• The iconic opening scene of
    2001: A Space Odyssey
    showcases ape-like hominids competing for a watering hole.
  • Primatologist Mireya Mayor explains the scene’s realism by highlighting territorial behavior and human evolution, giving it a 5 out of 10.
  • The opening scene symbolizes human progress, transitioning from primitive beings to advanced, cosmic explorers, reflecting Kubrick’s grand narrative.

An ape expert breaks down the iconic opening scene from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a definitive sci-fi story that’s widely regarded as one of the best and most influential films of all time. This partially comes from 2001‘s legendary opening scene, “The Dawn of Man”, which features a group of hominins fighting and destroying some bones.

Speaking with Insider, primatologist Mireya Mayor assesses the iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey’s opening scene. Mayor goes in-depth about the origins of hominins, which are featured in the scene, while also differentiating them from humans.

Mayor details why the two rival groups of ape-like hominins are competing for a watering hole, explaining how highly territorial some apes tend to be. Ultimately, she gives the scene a 5 out of 10. Read her full quote below:

What we see here is a group of hominins in Africa and they’re made to really look like apes. Hominins, of course, are part of our ancestral lineage. Humans are upright and bipedal. This has a more ape-like posturing and movement to them and that is actually based on real anatomy and fossil findings. Humans and apes do share an ancestral lineage and humans are part of the great apes, but that’s not to say humans evolved from apes, which i think is a very common narrative. So we diverged 5 to 7 million years ago and that led to what we know of as apes today.

There was this previous notion that what separated humans from the rest of the animal kingdom was the ability to make and use tools and, as we know, Jane Goodall then observed a chimpanzee making and using a tool so that was the famous question: do we redefine tool or do we change the definition of what it means to be human.

What we see here is that there are two rivaling groups competing for a watering hole. Some apes are territorial, but certainly not all of them. So you have orangutans, for example in Indonesia, who are not known for being territorial, but then gibbons, which are highly territorial. Chimpanzees are also extremely territorial. Chimpanzees are known for patrolling an area and actually attacking and sometimes even killing what they perceive to be a rival in that territory. What we do know is that there is no other species of ape that is more cooperative than humans.

So much of what we’re seeing in this scene is actually possible and even probable in some of the ape species. I’m actually going to give this a 5 out of 10

The Dawn Of Man Opening Scene Explained

Kubrick’s Masterpiece Is Open To Different Interpretations

Since the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968, the epic sci-fi film has received diverse critical responses, analysis, and interpretations by critics and viewers alike, who have delved into the numerous themes and messages that Kubrick looked to explore and pass in his masterpiece. While this classic is split into different chapters, the somewhat ambiguous and iconic opening scene “The Dawn Of Man”, which depicts ape-like hominids in prehistoric times sets the stage for what’s to come in the movie.

There have been a number of different interpretations of this scene, however, there’s a common consensus among many fans of Stanley Kubrick’s work and some critics who believe the scene showcases the early stages of human evolution as well as our capacity for violence. In the presence of the alien monolith, the primitive beings undergo an act of violence that is observed and shapes the course of evolution.


2001: A Space Odyssey Ending Explained

From the Star Gate to a time-traveling bedroom, there is a lot to unpack in the ambiguous ending of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

While there are several symbolic elements in the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey, perhaps the most notable and most important is the match cut where an ape throwing a bone transitions into a satellite orbiting the Earth. This cut has been described to summarize millions of years of human progress, as we went from primitive beings to advanced, cosmic explorers. Like Mayor explains above, this famous opening scene speaks to territoriality and human evolution, which brilliantly sets the tone and ties into Kubrick’s grand narrative for the entire movie.

2001: A Space Odyssey
is available to stream on Max.

Source: Insider

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