2001 and Beyond the Infinite

Commentary and Criticism

July 1996 through September 1996

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Date: Wed, 03 Jul 1996 08:07:33 -0400
From: "Bruce C. Miller" [bmiller@usuhs.mil]

Thanks very much for the dissertation on 2001. I'm very happy to see
there are others besides myself who love this movie and what it is
trying to say. Its not just my favorite, but the best ever made.

But to my single point. One of the points of the movie that you skipped
over was the meeting at the moon base between Floyd and other senior
Clavius Officials. This meeting was clearly a one-sided power punch. Not
sure what Kubrick was trying to say, but this committee was being
directed like a military combat unit: there was no discussion and
certainly no principles of democracy were evident. I call it the
shut-up-and-sit-down speech. I mean, who is this Space Agency that can
control the who, what, when and where of releasing new-found
information? Where is the press? What would Floyd have done if one of
the committee members had politely said that he/she had no intention of
taking a security oath, and that they were leaving for home on the next
flight out, etc, etc? Is autocracy, absolute compliance and the
surrender of our Western style of independence now life as usual?

And your point about no sound in a vacuum....I have not seen another
space-based movie get that law of nature right, including Apollo 13! And
I can't understand why. Its such a simple point to get right...just shut
the sound off of the sound track when the camera is in space!

Thanks for the WEB page. Great Idea!!!
Major Bruce C. Miller
Military Medical Field Studies Course Director
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS)
Department of Military and Emergency Medicine (MIM)
Bethesda, MD  20814
Internet: Miller@usuhsb.usuhs.mil

Date: Fri, 05 Jul 1996 01:51:06 -0700
From: "clayton@hooked.net" [clayton@hooked.net]

I believe that in 2001 HAL wanted to tell the truth about the mission
because Dave was his friend. His odd behavior was a series of clues but
it made his attempted malfunction seem like something was very wrong.
They did something that HAL did not want to happen. They wanted to shut
HAL off which, in HAL's terms, would be like killing him. He realized
that it was either him or them. Survival of the fittest. A theme that
was showcased in the beginning of the film when the smarter man-apes
that came in contact with the monolith drove away the dumber ones.
Anyway, Dave is successful in shutting off HAL and right before he is
completely off the message is played stating the true meaning of the
misson. You say HAL was detemined to complete the mission and wanted
Dave to know the true meaning so he could complete it. I believe HAL
showed the message because he didn't want Dave to hate him, he wanted
him to realize what had gone on. Something a friend would do.

Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 19:58:22 +0800
From: "Depto. Legal" [codetel.legal@mail.codetel.net.do]

Hy Bob, first of all my english and my internet knowledge are certainly 
not the best in the world, since I was born and raised in a Latin 
America undeveloped country (Dominican Republic to be specific). So I 
apologize for all mistakes this can cause.

I started to read your essay about 2001 and I think your explanations 
are great (at least the ones that are included in The Dawn of Man which 
is so far the only one I have experienced).  I just wanted to add one 
thing to it, as I will like to do with other chapters or parts of it as 
I continue to read them.

If there is one important thing in Kubrick's masterpiece besides the 
music (thought everything is excelent), is the use of cinematographic 
time.  The Dawn of Man is probably the best part of the movie in that 
manner.  As ape man evolutionatized, a lot of time goes by.  I think 
there were like 5 times in this part of the movie when the screen goes 
black, and it remains black for an important period of time.  As you 
know, in movies that means a lot of time (it could be a day if the story 
is very short and specific, but millions of years in Kubrick's view of 
the evolution of man).  Compare to those black screens in the last scene 
of this chapter, the ape throws the bone to the sky and the 
spaceshuttle? apears.  I think the message is clear: it takes the man 
more time to became inteligent and civilized (as Freud said: the first 
man that holds a weapon and uses it against their opositors was the 
inventor of civilization), than it takes him to use this inteligence to 
build anything he wants.  Its like a cualitative jump compare to a 
cuantitative one.


