The movie "2001 Space Odyssey"--can somebody please explain the ending to me?

I’ve seen this movie a couple of times, but it still leaves me trying to figure out just what idea they’re trying to get across with the ending. The plot’s pretty good for the first part, until Dave the astronaut disables HAL and continues on flying the space ship alone. But then it gets goofy. There’s the way too long psychedelic light show (I know, he’s supposed to be flying through a star gate or something, and psychedelia was in vogue back in 1968), but then you see him alone in a room, and then as an old man, and then there’s the final shot of the Star Child. So, what’s all this, then?

I read the book, but it was long ago…I think the “light show” was the curve in space / time and the last part was something like parallel realities.
Loved the movie, saw it several times. Love Arthur C. Clark.

Been a good decade since I read the book myself - if memory serves, the main character actually grows old and then is reborn - the child is actually him. But don’t quote me on it.

Whenever I have questions like this, I go to wikipedia,
Here’s what it says for the ending.

A caption reads "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite”. Dave leaves the Jupiter ship in an EVA pod, and encounters another monolith in orbit around Jupiter. While approaching it, he finds himself suddenly traveling through a tunnel of colored light (generally known as the “Star Gate”) racing at great speed across vast distances of space viewing many strange astronomical phenomena, concluding with earthlike landscapes with altered colors. He eventually finds himself in a bedroom containing Louis XVI-style decor. He repeatedly sees future versions of himself, with the film’s POV each time switching to the later Dave. Finally an elderly and dying Dave Bowman is lying on the bed. At the foot of the bed, another monolith appears. It transforms him into a fetus-like being enclosed in a transparent orb of light, the “Star-Child”, who returns to Earth, where he floats in orbit.

The black monoliths are transdimensional tools used by undefined higher beings to accellerate the evolution of lower species.

Dave enters the monolith, comes in contact with it’s makers, spends a liftime learning what they have to teach, and is reborn as ‘the starchild’, a post human entity no longer bound by time or space that will guide mankind’s future evolution.

We learn in subsequent novels that the monoliths are now guiding and protecting an emerging life form on one of the moons of Jupiter, which has been converted to a second, minor sun to provide the necessary energy.

He has entered into Eternity, and is seeing himself at every stage of life, all at the same time. :slight_smile:

The first thing you must understand is that there is no pat answer to your question. The movie is designed to be ambiguous and open to interpretation. So whatever you think it means, is what it means.

Stanley Kubrick said: You’re free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film. Hundreds of people have written about the meaning of the film. Here’s my take.

The whole movie is about the evolution of man, apparently under the influence of extra-terestrial beings, indicated by the presence of the monolith. The monolith is present at crucial moments of human evolution, from the apes learning to use tools, to man’s leap into space travel. Once Bowman has turned off HAL, he goes through a huge leap, not in technology, but in the very nature of man to a higher level of intelligence and understanding. Bowman travels through space and time, guided by the aliens. He finds himself rapidly aging, and on his death bed encounters the monolith. This is when he transforms into a new kind of man, represented by the Star-Child floating in space without need of any kind of technology.

Here are some links that helped me.,_Dave

The last link has a very detailed interpretation of the symbolism and meaning of the movie. Now have some fun and decide what it means to you.

The monolith is an alien device. It has the ability to alter man’s mind and body. It is also a gateway or travel portal. Bowman is cared for by the monolith. The aliens have guided man’s physical and mental development, and contact him at key points in that development. The ‘star child’ concept is kept ambiguous but it does signal the start of a new type of human being. All part of the aliens’ continuing intervention and manipulation of mankind.

This manipulation precludes any evolution in the sense that the aliens decide how man will develop.


Slight side-track, but a funny story anyway.

I saw 2001 a couple times in '69. One of those times was a showing for the students at Syracuse University, maybe a couple bucks a head, and I went (it was my second time seeing it). Right at the point where HAL strands Dave in the EVA pod outside the spaceship and cuts off contact with him, and he’s saying, “HAL?..HAL?..HAL?”, the arc light in the projector failed, and the theater was plunged into total darkness. Out of the darkness there was one lone voice asking, “HAL?”

It took about five minutes for the laughter to die down.


:rotfl: Too funny…

The idea behind it (more from Aurthur C. Clarke’s book), is that the “monolith” is made by an alien race, and is present at each stage of human evolution almost as a guidance toward the next stage of evolution. We start as apes, we evolve into the “star child”

THe philosophy behind it is taken from Frednick Nitchie’s book “Thus Spake Zarathustra” (you’ll notice it’s main theme is of the same name).

In the book “Zarathustra”, Zarathustra is like a prophet, who goes up to the mountain, and when he comes down he declares “God is Dead” and there by goes about redifining morality and the entire meaning of the human person methodically based upon that.

So, 2001 a space oddesy follows the Nitchziean ideal of humanity evolving from human to super-human.

Now as a catholic, the idea of one day evolving so that we are some God-like star child floating in the stars IS, in it’s very definition, the original sin of Adam and eve. That one day “we will be like Gods”, as in this case, floating around in the stars as some kind of super-human star child. Wonderful, in my opinion, but still, pretty far fetched.

Good movie though.

It may be far fetched, but it is science fiction. It’s meant to be far fetched.

Thank you for the research thru the book and on to Nietzsche. I was not aware of the connection and I find it interesting. But, if I understand your post correctly, I would disagree with some of it…

When you refer to “…the original sin of Adam and Eve…”, the God-like star child and “…one day we will be like Gods…”, you take the connection a bit too far. Yes the star child is a leap in human evolution. But I don’t see it as necessarily God-like, or that we will be like Gods.

Of course, I think there are many possible interpretations, and I certainly respect yours. When I first saw 2001 as a teenager, the best part was walking home with my friends, debating about what it all really meant.

I just saw this movie a couple days ago and I have to say that it was definitely a great piece of cinema.

My take on it the whole time was to consider religious and non-religious explanations for what was happening. I like my religious explanation better so here goes :slight_smile: :

I couldn’t help but think that the monoliths represented “discovery”. What type of discovery it was, was irrelevant. The point though was that with each “discovery” man kept getting more and more advanced in areas farther and farther from earth…but he was still just as reckless as the ape at the beginning that killed the other ape with a bone and his creations were flawed (i.e. HAL). Something was off about that. At the psychedelic ending I believe this was a sort of conclusion. An abstract to show that man kept following “discovery”/the monoliths farther and farther into currently unfathomable technological phases.

The part with him in the room at the end seems like an epilogue to me. It’s showing how man discovered so much, but he never dedicated time to discover himself. He never addresses the older forms of himself in the room. He just observes his fleeting life.
At the end when the monolith is at the foot of the bed, this is showing that right when he dies, this man (basically symbolizes any man) makes the ultimate discovery: his human nature, and that no matter how many discoveries he makes, he is still just a human and still dies and still has killed and is imperfect (HAL, yet again as the example).

This isn’t a sad situation though because even though he dies, the fetus/beginning/core of him can never die. In other words, the possibility of a man discovering himself is eternally open to all men individually and as a race. This places the fetus/idea outside scientific constraint (ships, monoliths, computers, robots, etc) because it is not bound by any technological discovery and cannot be contained on any planet but only by God, which is when the fetus is shown floating in space on par with the planets and the cosmos.

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