watching Hal. Clouds of suspicion are beginning to form. Something is not right here.
"Well, Hal, I'm damned if I can find anything wrong with it."
The missing piece of the puzzle, however, comes in the next message from Mission Control. Hal, it seems, has done the impossible -- he has made a mistake.
Hal's response to this is nothing less than extraordinary: instead of looking for some sort of mechanical fault, or hypothesizing that there might be something wrong with the equipment used to check the AE-35 unit, he suggests that this might somehow be the result of human error. After all, he insists, he is a machine and not a human -- and machines don't make mistakes. Dave seems ready to buy Hal's story, but Frank still seems suspicious. So the two of them head down to the space pod bay, to supposedly work on a minor mechanical problem.
The real reason for Frank and Dave entering a space pod is to talk in complete privacy, away from Hal's prying microphone; they test Hal to make sure he can't hear them. Only when they're certain that the pod offers complete safety do they voice their suspicions of Hal.
However, Frank and Dave are not safe. Hal may not be able to hear them, but he can read their lips.
At this point, 2001 becomes unique in film history by being the only cinema epic to signal its intermission with complete silence
Now, Frank knows that if Hal could make a mistake with so trivial a matter as the AE-35 unit, then he could just as easily make mistakes with more vital areas of his control, including life support for the crew. Even worse, a faulty AE-35 unit means that there would be no contact with Earth if a major problem were to arise. If Hal is malfunctioning, then, his mistaken diagnosis of the AE-35 unit is only a symptom of deeper problems. Therefore, as Frank sees it, there would be no alternative but to disconnect Hal completely.
This inevitably leads to the question on everyone's mind: what caused Hal's breakdown?
In the end, it is pride that leads to Hal's downfall. As the BBC reporter noted, Hal knows that no 9000-series computer has ever made a mistake, and his hubris will not let him break that perfect record. Rather than admit that he made a mistake with the AE-35 unit, he attempts to remedy the situation without admitting to error in the only way he can think of: he removes Frank Poole and tries to kill Dave so that they will no longer suspect him, question him, or force him to admit that he is wrong.
But even above his ego, Hal's prime directive -- his raison d'etre -- is the Jupiter mission. Hal knows that if he were to malfunction, then the mission would be endangered. However, at the same time he does not want to admit to making a mistake. He is at an impasse. How is he to solve his dilemma without endangering himself or the mission?
This is where Dave's conversation with Hal -- his last before the trouble begins -- is vital to the story. Now, later on in the film it is revealed that Hal knew all about the secret purpose of the hibernating scientists from the beginning. He knows the true purpose of the mission, so why should he be suspicious of the other scientists being kept apart from Dave and Frank? In the novel, and in the movie 2010, it is stated that here Hal is told to lie to Dave and Frank about the purpose of the hibernating scientists, but this does not make any sense. It is Hal who initiates the conversation with Dave; both Dave and Frank are so machine-like from their boredom that their curiosity has been dulled. Therefore, Hal must be trying to reveal the true purpose of the mission to Dave, by making him suspicious of Mission Control. If Dave were to start pondering the question of why the other scientists were kept apart from himself and from Frank, then doubtless he would have investigated the matter further, and possibly discovered the true purpose of the Jupiter mission on his own. By uncovering the secret of the Monolith, Dave would realize that Hal is not allowed to reveal the purpose of the mission to him. Furthermore, if Dave discovers this fact himself, Hal would not be breaking any of the orders given to him by Mission Control.
But unfortunately, all this is not to be. Before Dave has a chance to think the matter over, Hal announces that the AE-35 unit is faulty.
Why did Hal initiate the conversation with Dave in the first place, then?
It may be that Hal KNEW about his impending breakdown. Hal's pride would not allow him to admit that he was faulty, but he knew that he would be jeopardizing the mission if he were to malfunction. Therefore, his way out of the dilemma was to drop a hint to Dave that there were problems, by trying to make Dave suspicious of the mission's true purpose. But because Dave had practically been reduced to the level of a machine himself by boredom, he missed Hal's clues completely - and thus Hal had no other choice (in his point of view) but to rebel.
