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Fridge Horror

  • Humanity only evolves once it develops the capacity to murder. Not merely kill, but kill deliberately and premeditatedly. The first tool is a weapon. The first expression of intellect is an act of violence. And the famous Match Cut links it all together: the bone becomes the orbital weapons platform. We go from humanity's first weapon to what is, in essence, its last weapon. Millions of years of evolution, and our primal nature remains unchanged.
    • By this rubric, HAL has also evolved past his original parameters, but Dave effectively lobotomized him (in self defense, sure, but just listen to HAL beg for his life in those final moments).
      • Bet you didn't think it was possible to scream in a monotone.
    • Simultaneous fridge brilliance lies in the fact that, while the opening title card/chapter heading reads "The Dawn of Man," there is no title at all at the jump cut and the Moon segment: in other words, we are still at the dawn of man!
  • When HAL cuts off the hibernating astronauts' life support, one can at least be thankful that they die in their sleep and never feel a thing, right? Right? Wrong! Notice how each of the sleepers' vital signs flatline. The last one to go is "Central Nervous System," i.e., the brain. It's ticking at a low ebb before HAL cuts the juice, but goes completely haywire for about three seconds before it flatlines, strongly suggesting their deaths were anything but painless. More? Okay. Remember how time seems to slow down when one is asleep or dreaming? How you can be asleep for a few seconds, but it feels much longer? Now imagine you're one of the three astronauts. You're completely out, and then suddenly your brain goes crazy. Everything is going wrong. You have no idea what is happening. And then you're dead. Sleep well.
    • This is actually what happens when one dies. The last thing to go out is the brain, and it takes far more than three seconds.
    • Further Fridge Horror arises when you remember that at several points in the film it is discussed that the sleeping astronauts on the ship were put to sleep before the ship took off. Imagine going to sleep with the understanding that when you wake up it will be so many months later and you'll wake up for your mission. Except that you never wake up. These astronauts dug their own graves simply by going to sleep.
  • Not sure if this belonged under Horror or Brilliance, but has anyone noticed the rectangular frame surrounding HAL's red eye looks EXACTLY like the Monolith?

Fridge Logic

  • Its scary how above reproach HAL is considered. Mission Control does not seem to be having any computer logs sent back to be pored over by techs. Neither is HAL programmed to notify mission control when it is having conflicts.
    • 2010 revealed that the order to have HAL know about the Monolith and keep the information from Dave and Frank came from the National Security Council (the President and selected military/foreign policy advisers), as it was classified Top Secret. Chances are, Mission Control had no idea (the telemetry could be intercepted and edited), and considering the time delay from Discovery to Earth, along with the very narrow radio transmission limits (no simulcast cable channels, after all), there's only so much data you can pump back from HAL, who probably has ridiculous amounts of it. It's one of the reasons he may have gone neurotic/psychotic; he couldn't even talk to Mission Control about his conflict, for fear of violating his orders, hence his attempt to break radio connection with Earth, so he could no longer feel he was being monitored. And with the link broken, he may have been able to tell Dave and Frank without getting in trouble. But they called him out on the nonexistent fault, which put him under even more stress, and then they dropped the bomb: disconnection. They thought they might have to kill him (or render him brain-dead) if he were malfunctioning. At that point, HAL decided he needed to stay alive (a rational decision), and thus dudes got wasted. As far as Mission Control knew, HAL was an AI of extremely high quality and reliability, and they had no reason to suspect he had any additional orders other than the original mission. In the book, they found out that a ground-based HAL model was suffering from the same psychosis, having been clued in as well. This is why one should treat AIs like other sentient beings; don't put them in these circumstances.
  • The meta-secrecy about the mission that ultimately led to HAL's insanity doesn't make much sense. HAL didn't go nuts because he had to keep a secret, but because he has to also keep the fact he was keeping a secret, secret. Both Dave and Frank come across as typical astronauts, who if they didn't have a military background, would at least have been rigorously trained in military fashion to obey orders and have some familiarity with sensitive information. If HAL had been able to tell them that some of the mission parameters were classified it would have not caused a personality conflict since he would not be falsifying information and, given their training, Frank and Dave should have been able to accept that answer. Likewise, having the other members of the crew be loaded aboard already in hyper sleep was what first made Frank and Dave curious, prompting HA Ls neurosis. Had normal procedures been followed there would have been less need for deception.
    • There are in fact some notable examples of civilian exploration missions having clandestine purposes such as Bob Ballard using his Titanic search as cover for a secret US Navy mission to locate the wreckage of two sunken submarines, USS Scorpion and USS Thresher
    • Could the government really have found only three persons it could trust with the real mission details and not five? No good reason was provided for why Frank and Dave had no need to know.
      • They were glorified chauffeurs, they were there to keep the ship running and get it to Jupiter, the astronauts in stasis were the ones who were going to be doing all the testing and exploration of the monolith. Dave and Frank didn't need to know because, well, they didn't need to know.
    • Had they been aware of the possibility for a serious internal conflict for HAL, they probably would have allowed him to let Frank and Dave know that some information was being kept secret. The problem is, they weren't aware that it could create such a serious issue in the first place. In all likelihood, a computer as complex as HAL wouldn't be fully understood by any one person, particularly since its mind seems to grow and change like an organic brain. What seems obvious in retrospect wouldn't be so readily apparent if HAL were designed to be resistant to such a conflict of priorities, but had developed over time in a way that made him more susceptible to it. The fact that it was only after another computer evinced similar symptoms supports this, since an after accident investigation of the source code would have revealed an issue there without the need for a second occurence. As far as they're concerned, there's no problem with keeping the mission's confidential component completely hidden. It's easier to prevent suspicion if there's no reason whatsoever to be suspicious.

