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The story is a hidden message about a method for resurrecting the dead on Jupiter
According to the mysterious Toynbee Tiles anyway.
  • Alternatively, a tile artist watched the movie while drunk and got REALLY excited...

The next stage in human evolution isn't the giant fetus — it's Artificial Intelligence.
The Monolith accelerated the evolution of AI just like that of primates.

Evidence: HAL, a computer, expresses emotions at the end. Sure, the 9000s are built long before the humans discovered the Monolith, and these computers are already proven to have a perfect track record. But having a perfect track record doesn't mean HAL perfectly mimics the human mind. The track record deals with logic and analysis, not feelings such as fear, suspiciousness and regret. Heck, those feelings tend to get in the way of perfect track records.


An inexplicable skill also happened to the primates after the Monolith. Logically, they have no apparent reason to attack the other, less intelligent group. The little battle seems completely intentional from their part. It is not from self-defense, quick instincts, or simple emotion.

The human and AI minds might appear far from each other, but consider. AIs are created from our knowledge. The aliens, however, would be completely different in nature; the aliens in this film truly are alien.

  • "As soon as their machines were better than their bodies, it was time to move. First their brains, and then their thoughts alone, they transferred into shining new homes of metal and of gemstone. In these they roamed the galaxy. They no longer built spaceships - they were spaceships." -All four books in the Space Odyssey trilogy and "The Sentinel", the short story on which the series was based.

The Aliens are speaking in excitement about Dave in the hotel room.
It is speculated that the strange gibberish echo-y voices that can heard in the hotel room are the aliens themselves speaking. They stop talking the moment Dave sees his older self eating because the experimental process has just started. So they've been quietly watching and analyzing as Dave gets older. They're either patiently watching as Dave ages naturally or accelerated the process to have him age quicker.

The SAL 9000 is the "twin-9000".
The "twin-9000" computer mentioned in the first film could very well be SAL 9000, unless there are other 9000 computers we haven't heard of.
  • This is confirmed by the 2010 novel.
    • It's confirmed in the 2001 novel. They tested their other two Earth-bound HAL 9000 computers to see if they would snap under the stress HAL did. They ended up proving the theory.
      • Yes, but Clarke didn't reveal that the computer was named SAL until 2010.

Contact (at least, the film version) is an alternate universe of 2001.
The mysterious aliens who built the Portal Network in the Vegan System are the creators of the Monoliths. The aliens who made contact with Earth are one of the many alien races that have evolved due to the Monoliths.

The Aliens created the rings of Saturn.
In the first book, there is a sentence which suggests that "no one had ever given the slightest thought to the curious coincidence that the rings of Saturn had been born at the same time as the human race."
  • The novel says this explicitly. The creation of the Monolith destroyed a moon. They say it outright.
    • Oh. I guess I overlooked that.

It's not about aliens at all. Or not literally. It's about the nature of man.
  • And it does this by comparing us, successively, sort of in hierarchic progression, to other things, in a way that brings up all the biggest questions about us now. The first act is about the question of what, if anything, separates us from animals. The second act is about the question of what, if anything, truly and meaningfully separates us from machines. (Not a stretch considering it's Kubrick.) The final act is about the question of what separates humans from the divine.
    • This is called "analysis". It's what happens when you don't take things at face value.

The Starchild is a representation of the next stage in human evolution.
  • Over the course of the human race's evolution, we have become more infantile in proportions (neoteny is the technical term; chibi is the otaku term), which would explain the enormous space-fetus part. Tying into Clarke's Third Law is that people will become absurdly powerful by modern standards, explaining why it's an enormous space fetus. And, since the Monolith caused the first jump, it would also cause the second one, natch. Probably the most boring explanation for the ending ever, but meh. Also, read the book before you watch the movie: that way, the end is a hell of a lot less Mind-Screwy.

Moon is in the same universe as 2001: A Space Odyssey.
GERTY is essentially a nice version of HAL-9000. The cloning and technology seem similar as well.