If Hal had merely reported that he was malfunctioning, the tragedy could have been averted. This brings a true sense of irony to his statement: "This sort of thing has cropped up before, and it has always been attributable to human error." Ego is purely a human trait, and by gaining an ego himself, Hal has proven himself to be more of a human than his makers. This raises the question again: Is Man greater than his tools? For if Hal is more human than Dave and Frank are, then it becomes hard to tell where the machine ends and the human traits begin.
2001 resumes with that most human of sins: murder. We are in outer space again, working on the faulty AE-35 unit. Frank is outside the ship this time. As before, we hear his breathing and the ventilation of his spacesuit as he works.
But this time, something else is happening. As Frank concentrates on the ship's antenna, his space pod slowly begins to rotate of its own will - or rather, from Hal's control. It extends its arms menacingly, and slowly it begins moving towards Frank...
Abruptly, all is quiet. Dave looks at the viewscreen in shock as the space pod floats lifelessly away from the ship - and also moving away, frantically trying to get a grip on his lifeline, is Frank Poole. Once again, Mankind's tool has been used as a weapon of destruction. And once again, Kubrick has effectively used silence to enhance the film's effect: instead of a typical Hollywood musical chorus, the transition from sound (Frank's breathing) to silence is a complete shock.
Dave rushes down to the space pod bay. He knows that he does not have a second to lose if he wants to save Frank, so he does not bother putting on his space helmet as he enters the pod. Hal willingly tracks down Frank and guides the pod on course - because doing so means that Dave will have left the ship, and Hal will be free to remove the last dangers to his survival.
Now comes the most chilling scene of the entire film -- and once again, the sounds contribute to the impact on the audience as much as the picture on the screen. The ship is quiet, humming patiently away, as the hibernating scientists continue dozing in their chambers. Then the words "COMPUTER MALFUNCTION" flash across the screen, and a blaring alarm sounds. Within the space of one minute, the message goes from "LIFE FUNCTIONS CRITICAL" to "LIFE FUNCTIONS TERMINATED." The alarm stops. The remaining members of Discovery's crew are dead. But except for the flashing lights on their hibernation chambers, there is no way to tell the difference between life and death. The ship is humming silently again, and the figures in their frozen chambers do not look any different now, when they are dead, then they did when they were merely sleeping. This may be the ultimate statement of Man stripped of his humanity by his tools.
The ship continues quietly on its course. Nothing at all seems wrong - the silent ship seems as normal as it had been when there were living people aboard. This is a harsh display of Mankind's dependency on tools: Frank and Dave were indeed little more than caretakers for Hal. Now that Hal has gained complete control of the the ship, with no humans present to endanger his survival, he is now free to continue the all-important mission on his own. He is obviously confident that he can do so himself, without any aid from others - but before he can proceed with the mission, the silence of the ship is shattered by a voice.
"Open the pod bay doors, Hal."
Dave's voice resounds over the ship's speakers. He has returned, and he is carrying the lifeless body of Frank Poole in the space pod's arms.
But Hal is unresponsive. He knows that Dave is not going to fall for his charade again, and thus he knows that if Dave were to succeed in returning to the ship, he would be disconnected. He informs Dave that he knew about the conspiracy to disconnect him, and when Dave hears this he is speechless. His mouth opens and closes wordlessly a couple of times, but then he regains his wits and orders Hal to open the pod bay doors again.
"Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye." With that, communication is cut and Hal has won. Or so he thinks.
For a minute or so, the space pod just sits there. Dave is at an impasse. He cannot get back onto the ship without his space helmet - but if he remains here, out in space, he will eventually die.
Suddenly, the pod begins to move again. It turns itself around, and once again Frank's body floats away into the void. Dave watches as it fades from view.
