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produce an epic film that would cross-generational paths and time. Rather than copy
numerous cheesy B movies that were following the screens, he spent over a years in
effects preparation and $11 million dollars to ensure realistic depictions of space.
Using the novel especially written for him by Arthur C Clark, it took the two of them
another three years to put together a screenplay, much of which Kubrick later abandoned.
“He had thrown it all away – deliberately. He went through the script, slicing at
dialogue until, in nearly three hours of movie, barely thirty minutes’ worth of talk
remained. Kubrick was determined to hit his audience with strong visual imagery and let
their own imaginations fill in the gaps” (Bizony). Impressive cinematography, classical
music, and silence are Kubrick’s tools in 2001 to paint a vivid picture of the future of
humanity: a bleak race, devoid of typical human emotion. And eerily enough, we may
actually be well down the path to our loss of humanity.
Kubrick always displayed a certain cynicism about our modern condition (Bizony).
After becoming intrigued with the idea of extraterrestrial life in his earlier film
making years, he felt he wanted to make a “really good” sci-fi movie (Baxter p204). By
combining elements of both a previously made movie, Childhood’ End, and a short story by
Clarke entitled ‘The Sentinel’, Kubrick devised the basic plot of 2001. The premise of
2001 is of an extraterrestrial life form being responsible for human’s success and our
evolutionary history. These aliens give a predecessory ape-man the knowledge of
inventiveness and then withdraw to the far corners of the universe to await our
readiness. From the rudimentary skills that cause the ape-man to look at a femur bone in
a new light, we see the first use of a tool – to hunt. But either their inability to
communicate or form man’s inherent violence, the first tool becomes a weapon of murder.
In this brief scene, we are given our first snapshot of humanity. Our inherent
extreme violence. This snapshot has remained true for all of our time, through bloody
wars, savage murders, and holocaustic horrors.
Considering that the year 2001 is less than a year away, we are still very far from
the space travel that Kubrick predicted. In Kubrick’s time, man had just achieved his
most significant accomplishment in space travel: walking on the moon. In the thrill of
success, who knew what would be possible in a few decades? Obviously, the shuttle for
Mars is not leaving next year with 200 hundred passengers bound for a new space station.
But are we that far away from losing our humanity? One of the reasons Kubrick cut so
much of the original dialogue from 2001 was to present the viewer with a future with a
“chilling lack of communication (Bizony). He succeeded. 2001 depicts future life as a
cold and sterile environment. Floyd is cool and methodical, showing vague interest in
his family without any visible sentiments towards his adorable daughter. The two
astronauts, Poole and Bowman are plastic characters. There is virtually no sign of human
emotion - no excitement, no love, no sadness, no hate, no anxiety, and no surprise.
Bowman shows no remorse over his fellow crew members deaths and virtually no fear when he
regains control over the ship. In fact, the only signs of emotion come from the
supercomputer HAL, who displays fear of discovery when he malfunctions. HAL kills off
the rest of the crew in a vain attempt to cover his mistakes. Perhaps HAL is even
jealous and wants to somehow complete the journey himself, to be the one to rise to new
evolutionary heights. It is ironic that Hal seems to want to be human while humans have
moved beyond their humanity into cold fleshy beings ready for some type of bodiless
god-like spatial existence. Kubrick’s message seems to be that, “The triumph of our
intellect might actually cost us our humanity itself” (Bizony). Could our own brilliant
minds be creating artificial intelligence that threatens our livelihood? Yes. For
future, we predict technologies, programs, and computers to take over even more day to
day jobs. Will we sit back and allow technology and computers to take over our lives and
our jobs? Or will we take back control like Bowman? And in regaining that control over
who we are and how we live our lives, regain the decency that humanity deserves? And
will we, in our sublime humanity, transcend the physical world to become Masters of the
While mankind is not ready to transcend our bodies at this time, we are showing
signs of diminished sensation. Atrocities and violence that once shocked us are now
accepted, even occasionally enjoyed. Chilly offices in corporate America prohibit
interoffice relationships and socializing. Blue-collar workers arrive home from work and
glue themselves to television sets in the hopes of blocking out thought. Parents ‘buy’
their children’s affections with material objects but lose their respect in the end.
Greed causes us to continually want more and the miracle of science continually provides
with new gadgets that cost money but save time. And what do we do with all of this saved
time? Do we spend it enriching our lives with understanding and knowledge? Do we better
our interpersonal relationships? Or do we go to the football game, go shopping, watch
the newest sit-com, have makeovers, and seek frivolous mind numbing entertainment?
Kubrick’s film compelled its watchers to consider their world and their beginnings.
Do we really know where we have come from and how we made that journey? No, but we have
many theories and religions to offer explanations. 2001 was stripped to the core leaving
a stark, philosophical piece that questioned technology, humanity, and origins. He
forced us to look at how greed and convenience have shaped our society. He questions the
technological and intellectual advancements around us. His voice seemed to ring out; “Do
we all really know what we are doing and where we are going?” And he was heard. “The
Baxter, John. Stanley Kubrick. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1997.
Bizony, Piers. “2001 at 25”. Omni, Vol. 15 Issue 7, p42-48, 1993.
Kubrick, Stanley, and Arthur C. Clark. 2001: A Space Odyssey [the screenplay]. Hawk
Filmes Ltd., c/o. MGM Studios: http://www.screentalk.org/gallery.htm.
Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Sixth
Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996.
2001: A Space Odyssey. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. With Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea.
MGM Studios, 1968.