2001: A Space Odyssey (In a Nutshell)

Date: 23-24 March 1999, with 23 December 2000 revision.
Medium: Pencil on paper.

NOTE: Each page links to a high-resolution copy.

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of my favorite movies. Love it or hate it, 2001 is nonetheless an awesome piece of filmmaking. Unfortunately, I don't know very many who hold it to such high standards. Grant you, I do have friends who like the movie, some quite a bit, but few who admit to it being high on their favorites lists. Perhaps one problem with the film is that it can be overly difficult at times. When the film isn't plodding along with seemingly endless scenes, it's confusing the viewer with what it's trying to achieve. This is especially true with the ending, warranting an exasperated "WTF?" from many a viewer.

This comic was my attempt to help explain the movie to the laymen (and women) who hadn't watched it over and over again (or read Arthur C. Clarke's excellent novel). In particular, it was influenced by a discussion of the film I'd had with Kresta Opperman. She had seen it, but was lost by the ending and what it was trying to represent. To aid in my explanation, I drew this comic, breaking down the movie to a much shorter length while also providing a direct interpretation of the events in it, though sometimes I drift away from explanation into storytelling, which may not be helpful.

For those still lost, one of the main themes of the movie is the monolith influencing evolution. First a monolith appears to the apes, who touch it and gain the ability to create tools. They evolve into modern humans who travel into space, finding a monolith on the moon. This monolith, registering that man had achieved a level of technology to excavate it, sends a radio signal to Jupiter. An expedition is mounted to carry astronauts to Jupiter to see what's going on. Upon arriving at Jupiter, an enormous third monolith is encountered. Astronaut Dave Bowman investigates and is whisked away to an unknown place, where he grows old and dies, to be reborn as an omnipotent star child: a much advanced stage of human evolution, constructed of thought and energy, free from the bounds of Earth and body.

Who created the monoliths and where do they come from? What are their motives? Where was Dave taken? None of that is really important. All that's important is the effect the monoliths have on those who encounter them. If you really want to know the answers, try reading 3001: The Final Odyssey, but I can't say I wholly recommend it.

Updated 4 June 2004