Fridge Brilliance

  • The Match Cut between the thrown bone and the orbiting weapons platform. There's roughly 4 million years of history that Clarke and Kubrick are deliberately jumping past: because between our becoming intelligent and advancing ourselves to travel through space, nothing else mattered.
  • The opening ape-man sequence carries the title card "The Dawn of Man." When the match cut takes us to 2001 and the Space Age, there is no new title card- in other words, it's still the Dawn of Man.
  • The Nietzschean and Odyssean subtext becomes much clearer when you learn HAL was originally going to be named "Athena", after Odysseus's patron goddess. In the course of the film, HAL/Athena is killed by humanity. What's Nietzsche's famous aphorism? "God is dead, and we have killed him."
  • In the beginning, the Monolith gives primitive humans the ability to use tools, which lets them conquer the constant struggle for survival that dominates their hostile environment. Thousands of years later, HAL, the cumulation of humanity's toolmaking, is the only thing letting humans survive the hostile environment of outer space. However, when the machine acquires a very organic desire to survive, it and the astronaut Bowman must engage in another desperate struggle for survival, mirroring the "Dawn of Man" sequence.
  • When Bowman and HAL are fighting, HAL locks Bowman out of the Discovery because humans need technology to live in the vacuum of space. However, Bowman defies the machine and does an impromptu spacewalk without a helmet, proving how far he's willing to go to survive. In return, after he "kills" HAL, he comes to the monolith and is rewarded with a forced evolutionary advancement....that includes the ability to survive in the vacuum of space without technology.
  • There is a subtle reminder to the audience that human intelligence is not simply logic and left-brain thinking. Dave, unlike Frank, has an artistic side; he is shown sketching the hibernating astronauts just before HAL claims the AE-35 unit is faulty. While the sketches are fairly realistic, there's an abstract quality to them as well. In contrast, Frank is shown playing chess with HAL, and after HAL states — incorrectly — that he has a mate in two, Frank blindly accepts it and resigns. When HAL traps Dave outside of the Discovery, Dave refuses to accept that HAL has won the fight. Instead, he risks asphyxiation to get back on board the ship, something HAL never imagined he'd do. For all of HAL's intelligence and knowledge, ultimately Dave is smarter... because he has the human ability to think outside the box and do what he has to do, even if it is insanely risky.
  • During the course of the movie we see not only mankind's first tool (the bone club) but also its last (HAL). In the beginning mankind adopts technology to survive and prosper, but by the end of the movie our technology is no longer a benefit, it has become a crutch and even a liability, and we must shed ourselves of our dependence upon it if we wish to continue to survive and prosper. And what's more, Mankind (as personified by Dave) rids himself of his most advanced technology (HAL) with some of his simplest technology (a screwdriver).
  • During HAL's disconnection, sharp-eyed viewers might notice that Dave doesn't deactivate all of HAL's components. One might assume this is an oversight until you recall Frank's and Dave's conversation earlier in the film, in which they say they will disconnect HAL's higher brain functions but leave the lower functions, such as automated life support control, operational. While it is unclear whether HAL has pumped the air out of the craft (though one would assume so because Dave is wearing a suit), it seems that Dave doesn't want to shut HAL off completely so he can survive long enough to get off the ship and into space.
    • The spare helmet Dave grabbed from the emergency airlock is intended to prevent HAL trying to pull that depressurization gambit on him.
    • HAL has been described as not only Discovery's brain, but also its central nervous system. Completely shutting off HAL means leaving the ship unable to function, so only HAL's consciousness needed to be separated from the rest of the systems.
  • The Soviets' British-accented English shows they've been bilingual since childhood — suggesting a timeline to the amicable relationship between the USSR and the West.
  • HAL's breakdown demonstrates the fallibility of mankind compared to the Firstborn. Because the humans who created HAL accidentally set up a situation in which it would go crazy and kill the crew, this shows that the human race is still a child compared to such beings as the Firstborn, who presumably would be knowledgeable enough to understand exactly how their technology works and not inadvertently create a Logic Bomb.
    • Though if you end up reading 3001, it also turns out even the Firstborn are not immune to unforeseen consequences.
  • HAL's Logic Bomb is brought on because he was, in essence, instructed to lie to Bowman and Poole about their true mission objectives (hinted at here, made canon in both the novelization and 2010). So, why didn't Mission Control simply read Bowman and Poole in and swear them to secrecy? Watch the scene where Mission Control reveals they think HAL was "in error predicting the fault." Poole tries to grill HAL on the possibility that HAL may have made a mistake, and when HAL basically tells him to shut up, Poole has an obvious Oh, Crap! look on his face. Bowman tries to downplay it, then he makes an excuse for him and Poole to go to his pod (saying he had radio trouble), but he's incredibly wooden and unconvincing. Then, when Bowman and Poole go to the pod to discuss their next move, they don't bother to act like they're checking the radio; they just sit there talking, often looking right at HAL. It's little wonder they weren't trusted to keep a secret: they're very bad liars.
  • At the beginning, the monolith triggers an evolutionary leap, which causes the ape to kill a threat. At the end, Bowman killing a threat is the impetus for him experiencing an evolutionary leap when he goes out to explore the monolith.
  • In Also sprach Zarathustra, Zarathustra claims that becoming a (metaphorical) child is the final transformation the soul must undergo to overcome humanity. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Firstborn allow Dave to overcome humanity by turning him into a (literal) child.

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