The Aliens destroy or redirect everything headed beyond the Sol system
This explains the reason there is no 'Voyager 6' by 3001. Space technology is extremely advanced to the point where humans build space elevators and a ring around Earth made out of diamonds mined from Jupiter's/Lucifer's moons. They even terraform and colonize Ganymede. So why are there no interstellar colonies? Why was Frank Poole almost the first man to leave the solar system? Because interstellar space is as forbidden as Europa, of course! The monoliths have convinced the Aliens that humanity was omnicidal in nature, and need to keep humanity away from intelligent life. (By 3001, the aliens decide that humans are such maniacs that they need to be exterminated). So, Halman or possibly the Monolith pushes Frank Poole closer to the ship in the outer solar system, blows up robot probes when they pass the Oort Cloud, and haunts interstellar expeditions so that one crew member dooms the whole ship.
  • Yeah it sort of bugged me too that there are no human colonies further than Ganymede in 3001, even though Ganymede had already been colonized in 2061, meaning human migration must have just stopped for 900 years. There is a line in the book which says that humans had sent unmanned probes to all the stars within one hundred light-years. Maybe there's a prohibition similar to the one about landing on Europa, except in this case unmanned probes are OK, but manned ships are diverted. It might also explain why Frank Poole was still puttering around the Kuiper Belt, even though after a thousand years he should have been much farther out.
  • The reason humanity has no interstellar colonies by 3001 is simple. It is just.that.hard to colonize other stars. Remember that there is no FTL in the 3001 version of the Space Odyssey universe. Even the firstborn had to send a light-speed message in 2001 to a relay station 500 light years away, and wait 1000 years for the reply. Even having colonies in the Kuiper belt is actually only a tiny fraction of the entire solar system, which extends out to the Oort Cloud over 1 light year away from the sun. (Note that in 3001, it is never explicit that the Firstborn actually decide to exterminate humans. The humans just think/worry that this is the case, or that the malfunctioning monolith might just misinterpret any signal and become destructive anyways. The final line actually suggests that the Firstborn decided not to do anything to humanity. Yet.)

HAL's murder of the astronauts was prompted not because he was trying to cover for a mistake he had made, but because the people running the mission had specifically programmed him to do so under certain circumstances.
This was a theory put forward by Rob Ager in his analysis of ''2001''. (Note his analysis covers the film only, not the book version.) The gist of the theory is this: HAL had been programmed to run subtle psychological tests on the crew all throughout the journey to Jupiter. If at any point, any or all of the crewmembers were determined to not be completely under HAL's psychological control, then HAL would have to dispose of them. HAL was sure that Frank was under his control because he had been able to beat him by cheating at chess. But Dave was a more sceptical sort, and when Dave insisted on double-checking the AE-35 unit instead of buying HAL's explanation of its failure, the crew's fate was sealed. HAL's "kill the crew" programming was then activated and he began carrying out his orders of exterminating everyone on the ship. (It may seem far-fetched that Mission Control would create a computer program that would result in the murder of an entire crew but this is a Kubrick film we're talking about. If you know anything about Kubrick's politics and other film works, it certainly wouldn't seem implausible to him that an Authoritarian Government Agency would casually terminate a crew on a mission as important as this one if it weren't completely certain of its control over them.)
  • But if Mission Control's top priority was maintaining HAL's authority over the crew, they wouldn't have told Dave and Frank that HAL was in error predicting the fault of the AE-35 unit.
    • Bowman, by checking the replaced AE-35 unit and seeing that it was functional, already knew that HAL was in error. HAL's control over Bowman was lost at that point, regardless of what Mission Control would have said.
  • This kind of fails logic because, with the crew dead, who's going to carry out the actual mission? You've got who-knows-how-many-billions-of-dollars worth of space ship sitting there with nothing to do, now. Although one way to explain it is HAL was only supposed to kill one or two as a warning to the others, but someone didn't debug the code properly. Really, though, all it'd take is a quick call on the video phone: "Hi guys, how's it going? Food agreeing with you? By the way, fucking do exactly what HAL tells you without question or you're staying cooped up in there for the rest of your lives. Have a nice day." End of problem.
    • According to the theory, what Mission Control wanted was for HAL to have complete, subconscious, psychological control over the crew without the crew even knowing that it was under said control. The people running (what would be arguably) the most important mission in all of human history apparently thought that this type of strict psychological control over the crew was necessary, and they were willing to sacrifice an entire multi-billion dollar mission in order to ensure it went the way they wanted it to. (Note: at no point is Kubrick saying that the people in charge of this mission were acting in a normal, rational way. Rather, this scheme is the handiwork of an extremely paranoid, authoritarian government that only pretended to be normal on the surface—the type of conspiratorial government that Kubrick feared in real life.)