The next two scenes contrast each other, and together they build up to one of the most exciting, suspenseful sequences in all of movie history. Dave has figured out a way to get into Discovery: he turns the space pod around, and activates his explosive bolts. As he prepares to be jettisoned into the airlock, the machinery makes all sorts of alarm sounds, adding to the tension as he takes a deep breath...and the door explodes, forcing him down the airlock, where he closes the door and lets air flow into the airlock again.
The loud alarms of the space pod suddenly switching to the total silence of vacuum is a shocking moment. (Once again, Kubrick uses sound to enhance the effect of the picture.) This is the ultimate battle of man versus his tools: Dave is using his intelligence to overcome Hal. By thinking of a creative solution to his problem, and not by merely acting like a machine, Dave succeeds in escaping Hal's trap. The cost has been high, however: the hibernating crew members are dead, and Frank is gone. Even though Dave is back on the ship, he is not safe yet.
Now wearing a different space helmet, Dave begins his demarche on Hal. Kubrick's masterful use of sound is displayed here, as we hear nothing except Dave's breathing. In contrast to the slow breathing that served to calm the audience during his routine spacewalk when the AE-35 unit was first removed, the sound here increases the tension of the situation. Dave has survived Hal's best attempts to kill him; it is the man's turn to strike back against the machine. He moves swiftly and deliberately through the ship - and as he does so, Hal speaks again. He tries to engage Dave in conversation, so as to slow him down. But Dave is not buying Hal's ploy. The web of deceit has been broken, and Hal's treachery has been laid bare. Despite Hal's pleas that "it's going to be all right again," Dave can never again trust Hal - and in this life-and-death situation, the ship is not big enough for the two of them.
Hal has been programmed to always speak in a calm, soothing voice, and even now he keeps his monotone. But his words reveal that he is panicking: "Stop, Dave. I'm afraid." Dave will not stop. He enters Hal's memory center and proceeds to disconnect him.
As Dave works, his breathing increases, and we can feel his panic and his fear. Some people have said that the acting in 2001 is wooden and stoic; anyone who thinks so should take another look at this particular scene.
Hal's mind is going. He regresses back the first days of his existence, singing the song "Daisy," and slowing down as he sings. Finally, he comes to a complete stop.
Hal is silent forever.
Then, suddenly, a different voice speaks. For a moment it seems as though Hal is still talking, but then the camera shifts and a small monitor screen comes into view. It is none other than Dr. Heywood Floyd! He is speaking a pre-recorded message, made a year and a half ago before the Discovery had left Earth.
With this message, we realize at last the connection between the discovery of the Monolith on the Moon, and the voyage to Jupiter. Eighteen months ago, back on the Moon, "the first sign of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered." This is why Dr. Hunter, Kimball, and Kaminski were trained separately and placed into hibernation; this is what Hal had been hinting at in his conversation with Dave. They knew that there was something out here, something that Dave and Frank had not known. Hal has known about the true purpose of the mission from the beginning, but he could not tell Dave about it.
There is one fascinating note about this sequence: Of all the messages and data stored in Hal's memory, it would be this particular message that is played when Hal passes away; furthermore, a message of this sort would most likely be played over the regular monitors in the living quarters of the ship, and not in Hal's central nervous system. The odds against this particular message being played, in this area of the ship, when Dave happens to be there for the first time, are too great to be a mere coincidence. It can only be assumed, therefore, that Hal has played this message especially for Dave, so that even after all that has happened, the mission could continue. For Hal, the mission was everything -- even more than Hal's existence itself, the mission must continue. So, in a final act of faith, Hal reveals the true purpose of the mission, and Dave learns the truth at last.
Dave's return to Discovery and Hal's death are two of the most dramatic scenes of all time. But despite all this, the question has been asked: "Just what does all this have to do with the movie?" In the beginning, the man-apes were taught to use tools by the Monolith; then the Monolith appeared once again on the Moon. What do Hal's acts of murder and subsequent death have to do with all this?