Hector Molina
adress: codetel.legal@codetel.net.do

Date: Sun, 28 Jul 1996 23:04:48 -0600
From: Greg Smith [greg.smith@usa.net]


Thank you for creating a great tribute to a wonderful movie.  You have
done an excellent job of presenting a straight-forward interpretation of
the film. 

I have been a fan of 2001 since its debut.  I read Clarke's novel (one of
the few instances when I have felt that the movie was vastly superior to
the book) and the book, THE MAKING OF KUBRICK'S 2001.  Over the years I
have developed my own opinions of Kubrick's intent. 

I believe the movie is an allegory representing Man's relationship with
technology and what may be the ultimate outcome of the relationship.  In
this metaphorical view, the monolith is an icon for technology.  Man's
earliest encounter with technology produces a bone tool which is his
salvation from starvation and extinction.  Even this primitive technology,
however, has a dark side which is soon revealed in the killing of one ape
by another. 

After the flash-forward to the late twentieth century we see that Man has
used technology to totally transform his environment.  In fact, there are
no natural shapes, materials, plants or non-human organisms other than the
celestial bodies themselves in this segment of the film -- even the food
is synthetic. Man is totally surrounded by a technological world of his
own creation.  And underscoring this situation, the rectangularly precise
shape of the monolith appears everywhere. 

On board the Discovery, HAL is the personification of Man's technology and
Dave Bowman represents Man.  HAL and Dave become engaged in a chess game
of cataclysmic proportions.  Note that HAL's electronic brain is portrayed
as a huge monolithically shaped room filled with lighted monolithic "brain

The disaster on the Discovery could be any technological disaster in which
Man's own creation becomes powerful enough to destroy him and escapes his
control.  Kubrick may have been thinking of a disaster involving nuclear
weapons ala Dr.  Strangelove, but today our technology seems to have
outstripped our means to control it in so many areas that one could just
as easily contemplate genetic, medical, environmental, or some other
technological apocalypse. 

My best guess at "Beyond the Infinite" is that it represents a kind of
fall of Man from his technological heights after this cataclysm back to
some "safer"  era of technology -- a future dark age following
technological disaster.  I think that the final scenes are meant to
represent Man ultimately reaching out to technology once again, to save
himself from extinction.  This time, however, Man transforms not just his
environment, but himself, the star child being the offspring of the union
of Man and technology. 

As for 2010, I think it attempts to force a very literal and conventional
sci-fi explanation of its predecessor that was never intended by Kubrick. 

Again, thanks for the great Web site.

Greg Smith

Date: Mon, 29 Jul 1996 18:11:59 -0400

interesting attention to details, but why is the monolyth there? and
why was it hidden? men arent supposed to be 100m below the moons
surface. The answer believe it or not goes all the way back to ancient
greece. god creates man, man creates machine, man destroys god, machine
destroys man, or at least he tries. notice all of the theatrical
references. First of all when floyd enters the space station he is
seated in a revoving door. This is known in ancient greek theater as an
eccyclemma. it is used to show a character changing setting from
outdoors to indoors. indeed the setting has changed from space flight to
some kind of terrafirma, but that is just Kubrick getting fancy. The
real theater device is the DEUS EX MACHINA. in theater it is the use of
a crane to bring man to god (god from machine). To reach god man must
fly by means of some machine. The space ship is mans MACHINA. It was
also believed that gods resided in splendour atop mount olympus. Aplace
where no man could reach without god like ability. The moon is Mount
olympus, the spaceship is the Machina. Now that man lives there in
splendour and cumfort he has reached godlike status. The monolyth is the
prize, the trophy, and the clue to the next step, JUPITER AND BEYOND. It
is no accident that the station is named CLAVIUS meaning Key (key to
enlighten ment?) nor is it any cooincidence that the planets are named
after classical gods. I hope this is food for thought now put it in a
pipe and light it up. see what you can find. 
If you dont buy it, I hope my prof does......

