Kubrick explains the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey in rare video clip


So you went to the Cinema, in England in 1969 and saw the movie?

You read the book?

You understood the book?

And YOU are?


Hardly. A supreme being with absolutely no limitations, is pretty boring to try to tell stories about. Its not until that entity has flaws and limitations, that any kind of human relatable narrative can find purchase.


Someone saying that you’re incorrect.

In England, 1969, the movie did not premiere with the Earth exploding. That was never part of the film.


In the book, that room also had a kitchenette with a fridge. In the fridge was packaged food exactly like what the astonaut would have found at home… except inside was blue…stuff. further illustrating the limits of these beings’ power.


You are in error. You are probably remembering the end of the book where the Star Child detonates Earth’s orbiting nuclear warheads.

You are correct. @nevermindless is possibly remembering the end of the novelization, where the Star Child detonates the Earth’s orbiting nuclear arsenals. It does not, however, say he destroys the Earth in the process. Some readers chose to interpret the final paragraph of the novel to imply he did. Kubrick rejected this idea, whereas Clarke was more open to the idea, though it hadn’t occurred to him when he wrote it.

Here is page 8, paragraphs 2 & 3 from Peter Krämer’s BFI Film Classics book 2001: A Space Odyssey

The fact that the novel closes with the foetus exploding nuclear weapons in Earth’s orbit allowed for a deeply pessimistic reading of the story, which was not, however, what Clarke and Kubrick intended.

Thus, when, in July 1968, the science writer Jeremy Bernstein, who had been one of the film’s greatest supporters, sent the proofs of his book review to Kubrick, it contained the claim that Clarke’s novel ‘comes to a Strangelovian close’ as the foetus ‘watches over the nuclear destruction of the Earth’. This refers to Kubrick’s previous film, the nuclear comedy Dr Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), which ends with the explosion of a nuclear 'doomsday device" that will destroy all life on the Earth’s surface. Kubrick left a note on Bernstein’s proofs: ‘The book does not end with the destruction of the Earth.’ Kubrick pointed out that the foetus destroys nuclear weapons, not humanity. In his 1972 book about the writing of 2001, Clarke commented:

Many readers have interpreted the final paragraph to mean that he (the foetus) destoyed Earth, perhaps to create a new Heaven. This idea never occured to me; it seems clear that he triggered the orbiting nuclear bombs harmlessly … But now, I am not so sure … We have wasted and defiled … the beautiful planet Earth. Why should we expect any mercy from a returning Star Child?

Here is the text itself for your examinations…


Hope that resolves the issue here. There is no reason to fight over this.


If you change your mind, here are the two rather good short stories by Clarke which were selected by Kubrick for them to use as the basis of their longer story…




I was close. I always thought he had encountered the designers of the monolith, who of course would be super intelligent beings, perhaps pure energy. The LDS trip scenes were his transformation into the enlightened star chlld at the end. The only part I really missed was the human zoo aspect. I thought the whole dining scene in that room was all part of him looking back at his life as a corporeal human being. On another notes, I also liked that other movie, Space Travel 2001. I really liked those puppets that they use.



Or ‘God-like’ weaklings.


Wait, wait, wait a minute… you mean I can get free pie if I give someone lip? Why didn’t I know this before?


Nuclear weapons in orbit was a particularly awful nightmare in the 60’s, one that we have mercifully forgotten about. Without remembering that, the apollo program loses much of its significance.

There were two nightmarish aspects to this: Bombs could fall with maybe 30seconds warning, there would have been no chance to shoot them out of the sky…

And (except for the Lagrange points) anything in orbit that you intend to keep there, needs fuel for station keeping. So any nuclear platform would have a shelf life, at the end of which would be a “use it or lose it” kind of decision.

The whole space race concept was invented so there would be a more challenging goal instead of simply installing orbital bombs.

Would-be mars colonists tend to downplay the arms race, preferring the manifest destiny narrative, since that makes continued manned space flight seem inevitable. There is nothing inevitable about human crews in space, and considerable reasons to avoid it.


Maybe it did at the time.

I mean, one of the biggest movies recently was about this god-like being who puts on a magic glove with these magic jewels in it and wants to wipe out half the universe while a bunch of people in variously colored costumes with various kind of magical and technical powers try to stop him. Also, spaceships, a star powered forge, and a talking raccoon.

Yeah, god like beings and a french victorian zoo actually doesn’t sound weird at all.


In my version, which I kept telling Kubrick to use (“Stan,” I says, “not the entities”), all this happiness with Bowman and the room and the space bebeh trails off infinitely kind of as the lights go out in Bowman’s brain.

More to some point: the book and movie were written together?:

I always enjoyed the thing about Marvin Minsky’s influence on HAL:



Oh crap. I always blamed Speilberg for the ridiculous end to A.I. After hearing this I realize it may have actually been Kubrick’s fault. Or maybe it’s that thing he was talking about: The corniness of an outright explanation, filtered through another (more schmaltzy / less Acid) director’s vision.


Don’t mess around with the LDS.

Latter Day Saint’s ain’t nothing to F’ wit.


I think you are confusing 2001 with “Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy”


2001, directed by Billy Wilder… the mind boggles, but I guess it would have been a good comedy.
(And HAL probably would have hummed Isn’t it romantic?)


That’s true, part of my assumption was interpreting “gods” in a “omni” sense. But I was also interpreting “creatures of pure…intelligence” in the same way.

Not having read the book doesn’t help.

And admittedly, the fact that these beings couldn’t get French architecture right is fairly petty in the grand scheme of things (considering everything else they were able to do for/with/to Bowman).


I live in SLC. Sometimes it’s like a bad LSD trip. Hahaha.


Well, @nungesser isn’t me, because I know I saw the movie in a UK cinema in 1972, after having read the book a year before. And the movie I saw had no destruction of planet Earth.


I was expecting something a little different than “The end of the movie is the same as the end of the book which spells out exactly what is happening in detail.”

Then again, if I find a movie enigmatic, I don’t find myself going to the original books to find out what something meant. If the movie and book deviated I would understand how there could be people wondering what it meant.

(Also, even though it’s the same as the book, a movie is not a book and other interpretations are still valid no matter what the director and the book say.)

ETA: Wow, what a rambling and confused sounding post. I’ll leave it as a testament to how frazzled I am in the middle of a move across country!