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Transition (Film Synopsis Part 3)

The Story

We're back at the water hole. Again, we are seeing a previous scene played out. This time the scene starts out after the confrontation between the two groups has already begun. Our group is now armed with bone-club weaponry. The second group is completely oblivious as to why the first group is carrying the bones. Unlike the earlier encounter, the first group doesn't just run away upon the sight of the second group. Realizing they are being challenged, the leader of the second group crosses the water, yet before he can assert his will, he is greeted with a thud as a bone strikes him squarely across the back of the neck. He is down immediately. One by one, man-apes from the first group come up to the lying body and strike it. They are assuring themselves that the destructive power they have discovered is truly real. Upon this realization, one joyfully flings his club high into the air. The camera follows it...

Where the bone was, we now see an orbiting man-made satellite. The intent of the transition is obvious, the bone-club has evolved. While maintaining the same basic, elongated shape as its predecessor, the satellite can serve the same purposes, only in a much more efficient manner. We see, several others, all are similarly shaped but each has unique details. Then we see the double ferris-wheel space station. It rotates and gives the appearance of a, well, a ferris-wheel. We then see a sleek, somewhat airplane-shaped spacecraft on a path to the space station. It is the Orion shuttle. It shows the Pan Am logo indicating it is a commercial space vehicle. During this whole sequence in space, we are hearing Johann Strauss'
Blue Danube.

Now we are inside the Orion and in front of the audience is a floating pen, indicating the weightless condition inside the vehicle. There is a sleeping man all by himself. The rest of the cabin is empty seats. A female flight attendant enters. She is walking awkwardly but we find out why when we notice her shoes indicate they are "grip", aka velcro shoes.

The scene shifts back to outside the Orion as we see it go through the docking procedure. We see the pilots using computers to synchronize the Orion's rotation with that of the space station. It is a complex procedure.


A lot happens here. Some very important themes of the film are introduced. Much of 2001's themes have to do with Mankind's tools. These themes include:

Are tools an asset or liability?: The bone-club is first used as a means to ward off starvation. The bone-club, as the first tool, introduces Mankind to the idea that every day does not have to be a struggle for survival. Using tools like the club, one can have leisure time - time to spend thinking up how to make better tools. This whole concept made Man live longer, develop communication skills, and ultimately develop civilization as we know it. There is a catch, though. As the man-apes demonstrated, the same tool that keeps him from starvation can be used to kill another. Satellites orbiting the Earth can be used for collecting energy, growing food, or developing medicines. They also can be used as a means from which to fire nuclear weapons. Since the bone flung in the air had been used as a weapon, we can take the hint that the satellites we see are for purposes of warfare. The pen can indicate how Man's communication abilities have evolved. It can also be the instrument used to sign orders to utilize the satellites. It's deadly too.

Warfare is human-driven: The monolith is present when the man-apes discovers the bone as a means of providing him with food. The monolith is not present when the man-ape kills another.

Tools as a replacement of human body parts: The bone-club gave the man-apes a more powerful arm. Where the bone-club is capable of killing another man, the satellites are capable of killing millions, but as indicated by its similar shape, it is an even more powerful prosthetic arm. The pen, too, can be thought of as an extension of Man's mouth. Then we come to the Orion spacecraft. It is long and narrow like the bone club. Yet, when you consider the round rotating space station, the docking procedure, and the accompanying waltz, it, like the space station are sexual organs. The Blue Danube plays as the two structures "waltz", a prelude to the "docking".

The intelligence behind the monolith was careful enough to minimize its impact on the man-apes. Right after it tested the man-apes, it disappeared as it had fulfilled its purpose.

Note that the spacecraft carrying the one passenger is named Orion. Orion, in Greek mythology was a hunter. Thus, the Orion symbolizes the how the hunter from the prehistoric age has broken through and risen from the Earth. Also note - in keeping with the theme of tools replacing humans, that the hunter is now represented as a tool.

We already know that triple alignments represent a superior intelligence. When we see human-made objects along with heavenly bodies, they are never aligned. The human race lacks the "divinity" compared to whatever had placed the monolith. 

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Other Notes

The use of a genuine trademarked logos such as Pan Am and IBM in this scene was very unusual in films of the 1960's. It became more common later when companies realized it was an effective way to advertise. You'd think that Pan Am and IBM would be delighted that Stanley Kubrick would choose their companies so prominently in future high tech equipment. Apparently, both companies were reluctant about this idea.

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