From: yzf@pacbell.net
Date: Tue, 06 Aug 1996 17:13:17 -0700

I have another explination for the rapid aging sequence.  He jumps from 
one stage of his life to another to signify that, for Dave, time has lost 
the meaning which we have attached to it.  It seems unlikely that this 
advanced civilization would survive for 4 million years with a concept of 
time as we see it.  Likewise, Dave may not have "aged" at all.  Instead, 
he was experiencing many moments in his new life at the same time. His 
transformation was, at once, infinitely long and instantaneous.

Date: Fri, 16 Aug 1996 02:07:29 -0700
From: Max Gerry [ubermax@ccnet.com]

Your essay begs the question of whether or not HAL understood the full 
implications of what they were looking for in the Jupiter monolith.  
Let's look at it like this:

We've established that if the being overcomes his tools, he is 
something of the cosmic winner in this film.  Since mankind has 
created a tool (HAL itself) that is superior in almost everyway to his 
creator, and since the people onboard Discovery are there to service 
HAL and make his "life" easier (by performing maintenace, fixing the 
AE-35, doing things HAL can't do on his own--the very definition of a 
tool), HAL truly blurs the line between who is the tool and who is in 
charge.  Who is using who?

It may be that HAL came to the same realization that Dave eventually 
figured out--that he would have to abandon his tools to complete the 
mission.  This necessitated killing everyone.  He ends up being undone 
by his own "tool", Dave Bowman.

Date: Fri, 16 Aug 1996 11:11:39 -0400
From: "Etan M. Gery - DLR" [renshaw@ix.netcom.com]

I first saw 2001 about a month ago, and i was completely clueless as to
the meaning.....your web page helped a lot....thanks. Anyway, here are a
couple of points and observations: 
        1. why did aliens place the monolith? what did they, a superior race
have to gain? and why do you say it was aliens? it may have been god,
but i have another somewhat crackpot theory: very early cultures in the
middle east (from where religion sprung up with the idea of one "God")
put up very simple "monoliths" that were just large stones. these stones
have been said to represent man in that their shape is that of an erect
penis. in 2001, was man himself the creator of the monolith? did the
monolith even exist, or could it have been imaginary?
        2. in what way was dave different from frank in that he became the next
step in man's existance? in moon-watcher's case, he was the one who had
made a discovery to use tools. but what did dave do that made him so
special? he was simply placed in a situation where he had to "evolve" in
order to survive by killing HAL. actually, i guess that is extremely
similar to moon-watcher. okay, i'm wrong. but why not frank? it could
have just as easily been dave who was killed by HAL while frank would go
on to become the star child, suggesting that dave did need outside help
to evolve from old lady luck. so why were two characters needed in the
first place? i don't think the point of the movie would be lost at all
if frank did not exist.
        3. as for the debate on why dave saw the message about the real purpose
for the jupiter mission, let me just throw this out: it could have all
been in dave's imagination....who knows, maybe the entire jupiter and
beyond sequence was just dave's hallucination....it would be awful
lonely out there......
        oh well, thanks again for clearing up much of the movie, and i would
greatly appreciate a response

From: tsmith@wind.law.tulane.edu
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 18:48:43 -0700

I just read your 2001 essay.  2001 is one of my favourite books and 
perhaps my favourite (or at least most watched) movie.  Although your 
essay was well thought out and presents a interesting (if not correct) 
interpretations, it does have some minor technical flaws.  I do not want 
to belittle the essay, the oversights are quite minor.

1 - Dr. Haywood Floyd was not with NASA.  He was the Chairman of the 
National Council of Astronautics.  This point is quite clear in the 
novel.  During the briefing on Clavius Base, he refers to the Council and 
Floyd is introduced as "Chairman Floyd."