Dave believes that he sees God (literally) near the end of 2001.
"My God!" isn't used as an exclamation; it's used to identify the pronoun "it" in "My God- it's full of stars!" (For a not-so-serious example: "My chocolate- It's full of peanut butter!")

And the monolith are devices that allows the ignition of the Spark without the person dying.

It wasn't the use of clubs that the monolith introduced to the proto-hominids, but imagination.
Basic tool use was already something they were capable of, as with chimpanzees today. Mechanically, a club isn't that big a breakthrough. What was groundbreaking was the affected apes' ability to imagine the far-reaching opportunities that might follow from the use of an implement like the bone club, as illustrated by those shots of a warthog tapir collapsing as the skull was being smashed.
  • The novel seems to explicitly state this. When Moon-Watcher first moved the bone around, he "felt a pleasing sense of power and authority".

A Clockwork Orange takes place at the same time as 2001.
Both are Stanley Kubrick films that take place in the future. The year in A Clockwork Orange is never stated, and the events could be taking place on earth while Hal 9000 is going crazy.
  • It is alluded to though. The old, singing drunk Alex and his droogies assault at the beginning of the film complains about "men on the moon, and men spinning around the Earth, and ain't no attention paid to earthly law and order no more." I don't know how to explain the 2001 album in the record store, though.

The Monoliths only accelerate evolution when the subject is ready.
When the apes come in contact with the monoliths they are developed enough to gain a jump in evolution, however when humans find the monolith on the moon it emits a high pitched shriek to drive away the people because they are not "ready", this occurrence did have an effect on HAL however because of the level of sophistication of its design. When Dave finds himself in the hotel room he is being deliberately aged until he is ready to be evolved (into a space fetus apparently).
  • The monolith isn't making the screech because they're not ready, but because they are. The shriek is the signal to the Jupiter monolith that's supposed to tempt humanity out to Europa, where the "evolution" process will happen, and it's only activated when sunlight touches the monolith - that is, being physically excavated from the moon is how the aliens are defining "ready". The pain was just a simple physical side-effect of standing next to a giant alien transmitter.

The aliens who created the Monoliths also sent Albert Einstein.
Einstein was either one of them, or a human created by them to further advance humankind. If you want proof, his surname literally translates as 'Monolith'. The German 'Ein Stein' means 'one stone'. The English word monolith has the very same meaning. Einstein = one stone = Monolith.
  • Alternate theory: Einstein encountered a Monolith in his youth, and touched it...

Frank knew all along that Hal was malfunctioning.
During the chess game, Hal informs Frank that Hal will win in two moves. In actuality, Hal would win in three moves, but Frank does not notice the error and accepts his loss. Later, in the pod, he is the one most adamant about disconnecting Hal, and was able to immediately start naming off the way to do it so that the ship's systems wouldn't be affected by the disconnect.

Frank did notice the error, but was simply playing along so as not to precipitate anything with Hal. Notice that Frank stares at the screen for several seconds before conceeding the game, as if analyzing the moves in his head. Being alerted to the malfunction, Frank secretly brushed up on the Hal-9000 disconnect procedures in case it became needed. The malfunction with the AE-35 unit simply proved his suspicions.

Why did he still go on the mission to replace the AE-35? Several reasons. 1) He didn't think that Hal knew about their plan to disconnect him. 2) Hal had, as of yet, made no move against the crew, so the malfunctions weren't seen as life-threatening, simply endangering the mission. 3) Even if he suspected anything, he didn't want to risk Dave's life if Hal did decided to do something. 4) If he suspected anything, he wanted to try to keep Hal from knowing that he knew, and a sudden change (like sending a different person to complete the replacement) would have alerted Hal.

The Firstborn are Engineers.
From The Lost Worlds of 2001: Apart from their unusual height - more than seven feet - the creatures that looked down upon the world of Pliocene were strikingly human (...) With a little plastic surgery, Clindar could have passed for a man. He was hairless...

Sound familiar?

  • This could be rephrased as: Ridley Scott has read The Lost Worlds of 2001. I'm pretty sure that the answer is a yes.

The Discovery was fitted with HAL as a time-saving feature
Discovery was slapped together so fast there are irregularities that required constant observation. HAL was the only way to get around it. How HAL would interact with the humans wasn't even really considered.

