As Moon-Watcher tosses his new-found tool into the air, its slow rotation suddenly transforms it into the most feared and advanced 'tool' of the 21st century - a nuclear warhead orbiting the planet Earth.transported from a harsh land of deserts and primitive life to one of unique serenity - but one so advanced it takes our breath away. The 'Blue Danube' waltz begins, as does the famous space dance - as a pair of spaceships travel to the sound of Strauss' classic waltz. So begins the second movement of the film. At one hour, it is the longest movement, and by far the most informative, or indeed the most logical. We learn that a black monolith has been discovered on the Moon and that the discovery has been 'covered up' by a fake story of an infectious disease on a space-station. However, when the black monolith is examined further by scientists, it rings out a mysterious warning of some sort, an incredibly high-pitched buzzing.
Inside of the Discovery space craft, on its way to Jupiter. It is aboard this space craft that the biggest revelations of the movie occur, and we are introduced to a growing conflict between HAL, the space craft's super computer and the machine responsible for the lives of Dave Bowman, his partner on the voyage, Frank, and a group of other scientists hibernating until the Discovery reaches Jupiter. The conflict between Dave and HAL develops to such an extent that HAL is driven somewhat mad by accusations that he made an error in sending Frank out of the ship to fix a faulty part, which in fact was not faulty. Such is HAL's madness that he resorts to killing Frank and the hibernating sceintists, and trapping Dave outside the ship when he ventures out to save his poor friend. It is now, when stuck only metres from the Discovery inside the space pod, that Dave utters those words, the words that have been carved into movie history forever: "Open the pod bay doors HAL"
Although it is Dave that seems to be challenging HAL, it is in fact HAL that is making the fatal mistake of challenging Dave, and challenging the history of human evolution at the same time. Dave proves himself superior to HAL, the machine - he innovates, blowing himself from the space pod into the hatch of the Discovery, even though he's without a space suit. This is perhaps the most gripping scene in the film, and is followed up by one in such dark contrast that it has the ability to make you cry. Dave destroys HAL's memory banks, and as he is doing so HAL's sharp, monotone voice becomes slow and laxadasical; he is dying, and mankind has overcome the tyranny of the machine age. Only now is Dave told, via a special video communication, that a black monolith had been discovered upon the moon and the rumours of a disease epidemic were merely a coverup story.
In my mind, this whole subplot of 'coverup stories' and 'disease rumours' is sane fodder used in an attempt to restore order to an insane film. Rather, when we look into the film, we see a tale of man's evolution, and Dave's victory over HAL is the deciding point in mankind's move into the next stage of mind development and evolution. As he wanders through his own 'cosmic bedroom' in a zombie-like trance during the third and final movement of the film, he sees himself as a baby and then as a dying old man, and we hear the commotion of extraterrestrial chatter in the background. These are the aliens, the aliens viewing the specimen of their experiment - incredibly sophisticated beings that purposely placed the monolith on the Earth some four million years ago, and again four million years later, as they prepare to pass on further knowledge to the human race. Such is the aliens' incredibly high state of purity and existence that they no longer need material form - the film has moved from that of scientifically minded to a more spiritual theme. And, in the triumphant final scene of the film, we see the notorious 'star-child', and again the moon, Earth and sun align in one straight line, just as in the beginning of the film. The human race has been reborn - we now move into the next stage of our endless evolution.
The one great power of 2001 over any other space-related film of its kind is its no-holds-barred approach towards realism. Unlike in Star Wars, during which the star ships and fighters buzz around space like World War II bombers, 2001 complies to the laws of science and emits no sound whatsoever during its outer-space scenes, but for the deep breathing of Frank and Dave during those gripping few moments when HAL went beserk and turned on the men it was meant to look after. As we know, the essence of poetry is metaphor, and the only way to build metaphor is to ground it on a bed of reality. This is precisely what 2001 does - it is a visual poem of our existence and destiny. And since metaphors cannot be reduced to words, it seems far from coincidental that there are only 40 minutes of dialog in the entire 149-minute film.
But the real contradiction between 2001 and its ideals is that a movie so manufactured from our very own logic and technology could possibly ask us to move away from all logic, from all reality, and into a domain reserved only for theologists - the question of human destiny. 2001 holds us in a trance, not only in the ears and eyes, but, like all great films, in the mind. Its only concern is not with the evolution of man in a physical sense, but rather the evolution of our mind and spirit. Never will its visual effects be surpassed, and never again will any film be so powerful, so integral, that it can be held sacred by a society so profanely civil and secular.
A longtime advocate of experimental drug use who updated a popular slogan to become ``log in, turn on, drop out,'' Mr. McKenna believed that psychedelic drugs were the key to human evolution.
In his 1991 book, ``Food of the Gods,'' he proclaimed to a skeptical world that prehistoric human beings developed language, religion and advanced civilizations only after accidentally finding and ingesting psychedelic drugs while gathering food.
Warfare, he believed, caught on only after mushrooms became scarce as a result of a world drought.