2 - In the first scene of the "Jupiter Mission" sequence it is Frank 
Poole, not David Bowman who is running around the centrifuge.

3 - The transformation of Jupiter from a planet to a star would not 
affect the earth' orbit.  Gravity is a function of mass, not density.  
Had the "aliens" used interstellar dumptrucks to move additional hydrogen 
to Jupiter, then the earth's orbit would be affected.

[NOTE from Modemac, in defense of my 2010 point: The Aliens did indeed
use "interstellar dumptrucks" to increase Jupiter's mass, by creating
millions of copies of the Monolith.]


4 - Dr. Floyd had to go through voice print identification eventhough Mr. 
Miller and the receiptionist already knew him.  He was not Dr. Flyod 
until a machine confirmed that he was Dr. Floyd.  This show the 
interdependence of man and machine.

5 - In the movie HAL's instructor was Dr. Langly.  At some point HAL was 
instructed to lie. (by Dr. Langly?) A certain organization with a long 
history of lies and forcing people to lie is based in Langly, 
Virginia..the C.I.A.  Perhaps this was Kubrick's little insult at the 
C.I.A.  Afterall, 2001 was filmed during the anti-government frenzy of 
the 1960's where the C.I.A. was especially unpopular with the community.

Tim Smith
Tulane Law School

From: JoshJDS@aol.com
Date: Sun, 8 Sep 1996 15:24:16 -0400

I have just finished reading your essay.  Most of what you said I agree with.
 I would like to note that 2001 was originally released at 160 minutes, but
Kubrick cut it after the premiere.  I am hoping one day this footage will be
restored.  The overture, intermission, entr' acte, and exit music was "lost"
until the 25th anniversary Letterboxed video version, which is a must-have
for all fans.  I recently had the priviledge of attending the New York
Premeire ot the new 35mm print from Turner Entertainment featuring those
little bonuses at the American Museum Of The Moving Image.  Never before had
I seen so many people really enthusiastic about this film.  All four showings
were sold out!

I beleive the Tyco Monolith was buried so man would have to evolve far enough
to discover it.  I believe it is, indeed,  a tool.  This says that even the
most advanced species require tools.  The signal was sent to Jupiter instead
of something like an asteroid, so man would have to learn to travel there.
 Even now, scientists speculate the possiblity of life on Europa, which was a
theme of 2010.

I believe the cosmic light show's purpose was to explain the beginning and
the way of
the Universe to Man.  The jouney throught time and space took so long that
dave actually aged from before he left to when he arrived.  He also appears
terrified in the pod.  Kubrick showed us shots of him like that to scare the
audience.  When you see a figure sitting and eating, Dave (and the audience)
assume that this is something which will explain what has been going on for
the past two hours.  When he reaches out to the monolith, he is ready to go
back to us, as one of THEM, to explain and teach us of the way of the
Universe.  Perhaps he will tell us we are not ready to join others in space
until we unite in peace on our own planet.  Perhaps the monoliths serve as
markers on the scale of human evolution.  Maybe Mr. Kubrick doesn't even know
all of the answers of his odyssey.

Also, consider this.  Man had not been to the moon when 2001 came out.  The
project was started in 1964.  Artifical gravity, images of Earth from space,
the surface of the moon, and detailed pictures of Jupiter really didn't exist
back then.  Most of these concepts were being explored for the first time.
 On of the reasons for the success of 2001 is that it gave people their first
reallistic look into outer space, and not just a guy in a rubber suit in
front of a black screen.  It took four years to do the special effects, and
the effects in 2010 and other films don't top these.  And it was all done by
hand.  Most of them were invented as they went along.  This film should have
won Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay, not just Special Effects.

Also, HAL's panal has the same shape of the MONOLITH!!!  The differences are
that it is colored, labeled, and has and electronic eye on it, but the
rectangular backround is still the same shape.  Perhaps Kubrick is trying to
compare the simularities of these two tools.

