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The Film “Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick Research Paper


2001: A Space Odyssey is a timeless movie by Stanley Kubrick created in the late 1960s. This is a story of human evolution, not in the classic understanding of it, but the one that shows a huge step that people have taken in developing technology. However, there is a deeper idea that bounds the progress of humanity with a potential extraterrestrial force that gives origins to the religious beliefs of nations (Bradshaw para. 1). The movie became a discovery of its time with artistic and technical tools that helped to transfer the main idea to viewers. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a great example of how art can be used to describe world composition to an audience.

Scene Summary

The movie begins with a scene called The Dawn of Man. Early people that resemble modern apes like gorillas or chimpanzees gather in a cave. At some point, they wake up to discover the tall black rock of a rectangular shape mounting in front of their settlement. People become interested in rock and start jumping around it. This monolith, as it is called later in the movie, scares people, but they are eager to touch it being led by curiosity. The next scene shows one of the early people from this group pass by a skeleton of an animal. He picks up a bone and starts to smash the whole skeleton with it. The entire action is followed by triumphal music.

Cultural Importance

Technologies of the 1960s cannot be compared to the moderns means of creating films. In a particular way, 2001: A Space Odyssey made a revolution by implementing special effects that were new and unknown to the majority of filmmakers (Poole 39). For example, the Star Gate sequence that showed splashes of light changing each other became a revolutionary visual effect that took many efforts to be created. However, the described scene does not feature any space scenes, the costumes of early people resemble the real apes.

Stanley Kubrick, the director of the film, is widely known for his ability to discuss things without directly speaking of them. All his arthouse works feature music that creates long pauses allowing viewers to better feel a setting and ideas behind each scene. Kubrick’s strong focus on visual effects brought him an Oscar for 2001: A Space Odyssey after the movie’s release.

Genre Description

2001: A Space Odyssey belongs to the genre of science fiction, commonly referred to as sci-fi. Its main features include the use of technology for various reasons that are generally fantastical. For instance, there are plots including time or space traveling, civilizations on other planets, or the existence of alien creatures (Mills para. 1). This type of movie usually takes the ideas that already exist in the literature. The interesting feature of the sci-fi film genre is that it often shows the future infrastructure of people being more developed than it proves to be when the time comes. For instance, 2001: A Space Odyssey features developed space stations and computers running on the principle of artificial intelligence. The movie was released in 1968, yet currently, humanity does not possess technologies described in it. The primary aim of science fiction is to tell a story of adventures, to show people what the world could be like with technological advancement, and to argue whether the fundamental principles of humankind will remain unchanged in a new reality.

Human Evolution

The scene of ape-like people evolving into creatures that can use tools is associated with the influence of the monolith (Clarke para.2). This idea corresponds with the cosmic theory of world creation. This theory implies that the creation of countries and technological growth could not be inspired from within since people did not have enough knowledge to build cities and make tools. According to this theory, some extraterrestrial force came to Earth and taught people how to create and use technology (Pye para. 8). This idea intersects with the theological theory that is based on the belief that God has given people the knowledge of how to use the land, build shelter, and perform other important duties. The monolith from the scene is exactly this kind of force that came from the outer space and somehow boosted the early people’s mental development.

Supporters of the cosmic theory argue that people could not build the Pyramids of Giza and similar structures with technologies they had at that time. According to them, someone must have helped them. The history also shows that the cradle of civilization is somewhere in the Middle East or the Northern African region. The first scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey features a landscape that resembles the modern climate of these areas. However, the climate used to be different in the past and first cities emerged in the rich lands with rivers and soil good for harvesting.

The discovery of Çatalhöyük in Turkey became one of the most important steps in understanding human behavior development. This city was considered for a long time the oldest example of an urban settlement. Many academic theories imply that people settled in one place after they changed their types of activities. Hunting and gathering required to be in a regular change of dislocation, while farming called for staying in one place and taking care of crops, animals, and households. The interesting idea is that people soon discovered that they could simply take away the food from other groups. 2001: A Space Odyssey quite accurately represents the nature of the human mind. When the early human discovered that a bone could be used as a tool, he started smashing an object in front of him. This act shows that people are violent and there is a deeper question of whether the development of civilization can change this fact.


Another finding of archeologists is also situated in the modern territory of Turkey. The temple of Göbekli Tepe is more than 11,000 years old and belongs to the Neolithic era. This structure was built for religious purposes of an unknown cult, probably the one associated with fertility. One of the most outstanding features of this temple is that its center has several tall stones of a rectangular shape. They resemble many other constructions of such type. For instance, the Stonehenge that was built much later also has stone pillars as its primary feature. Moreover, religions like Judaism and Christianity have a plot of God giving people stone tiles covered with the written code of conduct. All these elements resemble the monolith featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Early people gathering around the unfamiliar rock resemble the followers of Moses. Whether the monolith itself was the source of power or was it just a tool in the hands of someone else, it boosted their development along with aggression.

Art Describing the World

The major question that I was left with after watching the scene of early people discovering the monolith is whether we are aggressive from the start or was it the influence of the extraterrestrial force. All our history is an endless chain of wars and conflicts. Even on the domestic level, people tend to show violence towards their relatives. While the first thing a human does is destroying something, there is a question of whether it would be safe for us to discover some new technology. However, I have noticed that there is another character trait in the scene, which is curiosity. People are afraid of the monolith, yet they are eager to touch it. The following storyline pictures the strive of people to discover the nature of the monolith situated at one of the space stations, which is also driven by curiosity.

The movie is a great example of the art form that helps to give an audience a different perspective on the worldview. While the genre of a documentary requires facts to follow a certain logical pattern, fiction relies heavily on the plot and storyline. The interesting element about the first scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey is that it is not supported by any narrative. Viewers have to understand themselves the meaning behind the actions. The only line saying that this is The Dawn of a Man offers an idea that this is the story of early humankind. The music behind the scene with a bone implies that this is a moment of triumph, a very important step of people for their further development (Patterson 445). Elements like the landscape of a rising sun support the idea that this is the moment of beginning for the whole civilization.


The Dawn of a Man is a very powerful scene that offers an understanding of the early history of humankind and the reasons why it turned out to be that way. References to the theory of evolution, religion, and historical artifacts combine to make viewers wonder about the philosophy of our existence and purpose. The questions about human aggression and its association with the development of civilization connect with religious beliefs that stand for peace and mercy.

Works Cited

Bradshaw, Peter. The Guardian, 2014, Web.

Clarke, Arthur C. Sparknotes, Web.

Mills, Bart. The Guardian, 2016, Web.

Patterson, David. American Music, vol. 22, no. 3, 2004, Web.

Poole, Robert. “2001: A Space Odyssey.” History Today, vol. 51, no. 1, 2001, Web.

Pye, Lloyd. “Intervention Theory vs Evolution, Creation, and ID.” Intervention Theory, 2011, Web.

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"The Film "Space Odyssey" by Stanley Kubrick." IvyPanda, 13 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-film-space-odyssey-by-stanley-kubrick/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Film "Space Odyssey" by Stanley Kubrick." September 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-film-space-odyssey-by-stanley-kubrick/.


IvyPanda. "The Film "Space Odyssey" by Stanley Kubrick." September 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-film-space-odyssey-by-stanley-kubrick/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "The Film "Space Odyssey" by Stanley Kubrick." September 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-film-space-odyssey-by-stanley-kubrick/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Film "Space Odyssey" by Stanley Kubrick'. 13 September.

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