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2. The Dawn of Man

The ‘Dawn of Man’ introduces primitive hominins, modern humans and a third protagonist – an inscrutable black monolith. In the original ‘2001’ screenplay, the monolith is a crystal cube that mesmerizes and somehow transfers knowledge to the apes. Thankfully, Kubrick left us with a far more mysterious object, which appears on cue at key points in the narrative. It is really never more than a mirror, reflecting its beholder’s state of evolution. Whatever the apes and humans become after encountering the monolith, they ‘already had it in them’; their evolution is the realization of their innate potential, not a gift from the gods.

Did you notice? When the American Heywood Floyd encounters his Russian rivals in the bar of the orbiting space station, among the first words spoken are: ‘Would you like a drink, doctor?’ Compare that to ape hospitality around the African water hole…

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