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How Kubrick got one thing about human evolution wrong in his masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey

How Kubrick got one thing about human evolution wrong in his masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Scified2020-04-06 08:00:35
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The joy of watching movies, and in particular, exceptional movies, is the process of experiencing the greatness: the greatness of the actors, the plot, the production, and the director. When sitting in a cinema chair against a giant screen and watching a masterpiece, suddenly everything starts to fade and you become the participant of the action.

This level of “immersiveness” can be found with many directors. But we’re not here to list all of them and do a comprehensive analysis of their portfolios. We’re here to talk about one legendary director and his legendary work - Stanley Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey. And we’re even going to attempt to catch some grey areas found within the plot.

Before I even try to somehow explain the magnitude of this movie, I need to quickly admit one thing: when I come across a work of the Sci & Fi genre, whether it’s in movies, books, or games, I immediately become the most subjective person in the world, excessively enjoying every little detail that would somehow be associated with physics, space travel, and technology.

A movie of great magnitude

And the same level of subjectiveness struck me when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey. To get the context of why this movie is a masterpiece, we need to keep in mind that it was made back in 1968, where there was no Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) or other types of visual effects. And when you actually see the scenes of space travel and solar system, you’ll be astounded by the level of detail and visual sophistication. Personally, I would never think that this movie was made that long ago and involved no CGI whatsoever.

From apes to space explorers

As for the plot itself, here’s the short synopsis: the movie starts by showing pre-human creatures - monkeys - that live in a group and have no knowledge or perception of the surrounding nature. Their first turning point for this species is when they come across a perfectly-rectangular piece of the black slab that mysteriously attracts them. It’s not long after that that the monkeys start using bare bones to defend themselves and even hunt for wild boars roaming around them.

From that point begins the story of human evolution and we’re fast-forwarded in the year 2001 when humanity finds the same rectangular slab on the surface of the moon. When a group of space travelers approaches the slab, the slab emits a high-powered signal whose destination seems to be Jupiter.

Not to spoil the whole movie, another space team sets off towards Jupiter, where they’ve teamed up with a super-computer, HAL 9000, and they need to complete the journey at all costs, or do they? This is not the focus of our article, but rather how the movie ends and what message it emits.

The message of Space Odyssey - is it accurate?

The movie ends with the following hidden message: humanity, with the help of that mysterious black slab, will eventually go to the next logical developmental stage, which entails having no physical needs, no desires, or no cravings. Actually, this message is much better explained in Arthur C. Clarke’s book with the same title, where the author suggests that the next generation of mankind will tame the dimensions that we’re locked in and will turn into this transcendent race that isn’t bound by physical or emotional limitations.

But in my opinion, this is a very long stretch and not a very realistic scenario at that. You see, the whole “charm” of being a human is associated with being vulnerable, limited, and fragile. Our emotional craving for passion, thought, love, as well as physical needs to eat, sleep, and stay in motion, are the ones that actually make us human.

Our craving for risk and passion

Let’s take one example: Canada is one of the nicest and the most chill countries in the world in a sense that Canadian people are almost always rational, polite, and well-tempered. However, if you look a bit closer, you’ll be able to notice that even these rational people have some quirks.

Just take a look at the popularity of gambling among Canadians. Every year, the casino industry of Canada makes more than $30 billion dollars and every six out of ten Canadians engage in one form of gambling or another. What this goes to show is that even the most rational people that Canadians are can be passionate about irrational things. I mean, gambling isn’t the most logical way to spend your money as its nature is to make people spend more and prevent them from making profits.

Love is what makes the world go around

So, we’ve got passion and we’ve got a craving for risk. But what about love? As the famous song from Deon Jackson claims, “love is what makes the world go around.” And love is nothing more than our emotional response to the close connection with another person, whether it’s our spouse, mother, father, sibling, or a friend.

But as Kubrick’s and Clarke’s story suggests, ultra-dimensional creatures, with the help of that mysterious slab, will lead us towards our logical transformation: the state of being where the time ceases to exist, we lose our bodies, our emotions, and our cravings. This also means knowing no love or having no loved ones. We won’t be able to enjoy every second spent with them, won’t get afraid over the prospect of losing them, or be extremely ferocious when someone threatens them.

Physical cravings serving emotional necessities

And then there are the physical cravings that are also pretty important to mention here. Every living creature that exists in this world has the necessity to eat, sleep, and stay moderately active. If not, their bodies will start to deteriorate and eventually die. Now, many people think that these are merely physical requirements that, if non-existent, wouldn’t change much for us as humans.

But even that may not be the case, in my opinion. Sure, the food we eat or the hours we sleep nourish our bodies physically but they also give us mental health and emotional stability. Just remember the last time when you were extremely irritable because you didn’t have anything to eat or didn’t get enough sleep. Therefore, you had a clearly emotional response to the lack of physical nutrition. And by “canceling” those necessities, we’ll also bid farewell to the things that make us human.

We’re still humans

In short, becoming an ultra-dimensional being means not being human anymore and it’s not something that many people would want. I certainly wouldn’t want to not enjoy everyday things that I love: watching legendary movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, doing what I love to earn for the living, or spending quality time with my loved ones and realize that while tragic, life is still wonderful.

As for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and its ending, I can only say this: I was really intrigued by how this millennia-long journey of mankind found its ultimate conclusion. Starting off as an ape and ending up as a transcendental being? Now that’s what I call a plot. And while I may not be agreeing with its predictions about our real journey, it nevertheless is a legendary ending that I’ll never forget.

Written by ChrisPublished on 2020-04-06 08:00:35
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1 Fan responses to How Kubrick got one thing about human evolution wrong in his masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey


Apr-07-2020 11:13 AM

one of my pet peeves is when people lump monkeys in with apes, they are not the same thing! Yes, they are both primates however Apes and Monkeys diverged from a common ancestor 30 million years ago.

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