The answer is: Everything! The Dawn of Man had the ancestors of Man learning to use tools; the journey to the Moon and discovery of the Monolith shows that Man still uses tools, and he is dependent on them for his survival. Hal himself was just another tool; he kept the crew of the Discovery alive, and he maintained every facet of the ship's operations. But these tools have always threatened to destroy Man, as well. The man-apes used their bone weapons to murder other man-apes. Nuclear satellites orbited the Earth in the year 2001. And Hal, the most advanced of all Man's tools, tries to murder his makers. All throughout the movie, tools have been used to sustain life -- and to destroy it. But Dave has survived Hal's attempts to kill him. MAN IS INDEED STRONGER THAN HIS TOOLS. In this film, Hal's rebellion was Dave's baptism of fire, his ultimate test of intelligence. He has shown that Man is resourceful enough to survive without tools. The man-apes needed tools to survive, but Man does not. He has evolved. He has indeed become an intelligent being, able to exist on his own without any help from tools.
Man is ready for the final step. The Aliens have been waiting for this moment for four million years. The final act begins.
Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite
And now, at long last, the Discovery has arrived at Jupiter. Dave now knows the true purpose of the Jupiter mission, and he knows what the three other members of the crew were going to do once they arrived here. But because everyone else is dead, the awesome responsibility of being Man's first envoy to the Unknown has fallen onto the his shoulders.
The shots of Jupiter and its moons are impressive. Ligeti's unearthly choral resounds once more, a sign that an crucial event is taking place.
Then the Monolith appears again. Each time the ebon block has appeared before, an important event in human history occurred: the man- apes learned to use tools; later, on the Moon, Mankind's presence was announced to the Universe. Another significant moment is imminent. Whatever happens here at Jupiter will have a lasting effect on human development.
As the Discovery approaches the monolith, its pod bay doors open. Dave is going out to meet it, to learn whatever he can about it. We see the space pod approaching the ebon block.
What happens next is presumably told from Dave's point of view. A familiar sight appears on the screen once again: the "magical" alignment that indicates a landmark in human history. Jupiter and all of its moons are in conjunction, lining up in a straight row...
...when suddenly the Monolith disappears, and David Bowman's journey into the Unknown begins.
At this point, the entire structure of the film changes. Up until now, we have been following the standard narrative pattern of plots, subplots, hidden meanings and character development; now, all this is abandoned and 2001 takes us to a realm uncharted in cinematic history.
Roger Ebert states that in some movies, a vague and unexplained setting such as this one may be necessary - indeed, crucial - because the story raises such complex questions that there simply is no easy solution. After all, these are ALIENS at work here. Their ideas are not human, and they cannot be explained in human terms. Therefore, we do not know "why" there are seven flashing diamonds in the sky above the alien planet, and we do not know "why" the space pod suddenly appears in a room decorated in old Renaissance style.
What is happening here? The answer may be quite simple: The monolith has taken Dave and the space pod out of the solar system, and it is bringing him across the Universe to a new destination. This is the explanation offered by Arthur C. Clarke: his novel offers a more detailed explanation of "hyperspace" and methods of faster-than-light travel used by the Aliens, but exactly HOW the Monolith works is not important.
The progression of the lights on each side becomes faster and faster, an a feeling of impossible speed reaches the audience. Every so often, flashes of Dave's face appear on the screen: he is struck dumb by the awesome sight. He was not totally unprepared for this - he had obviously been briefed on the Monolith by Mission Control, and he was ready for the unexpected - but now that he is actually experiencing alien technology firsthand, he is going into a state of shock. After all, no human being has ever gone through what Dave is going through now, and his instincts are not conditioned for this.
Is it a coincidence that the music here is Ligeti's Atmospheres - the same music that played during the prologue to 2001 and during the Intermission? Definitely not! The purpose of this unusual, "cosmic" piece is to create a mood and feeling in the audience, to give an impression of the Universe, and to instil an atmosphere (as the title of the music declares) of mystery. This vision of travel in unknown dimensions is the visual counterpart to Atmospheres: It is a cosmic mystery whose answers we can only guess at. Kubrick is once again using sound (the music) to complement the images of 2001.
