Top Ten Interpretations of 2001: A Space Odyssey

odyssey1Since 2001 doesn’t explain a darn thing, it can be interpreted a lot of different ways.  It is up to the viewer to decide.  After you take something for a headache, you might arrive at any one of these interpretations:

10.  Dave is Jesus – The main character Dave Bowman is a space Jesus, selected by alien caretakers to cultivate the Earth and point us in the right direction.  He is the chosen one, and the movie is about him evolving into a higher being, although he ends up killing all his pals and murdering HAL, which is not a very Jesus thing to do.  He learns from his mistakes though, by dying and being born again, in the most literal Jesus metaphor I’ve ever seen.

9.  The whole thing is about tools – This is a movie about tools, like This Old House.  It is only missing Bob Vila.  Clearly, the parallels are there.  Chimps find and develop tools.  Man develops spaceships, planetary travel, and very complex computers, including HAL, an artificial intelligence.  HAL goes bonkers, which means we’ve got to spend a little more time developing our tools, just like the dumb chimps did.

8.  Search for GOD – This movie is all about the spiritual.  Exploration is somewhat of a leap of faith in itself, but Dave’s journey concludes in the discovery of GOD, who “saves” him from evil and puts him on the right track.  Dave is embued with the power of GOD and sallies forth.

odyssey47.  This movie is about evolution – Evolution is a gift from some space aliens, who gave us intelligence.  This interpretation relies heavily on the writings of Nietzsche, who believes in the Uberman, the super intelligent man.  This is the final stage in evolution as seen in the movie, when Dave evolves into the Star Child.

6.  This movie is a protest against war – Much of this movie is anti-war and anti-aggression.  The first thing humans did when aliens gave them intelligence is make weapons.  Chimps made a club and humans made orbiting weapons platforms.  Many of the human characters are deceptive and cunning, wanting to win the space Cold War for themselves.  Dave’s trip symbolizes the purging of all the nasty, human aggressiveness and he is brought back to teach others this hippie message.

5.  The symbiotic nature of man and machine – After developing technology, humans have developed a symbiotic relationship with science.  This is what causes the leaps in evolution seen in the movie.  The leaps are metaphysical and very profound.  The first leap is from ape to intelligent man, then man to machine, then man to starchild.

4.  The movie is The Odyssey by Homer – The whole story, the plot, and the characters are supposed to literally represent The Odyssey.  Dave is Odysseus, and he kills the Cyclops like in the story, who is represented by one-eyed HAL.  

3. Where did we come from? Aliens – Aliens made us, guide us, think for us, and are our caretakers.  Each time humans evolve in the movie, the monolith appears, which is representative of aliens.  They have done everything for us, such as giving us tools, helping us along the way, and providing quests for us to solve.  They have inspired human thinking and self-awareness, to the point where Dave discovers his own CREATORS at the end of the movie: the all-knowing and all-seeing aliens.

2.  2001 is an acid trip – 2001: A Space Odyssey doesn’t mean anything.  It’s a space adventure on drugs.  No theory works out all the metaphors, allegories, and symbols in the movie, except if you’re tripping.  This is the 1960s explanation that many people liked back in the day.  Lean back and enjoy the ride.

1.  The monolith is a movie screen – Overall, this is not an escapist movie like Star Wars.  It has deeper meanings.  The monolith represents a movie screen, and the human characters represent us.  Therefore, the movie is an allegory for our attempts to THINK on a higher level and escape the movies, not simply live while guided like an automaton.  This is why HAL had to die.  We have to THINK on our own, people.  The movie encourages us to get out there and think for ourselves, not just sit in the movies like a buncha dummies.  Dave seems to have MADE IT to that higher level at the end of the movie, but he symbolizes what we could become if could really understand this movie.