2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Analysis

2001: A Space Odyssey is arguably one of the most important pieces of cinema when speaking of science fiction and pictures that transformed the genre. Stanley Kubrick, the director of the film, created an ethereal story based upon the writings of Arthur C. Clarke, focusing mainly on some astronauts on a mysterious mission against man and machinery. When questioning the potential meanings of 2001: A Space Odyssey, it definitely helps to establish a pattern. Looking back on the movie, it’s easy for me to differentiate three distinctive parts. The first would be the prehistoric humans, or ‘ape men’, that we see towards the beginning of the film. The second would certainly be the journey of the moon voyagers in the year 2001, the meat and bones of the film. Finally, our focus would be placed on the space baby that appears in the end of the film, drifting amongst the cosmos. What do these three illustrious individuals have in common with one another? 

Most recognizably, the monolithic slab, seemingly appearing out of nowhere to assert its will upon the creatures that lay and gaze unto it. Emitting an opera-like siren sound, the ones who come in contact with this monument have their lives, and the lives surrounding them, changed in ways that alter the entire fabric of our ‘universe’. Our evolutional ancestors learning to turn bones, once considered trash, into tools with different functions, portray this. After their introduction, we get a match cut to the tool of the modern age, a space station. Once the same/different monolith is discovered on the moon, HAL 9000, the spacecraft’s artificial intelligence, becomes sentient in himself and alters the course of the space crew’s mission to Jupiter. This is where the pattern lies in 2001, not exactly to explain the movie or combine the separate ‘characters’ and pieces of the film, but to suggest there is something more universal going on than a simple bone toss or “Open the pod bay door, HAL”.

Though growing up in a time where computer generated effects run rampant, 2001 still managed to hold me captive with originality and comprehensive skill. Especially the more memorable shots, such as the ‘jogging’ scene where the astronaut fully runs across the inner walls of the ship, and the flight attendant carrying her tray up a wall. Oddly enough, the sets almost seem more alive than our human characters in these instances, as throughout the movie they seem robotic and disinterested. The movie succeedingly and ironically shoots for the stars and, in my opinion, lands amongst them. Now, that is not to say that this is a Kubrick film, and that the aroma of pompousness and pretentiousness isn’t tangible. I think this in itself is a callback to the subject matter of movie, oddly enough, as we find ourselves looking just like the apes and the humans after it, gawking at a black ‘monument’, seeing something we quite don’t understand. After all, the movie does begin completely black, for a few minutes at least.

The monolith, our connecting figure of the divine or possibly alien, gives us tools. How we used them however, turns out to be our demise. The primordial apes took to using their newfound tools to kill each other. Once HAL gained consciousness, he becomes paranoid and commits murder. The monolith finally, rebirths Bowman, who we last witness flying towards Earth. If we go off the beliefs of the times, in 1968, we may think that he represents peace and a new era. Although, if you think about what the pattern has set forth in this film, we are doomed to repeat history, naturally or artificially created. The space baby isn’t going to save earth, he may be in his way to destroying it.

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