-Josh Steinberg 

From: Chris Upchurch [cdu@U.Arizona.EDU]
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 1996 00:26:38 -0600

I found your 2001 web page interesting and thought provoking.  I did
have a few problems, mainly relating to the trilogy of novels by Arthur
C. Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: Odyssey Three, 2061: Odyssey

To begin at the very beginning I feel that I must mention that 2001 was
originally inspired by a short story by Arthur C. Clarke called (I
believe) "The Sentinel."

Also in your essay you never mention that in fact the original draft for
the novel, 2001, was written before the screenplay.  This was because a
screenplay must specify everything in minute detail and is hence, very
tedious to write.  Instead, Clarke and Kubrick first wrote the rough
draft of the novel, which was updated as the screenplay was developed. 
It was cast in it's final form before the final version of the
screenplay was written.  This is why the novel's climax takes place near
Saturn and the movie's near Jupiter.  The setting was changed at the
last minute because the special effects department was unable to produce
a Saturn which lived up to Kubrick's standard of realism.

Another aspect which you fail to mention (probably because I don't think
it is mentioned in the movie) is that, no matter what size it is, the
proportions of the monolith are those of the first 3 squares, 1:4:9.

I feel I should note that the novel, 2010: Odyssey Two, was written not
to explain 2001, but in response to the wealth of new information on
Jupiter's moons from the Voyager mission (Clarke has hinted he might
write a fourth novel based on data from the Galileo mission).

I do not feel that the movie version of 2010 is quite as bad as you make
it out to be.  This may be because I was first introduced to the Odyssey
by reading 2001, thus the movie 2010 did not explain anything I did not
already know.  One criticism of the 2010 movie I did have is it does a
rather inadequate job of explaining the actions of the aliens.  These
actions are described at length in 2010 (and expounded upon further in
2061) and they, not the actions of the crew of the Russian spacecraft
are the true heart of 2010.  The humans are mere spectators in this
cosmic drama.

Overall, I think you made some good points, however, I do not think that
you give proper credit to Arthur C. Clarke.  I believe he is probably
the one most responsible for the astounding realism of 2001.  In
addition to being one of the most renowned science fiction authors of
all time (in large part due to the Odyssey series) he is also a
scientist of great vision (it was Clarke who first proposed the
geosynchronous communications satellite in the 1940s, so you have him to
thank for that DTS dish in your backyard).  When I first saw 2001, I was
awed.  After seeing so many horrible cinematic adaptations of novels I
was amazed at how effectively Kubrick had translated 2001 to the screen.
Kubrick had managed to use cutting edge special effects to bring to life
Clarke's visions of space travel.  He had also managed to tell a complex
and intricate story without the novelist's advantage of being able to
show the interior of the character's heads.

Finally, contrary to one of the other letters in your mail file, I feel
that the best way to watch 2001 (and 2010 as well) is to read the books
FIRST, before you ever see the movie!

I, of course, would invite any comments you might have.

Chris Upchurch

Date: Fri, 20 Sep 1996 15:55:14 -0500
From: strosenb@tweel.attmail.com (strosenb)

Dear Modemac:

        I came to a different conclusion about HAL's "malfunction" than
you and would like to explain.

        As you noted, the part where HAL asks some disturbing questions
to Dave is vital to the story.  But you didn't mention the additional
remarks.  After HAL told Dave of his concerns, Dave remarked that HAL was
doing is "crew psychology report" and HAL says "of course."  This tells
us that HAL was programmed to keep an eye on the crew.  The scientists
who created the mission were aware that 2 men kept in close confinement
for so long might start to crack up, get cabin fever (sort of like the
family in "The Shining") and destroy themselves and the ship.  HAL
could be trusted to keep watch over them.

        When the fault in the AE35 unit was detected, HAL's hubris, as
you said, assured him that it could only be human error.  When the crew
began to doubt HAL's conclusions the machine saw the crew acting in an
irrational manner and concluded that they were no longer capable of
continuing the mission.  HAL would have to take control.  In short:
the computer was programmed to do exactly what he did.