One of the hibernating scientists was a weapons officer
For all we knew, the monolith sent an "attack" message.

Star Destroyers form the "wedges door" on the moon at the moonbase.
When I saw the movie as a kid in the 1980's, and I saw the wedges pulling apart and thought it looked like six Imperial Star Destroyers had all been parked with their points together and then pulled back in reverse to open. I can't watch the sequence without thinking it. (Yes, this is "Jossed" in the next shot, but still!)

The Space Odyssey and Time Odyssey series are set in the same continuity.
The last Space Odyssey novel ends with the monoliths being destroyed, but not before they sent a message to their controlling node, 450 light years away from Earth. This would appear to suggest Arthur C. Clarke's intention to write a fifth novel, where the Firstborn deal with an intelligence capable to destroy that technology. Except that he (apparently) didn't. He went on to write a trilogy he called Time Odyssey, with the help of Stephen Baxter. However, he did say that the Time Odyssey novels form an "orthoquel" to the Space Odyssey novels. Well, what if the events narrated in the Time Odyssey novels are a consequence to the actions narrated in 3001: Final Odyssey, as an attempt by the Firstborn (who acquired the ability to manipulate time) not to just exterminate intelligence, but to erase it from existence?

That would also explain the inconsistencies between one novel and the next: each subsequent novel shows the result of further attempts by the Firstborn to tamper with the timeline.

  • As a corollary guess: the Firstborn are modifying events by working from the future toward increasingly distant points of time in the past. So:
    • the "original" timeline is that of 3001, where Frank Poole was born in 1996, the Monolith on Europa contains a digital copy of Hal and David Bowman, and all Monoliths cease to exist after a computer attack.
    • The first timeline modification creates the sequence of events of 2061, where the Monolith also contains a digital copy of Heywood Floyd, a diamond fragment of Jupiter's core impacts with Europa, creating Mount Zeus and toppling the Monolith, and the sun Lucifer stops shining in 3001.
    • The next timeline modification produces the epilogue of 2010, where Lucifer keeps shining until 20001 and beyond, and where Frank Poole was born in 1966.
    • A further timeline modification produces the events of 2001, which are extremely different from the other timelines: the destination of the Discovery is changed (Saturn instead of Jupiter) because the Firstborn interfered with the earlier version of themselves and caused them to plant the monolith on Iapetus instead of putting it in orbit around Jupiter, and the formation of the solar system itself happened differently (Europa is described as lacking an internal heat source).
    • More timeline modifications create the various alternative scenarios narrated in The Lost Worlds of 2001.
      • This includes Marvel's monthly series, if they hadn't also happened in the other timelines.
    • Another timeline modification creates the events of The Sentinel, where, again, the Firstborn interfered with their earlier selves. Not only the discoverers of TMA-1 are different, but the source of the magnetic anomaly is a crystal tetrahedron instead of a black monolith.
    • And the final timeline modification creates... our timeline. Where no magnetic anomaly exists under the Tycho crater, no monolith exists in orbit around Jupiter or on the surface of Iapetus, and nobody set foot on the Moon again since 1972. Which implies that ET, far from giving us wi-fi, deprived us of space travel.

The Monolith is a TARDIS.
The Monolith appearing at different points is just a Time Lord journeying through time and space. Maybe it is more advanced than The Doctor's TARDIS; it is slimmer than a police public call box, so its interior may be bigger. The chameleon circuit worked at some point, but it got stuck and always resembles a monolith.
  • So is this that Universe's equivalent of Time Lords?

The Starchild's birth was meant to be an inversion of Haeckel's recapitulation theory
Instead of embryonic development paralleling our evolutionary history, all of human evolution has just been the embryonic stage of a much higher being. Which I guess makes the Earth an ovum, and human beings sperm... or the chemical soup that produced life was the ovum, and some other catalyst was the sperm... I don't seem to be making this idea any less confusing.

Dave's final revelation is the discovery of the fourth wall
During the whole hotel room sequence, Dave seems to stare at both the camera and himself multiple time, and in one sequence it is even possible to see the reflection of the camera crew. At another point, he appears to touch the edge of the screen, and right before he ascends he appears to be reaching out for the Monolith, with forced perspective so that even though he is nowhere near it he still is touching it.

Why? Because the Monolith is the fourth wall, and Dave's realization is that he is in a film.

My God - it's full of stars!

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