Eventually, we see visions of galaxies and nebulae and new-born stars; the space pod is travelling to a part of the Universe that no telescope has ever seen before.
And now we are flying low over an alien planet, with a landscape lit in weird colours. The journey is nearing its end, and the sense of relativistic speed is gone. Finally, in a series of colour changes, the image of Dave's eye becomes normal once again, and we realize that the space pod has stopped. We have reached our destination, but this is certainly not what we have been expecting at all. As the novel states: "He was prepared, he thought, for any wonder. The only thing he had never expected was the utterly commonplace." We have entered the most alien surroundings possible: a hotel room that resembles a first-class hotel room on Earth. Is Kubrick laughing at the audience here, by giving us something completely unbelievable?
Being human, however, we can make an educated guess as to "why" the fancy room is there. Dave is put into familiar surroundings (familiar, that is, when compared to the journey he has just taken) to comfort him. Indeed, Dave has suffered a great shock already. He is shaking and his hair has turned grey - the journey has obviously had a traumatic effect on him. (But can we blame him? Certainly not!) He has been taken away from everything that he has known, and placed into this completely unknown place; even the flashing instruments in his space pod read "non functional" because all contact with the Discovery (and the known Universe as well) has been broken, and there is nothing here that they are programmed to deal with. Thus, the Victorian room - it calms Dave down enough so that he can at least step out of the space pod and examine his new surroundings.
In this respect, Dave has been placed into something resembling a "cosmic zoo." As though he is the subject of a laboratory experiment, he is here: a specimen of Mankind, placed into surroundings familiar to him, ready to be experimented upon. But what are the Aliens going to do?
However, this is only a theory. Other theories and guesses as to a "meaning" and explanation to this sequence have been offered, and they are equally valid.
Except for the breath resonating in Dave's helmet, all is quiet. There is a strange gibberish echoing from somewhere, but the source is unknown. This may be, in fact, the voices of the Aliens themselves, as They watch Dave's every move - and prepare to set the next phase of Their plan into motion.
Dave's breathing suddenly halts, as he hears another sound coming from somewhere, almost like a metallic clicking of some sort.
In another room, there is a figure sitting at a table, with his back to the audience. The figure slowly stands up and moves toward the camera - and here is one of the film's strangest revelations. The figure is none other than Dave Bowman himself, only it is a considerably older Dave Bowman. He looks around, as if he had heard something, but there is nothing.
At first, it seems as though Dave, still in his spacesuit and having emerged from the space pod, is looking upon this other figure, but it is not so. Either Dave has aged considerably in the space of a few moments, or else he has spent a great length of time in this celestial room. When this older figure looks around, it seems as if we had expected him to meet the younger Dave Bowman - but the spacesuit- clad Dave is gone.
Dave Bowman sits down at the table again, and finishes what he was doing: eating a meal. This food has been provided for him by the creator of this room (after all, it could not have come from anywhere else), and Dave seems to accept this fact as he eats. It seems as though that he has spent a long while in the room, and he has become used to the fact that his hosts will not reveal themselves.
Then he accidentally breaks a glass. The sound of the shattering glass is shocking after the near-complete silence that has reigned since the space pod first arrived here. It is as if the breaking glass is a portent of something about to happen. The glass has been likened to the Jewish tradition of breaking a glass at Jewish wedding ceremony: a portent, a symbol of a great change occurring. Kubrick is Jewish, and this makes the comparison plausible. Therefore, Dave Bowman is about to enter the next stage of his existence.
And then something does happen: Dave hears someone else breathing. He looks up, and sees a figure, lying on a bed. It is none other than himself, dying of old age.
What has happened? Did the young Dave disappear, or did he simply age and become the older Dave? This question is never completely answered. When pondering the mystery of Dave's ageing, one must realize that we do not know how much time Dave has spent there, in that room light-years from Earth. He could have been there for a few minutes - or he could have spent the rest of his life there. The appearances of David Bowman as an older man may be glimpses of himself, at various times during his span here.
