2001: A Space Odyssey

Question: I don't understand the significance of the monolith or the starbaby. Can someone explain it to me?

Chosen answer: The monolith is a monitor placed by the aliens to track the progress of developing civilizations. When humanity found the monolith on the Moon, that signaled a certain level of technological advancement. The starbaby is the evolution of the astronaut, as the symbol of humanity, from "Earth-bound" to a true child of the universe, turning his back on the Earth and looking toward the stars.

scwilliam

In both the Arthur C. Clarke story and in the movie, the Star Child does not "turn his back on Earth"; quite the contrary, as soon as Bowman transforms into the Star Child, his first impulse is to instantaneously return to Earth, which he does just in time to stop a nuclear war. In essence, Bowman becomes the guardian of Earth.

Charles Austin Miller

New this month Answer: As author Arthur C. Clarke explained it, the first Monolith (the one seen at the beginning of the film and then buried on the Moon) was a space probe from an incomprehensibly more advanced alien intelligence that resided inside a star elsewhere in the cosmos. The Monolith's objective was to seek out lifeforms that had potential and "tweak" their neural evolution, causing them to evolve toward intelligence. In the case of Mankind on Earth, once the modification was made, the Monolith probe retreated to the Moon and waited 4 million years for Mankind to reach it. When Mankind reached the Moon, the Monolith sent a signal to the next phase of the experiment, which was another Monolith in orbit of Jupiter. When Mankind reached the Jupiter Monolith in a matter of months, the Monolith acted as an interdimensional portal to the other side of the universe, transporting the evolved human specimen to its creator (that resided within a star). The creator intelligence found the specimen (Dave Bowman) to be of acceptable quality and rapidly evolved him to the next level, a Star Child. The Star Child is a "godly" evolution of Mankind. The Star Child chooses to instantaneously return to its home planet (Earth), where it stops a nuclear war.

Charles Austin Miller

Question: Is the "singing" by the monolith heard by the characters or just the movie audience?

New this month Answer: Aside from the piercing radio signal transmitted on the Moon, the Monolith makes no sounds or "singing" whatsoever. Intending this film to be as scientifically-accurate as possible, director Stanley Kubrick deliberately and correctly opted for total silence (no sound effects) in the vacuum of space. He knew, of course, that dead silence is a sure way to lose audience attention, so he commissioned an original musical soundtrack (but never used it). Instead, Kubrick chose to use an eclectic variety of classical symphonic and more modern choral compositions as his "guide music" during production and then as the actual soundtrack of the film. Interestingly, there's no music at all in scenes with dialogue, and no dialogue in scenes with music. As for the "singing" that you mention, you're probably thinking of composer György Ligeti's "Atmosphères" and "Lux Aeterna," which Kubrick used to achieve a mournful, eerie, otherworldly feeling in some scenes. To be clear, this music was not supposed to represent the Monolith "singing"; no characters in the film heard the musical soundtrack, as it was intended solely to set the mood for the audience.

Charles Austin Miller

Chosen answer: As is the case with all non-diegetic sound in films, the characters do not hear it.

Question: Why did HAL go berserk? I thought it was because HAL knew the real reason for the mission (as Dr. Floyd reveals in the pre-recorded briefing), and was suspicious or curious of whether or not Dave and Frank knew. So when Dave is showing his drawings to HAL, HAL uses this opportunity to discuss the "rumours" with Dave. HAL of course is thinking as a computer in a chess game, and assumes to know what Dave will say next. But Dave thinks HAL is doing some psychology report on the crew and asks HAL that question. HAL did not expect this response, and quickly responds, "Of course I am." Now HAL is caught in a lie and does not know what Dave's next question might be, so he diverts the conversation by creating the AE-35 unit crisis. This, of course, sends the astronauts down a path that he cannot control, and he ultimately must terminate the crew to protect himself.2010, however, went down some other path that did not make any sense to me. Hence the question. I would love the opportunity to discuss.

mschiavi

Chosen answer: This is explained in the sequel, 2010. In that film, Doctor Chandra explains that Hal was given orders that directly contracted each other. He was informed about the monolith and instructed to complete the mission should the humans become unable to, but was also programmed not to deceive, and to relay information without distortion. This caused a "mental" breakdown in his programming. He decided the only course of action was to incapacitate/eliminate the crew and then complete the mission.

New this month Answer: The HAL 9000 was designed to replicate almost every aspect of human mental processes, faster and with perfect recall. It was, essentially, artificial intelligence, but not nearly as complex as human intelligence (because nothing is as complex as human intelligence, that we know of). In carrying out the Jupiter Mission, HAL was instructed to deceive the standing crew (Frank Poole and Dave Bowman) regarding the mission objectives; however, HAL was not so sophisticated that it knew how to deceive. As it turned out, HAL was "human" enough that it felt guilt and even paranoia for deliberately lying to Frank and Dave. But HAL had no contingency for guilt or paranoia responses, and it drove the machine quite mad. Homicidally insane.

Charles Austin Miller

Question: Can anybody make out the instructions on the zero gravity toilet on the space craft?

Spaceboy_007

Chosen answer: The wording was spelled out in the "making of" book. Someone took the time to reproduce it here: http://www.ee.ryerson.ca/~elf/aso/zeroGtoilet.html.

Question: What was the ultimate destination of the Jupiter mission? The giant planet is made of gas, it has no solid surface to land on. Theoretically a spacecraft could land on one of Jupiter's moons, but they lie within the lethal radiation belt.

Chosen answer: The ultimate goal was to orbit Jupiter to study the Monolith also in orbit around it.

Grumpy Scot

New this month Answer: The objective of the Discovery (Jupiter) mission was to locate the recipient of the powerful radio signal that was transmitted from the Moon earlier in the movie. Interestingly, the destination of the Discovery mission changed between Jupiter to Saturn and back to Jupiter during the production of the film. The Jupiter visual effects had already been shot ("in the can" as it were) when Stanley Kubrick decided to change to Saturn. It was the protest of the visual effects team, who had already spent much time and money on the Jupiter effects, that convinced Kubrick to stay with Jupiter. In the meantime, author Arthur C. Clarke went ahead and changed the destination to Saturn in his written treatment of the movie.

Charles Austin Miller

Question: Maybe I need to read the book, but can someone explain the whole ending sequence to me. Why all the flashy over dramatized pictures? It's artistic but is there some other meaning to it?

iceverything776

Chosen answer: All the flashing images are supposed to represent Bowman travelling past far and distant galaxies, this is what happens in the book, where he travels to that white house place.

troy fox

New this month Answer: At the end, in the Arthur C. Clarke's story, both Dave Bowman and Frank Poole (who survived) went to a moon of Saturn to investigate the second Monolith. Dave Bowman tried to touch the Monolith with his space pod and was sucked into a wormhole that transported him to a star on the other side of the universe - at which point, Dave's last transmission is "My God, it's full of stars!" All of the "slit-scan" visual effects by Doug Trumbull (based on effects created by John Whitney years earlier) represent an almost instant voyage to the other side of the universe. Whether this is supposed to be a quantum-jump is not explained, but it's millions of times faster than anything ever depicted in Star Trek or other space fantasy knockoffs.

Charles Austin Miller

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Quotes

Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

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Mistakes

When Dave gets his supper, the order of the slop from right to left is yellow, light brown, light brown, dark brown. Later when he's eating, the order is yellow, orange brown, dark brown, light brown.

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Trivia

The little girl on the picture phone is director Stanley Kubrick's daughter Vivian.

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