        The only catch is, did HAL have to kill the crew?  Couldn't it have
locked the equipment to prevent the crew form destroying anything while
turning the ship back towards earth?

        I can answer only by speculating that the machine is amoral. When
HAL believed that the mission was in trouble it did what it felt was
necessary to keep it on track: remove the crew.  Killing the crew is 
unnecessarily harsh to you and me but to an object made of metal and 
wires it is merely expedient. Perhaps HAL's programmers could have
done better here but if you think about it, trying to program a machine
to distinguish degrees of severity is pretty hard.  

        What do you think?

Steve Rosenberg 

From: "Jesus Villalobos Lopez" [jesu@redestb.es]
Date: Sat, 21 Sep 1996 06:00:50 +0200

I've just plug into the Web and the first thing I find is this page. That's
what I call a great start!
I'd like to make my own additions to the criticism I've read here. And the
most important is:

This film CREATES criticism.

This may be obvious, but think about Kubrick's filmography itself. Every
Kubrick's movie is not just the movie, but the talking and the writing it
generates.  Think about a film as straight forward as "Barry Lyndon" or as
dark as "The Shinning" - not to mention "A Clockwork Orange" or "Lolita"- ;
no one who watch them can avoid to talk with somebody about them and
extract a set of conclusions, more or less accurate. That's what Kubrick
really wants in every film: to generate thought. It really doesn't matter
if you think the Monolith is this or that; the purpose is the act of
thinking itself. 
Of course, there are different ways of thinking, and Kubrick DID want to
say something. Every artist wants so. But, in my point of view, the
question is not: "What does the film mean?", but "What does Kubrick, as an
artist and a human being, meant?".  I'm not in the possesion of Truth, but
I'll try to do the same that Kubrick does; I'll build my own pieces of the
jigsaw, and let you compose it.
MONOLITH: Mr. Kubrick's mood is definitely not a Fantasy one. All his
movies, with the sole exception of "The Shining" (and there is a lot to
discuss in it...), are very realistic (yes, "A Clockwork Orange" is a
realistic movie, and so is "Dr. Strangelove..."). I don't imagine Kubrick
reading metaphisical literature, but I do imagine Kubrick reading
Nietszche's "Zarathustra", a very crude piece of pragmatical philosophy.
That's why actually I'm not considering the metaphisical explanations (God,
the Almighty and all the rest), even when that's the first explanations I
found when I saw the film for the first time, sixteen years ago (now I'm
31). Instead of that, I think about the evolution of a human being:
childhood, youth, mature age, death and it all begins again. Nietszche
talks about the "Forever Return" (I don't know its exactly translation in
English, I'm from Spain). There are lots of signs that point to this:
circles and spheres all around the film, the Monolith that appears from the
beginning to the end, the same music opening and closing the film, etc. I
think that an explanation of the first and third parts of the movie must
follow this way. The theory of Nietszche's Superman, already mentioned in
this forum, is very obvious to anybody who has read Nietszche's masterwork,
which I strongly reccommend from here.
HAL: One thing I've got very clear in mind is that Kubrick likes to say as
many things as he can in one movie. So I think that he made the HAL part in
order to explain another thing, completely different from the rest of the
film. Let's be honest: if the second part of 2001 (from the first appearing
of the "Discovery" to HAL's last act) would not exist, would the rest of
2001 had another explanation? I think the answer is no. But in this case
the film would not be such a poem, a dramatic poem. As for the behavior of
HAL, I'd like to mention what Dr. Isaac Asimov said to Arthur C. Clarke
(they were good friends) when he saw the film and met Clarke in a SF
Convention: "Arthur, you've spoiled my Laws Of Robotics". Clarke answered:
"And who minds?" Yes, who minds? The scene when HAL is disconnected is one
of the most dramatic, intense and important scenes of the whole history of
movies, and so it is the rest of this part (the conversations with HAL, the
changing of the AE-35 unit, and on and on...). The explanations given in
the film and novel "2010" not only are not convincing: they are not
necessary. A crime is a crime, with all its crudeness and drama. It just
happens that this crime is made by a computer. And who minds? It's
incredibly well narrated and constructed. It is, by itself, a masterwork of
art, and I don't need more. Kubrick is an artist (I'll repeat it until the
end of times), and an artist does not need to explain WHY things happen: an
artist need to explain HOW things happen.
SCIENCE FICTION: I used to read a BIG lot of SF books in my teens. Clarke
was one of my favorites (not exactly for "2001", but for others). The
origin of "2001" was a short tale written by Clarke in the 50's called "The
Sentinel". Its plot is (more or less) just the Dr. Floyd's part of the
film; the rest was built around it. But in "2001", again, the more
important is the WAY that SF is made: silent spaceships, extraordinary FX,
realism... In one word, DIGNITY. I love the old SF movies (and the recent,
too; I've not lost that), but "2001" is THE SF movie. No other movie has
given the genre so much prestige as this film. There are a lot of SF books
and authors that are well considered in the world of literature (Bradbury,
Ellison, LeGuin, Silverberg and lots of others), because they wrote
something different to
Clarke's books are very good... for a SF fan. On the other hand, "The
Martian Chronicles" or "The Dispossessed" are good for everyone. The same
way, "2001" is an important film for everyone, SF fan or not, and the
history of cinema is not complete without it.

