2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick (USA/UK, 1968, 161 min).  An oblique monolith pushes forward life’s evolution on planet Earth, each time signaling an apotheotic event. Forward to the present day, a monolith is discovered on the lunar surface, sending astronauts Dave Bowman and Frank Poole on an exploratory mission to Jupiter to seek its origin. With their onboard supercomputer, HAL 9000, the pair discover deeper meanings of outer space and human existence than they set out to find – they gain an understanding of the placement of the human race within the vast reaches of the past, present, and future of all living creatures.

Kubrick simultaneously blends a loose narrative juxtaposing humans against machines with subliminal and imaginative imagery representing the unknown fathoms of outer space and time relationships. Connecting to Nietzschean notions of übermensch (super-man), Bowman and Poole are thrust into a race to outsmart artificial intelligence and hold the key to the next tipping point of evolutionary development. From the discovery of Neolithic tools to the organization of society and laws, will human intelligence make its next major breakthrough? As Bowman discovers, self-awareness epiphanies result from the rebirth of man through formative turning points in life’s path to develop, to progress, to understand what he is and what he can be. As Kubrick weaves his tale through the vehicles of the spaceship Discovery and its crew, machine included, wormholes are traversed, technology’s capabilities tested, and viewer’s senses are tantalized by a symbolic retelling of life’s existence.

Eric Cain
University of Edinburgh, Scotland