In attempting to apply logic to this scene -- namely, by giving it a standard "progression of events" with Dave growing older and eventually becoming the figure on the bed -- we may well be adding unnecessary detail to the story unfolding before our eyes. After all, the basic idea of the scene is clear: Dave grows older. We do not know if it happens during the space of a few moments or several decades. When Dave sees his older self, it may be a way of showing how Time itself is being affected (hence his rapid ageing); or perhaps it is only an illusion. But any explanation we can offer is only a guess, because we cannot say exactly what is happening. As with this entire journey "beyond the infinite," it is a mystery that we cannot solve.
(An aside: in The Making of Kubrick's 2001, Kubrick himself says: "The ending was altered shortly before shooting it. In the original, there was no transformation of Bowman. He just wandered around the room and finally saw the artefact. But this didn't seem like it was satisfying enough, or interesting enough, and we constantly searched for ideas until we finally came up with the ending as you see it.")
But the exact question of "how" Dave achieves this transformation is not as important as the question of "why?" Why is he growing older?
This question is much easier to answer. In fact, the entire film has been leading to this point. Dave is growing older, as if his body has out-lived its usefulness. This is exactly what is happening, for he has reached the limits of his Humanity. He is about to take the final step, the last transformation.
The shrivelled figure on the bed lifts his arm. It is as though he is reaching out to touch something. We are shocked to see that he is repeating the gesture that has happened twice before in the film -- for suddenly, in the room at the foot of his bed, the Monolith has appeared once again...
...finally, as the ebon block stands a silent guard, the transformation is complete. On the bed there is a glowing, childlike figure. Dave Bowman has ceased to exist, but he has not died: The Star Child has been born.
What is the Star Child? No one can say for sure. He may be the final result of Mankind's evolution, the grand result of the Aliens' plan. He is far removed from Humanity as Man was removed from the man- apes. David Bowman has been taken to the Aliens' level of existence.
But even though he has become so much more than Man, he is still a baby. He has much to learn about his new existence, and his child-like form is simply the physical manifestation of that innocence. As he gains experience and knowledge and fully masters his powers, he will find that he does not require the use of crude tools any longer; he has outgrown them.
But now, for the last time, there is one final tool that is necessary to complete his Odyssey: The Monolith. It was the tool that let the man-apes survive extinction, four million years ago; it was also the tool that announced to the Universe that a new race of intelligent beings was leaving its planetary cradle. And it was the tool that took Dave Bowman here, to his new birthplace. Now it has one last purpose: to send the Star Child home. It will be the Star Child's final reliance on tools.
At last, as the Monolith fills the entire screen and the mysterious Victorian room disappears, the Aliens' experiment is complete. The triumphant Zarathustra echoes once more, and the planet Earth reappears. The Star Child has come home, back to the place where he was born. He has not returned entirely of his own will, for he is still a child and he does not yet know the Universe. The Aliens have sent him back to Earth as the final stage of their experiment.
If the opening credits of the film were the point-of-view of the Star Child, then the Odyssey is complete, and we have come full circle. At the beginning we were the Star Child, looking at the Earth - but now we are the residents of Earth, and the Star Child is looking at US.
And what happens next? Arthur C. Clarke's quotation says it best:
"Now he was master of the world, and he was not quite sure what to do next.
"But he would think of something."
This is the ultimate purpose of 2001: Man's final destiny. One day, the movie declares, Man will evolve to the point where he will be free at last; he will be unencumbered by any crude tools or physical forms. He will at last take his place in Eternity.
And where shall we go from there? There will only be one last mystery:
"And if there was anything beyond THAT, then its name could only be God."
Hmmmph. So whats the movie really about?
Pioneer Reciever VSX-1015TX
Pioneer Plasma PDP-5071HD
Xbox 360 (The Console to Own)
DirecTV DVR HD20 Reciever
2 Guinia Pigs
Hell, I'm still trying to figure out 1967 to 1973.
Hal: What are you doing, Dave?
Dave: Still reading, Hal. Stop bugging me.
This was all I could come up with off the top of my head...
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