If you're up for some heavy-duty hypothesizing regarding Kubrick's most alchemical/head-trippy/psychedelic/archetype-riddle film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, then you could do a lot worse than Mike Daringer's extended essay, 2001: Clubbing the Lower Animal. It begins:
Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, is a fictional transcendence of classic Greek mythos through the ubiquity of the motion picture camera. As the film’s title suggests, this is Greek philosopher Homer’s The Odyssey told on the grandest of scales and sparing no expense that 20th Century cinema had to offer. According to philosopher Carl Jung, myths are the “culturally elaborated representations of the contents of the deepest recess of the human psyche: the world of the archetypes.”
As such, 2001 makes tremendous leaps forward in longstanding narrative traditions that have been passed down from the epitome of Western culture. This was Kubrick, after all, and he wasn’t going to give the viewer an easy time or spoon feed answers to the cryptic symbolism. The film is ostensibly draped in ambiguity, and it leads down a path that rejects materialism in favor of spiritual enlightenment. The final act is overly concerned with the impact that light has on the body; how illumination can take a lifetime to understand and transform decaying flesh into the Übermensch.This essay is well worth your time. And you just might learn a few things along the way!
Having heard people say that there isn’t much going on in 2001 or simply not “getting it,” what follows is a small breakdown of the big thematic material that makes up the masterpiece.