These are just a few of the things that one can see on "2001". I've seen
the film 10 or 12 times, and I always discover another detail, something
I've had not realized before, another way to see the film. That's more of
its greatness: it is as inmortal as the Monolith itself.

Thanks a lot for this Web page.

Jesus Villalobos, Barcelona, Spain, September 21th 1996

Date: Sat, 21 Sep 1996 15:26:20 -0500
From: shaggy@datacoreeng.com (Mike Hobbs)

Anyway, I'm not sure how this birth thing fits in with the man/machine
theme, but I thought I'd just bring it up as another observation.

I just watched 2001 again, trying to pick out a theme. (Last time I
watched it, I was a little too young and didn't find much more than
simple entertainment value. For that matter, I may still be to young...)
Anyway, I've also seen 2010 some time ago, but do not remember any of
the specifics, so if this thought is something that was explained in
that movie, forgive me.

My theory is that the monoliths are a symbol for "birth." I can't
exactly relate how the geometric shape fits into the symbol, but it's
interaction in the movie seems to support the thought. The first time we
see it, we encounter the birth of mankind. That is, we cease to be dumb
hunter/gatherers like all the other animals and become tool makers and
rise above the rest. Then, there is the monolith on the moon. This is
perhaps a symbol of man's birth into the space age, having gestated for
4 million years on Earth. Then there is the monolith orbiting Jupiter.
This one doesn't easily fit the pattern. If it is a symbol for birth
here, it's a little more obscure, and frankly, makes me doubt my theory.
But, as one person mentioned before, this one turns 90 degrees, like an
infant during birth. Could the light show then be symbolic of a birth
canal? (Boy, am I stretching the metaphor, or what? :) And of course,
the last monolith is the birth of the Star Child (celestial fetus?). And
finally, as a tie in to 2010, there is the birth of a new star.

Just thought I'd throw out yet another theory into the mix. This is what
makes a great movie great.

Oh yes, there were a few more things that I forgot to mention as
supporting my thought of birth being a major sub-theme. First, there are
2 birthdays mentioned in the movie (3 if you count HAL's). Second, I got
the impression that after the first light show, Dave was witnessing the
big bang, the birth of the universe. Lastly, (this one is rather
tenuous, but plausible) during the big bang scene, one of the shots
shows a comet (or the space pod?) that looks strikingly similar to a
sperm cell.