My take on the whole "mystery" aspect of the film is that it's meant as an *experience*, more than a fictional narrative. This isn't a movie about good vs. evil or the perils of technology (although it contains these elements). This is a film that causes the viewer to experience a feeling of wonder, awe and yearning.
Kubrick made a comment about it being a "religious" movie. In many ways it is.
From the time it was released some people have called it boring or emotionally detached, but I dissagree. Over time the film has acquired a status of "legendary", and has penetrated pop culture in ways no other work has done. In spite of it being a subjective experience, it's had a profound effect on those who have seen it.
Far from being unemotional, I found the closing scene of 2001 to be the most touching expression of human optimism ever put to celuloid.
Me: Wow.. I'm so past all the crap I watched as a kid. 2001 rules!
At the beginning of the "Jupiter Mission" sequence, astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole, along with three scientists, who are in hibernation, set off for Jupiter on a spaceship named Discovery One, controlled by HAL 9000, a new, revolutionary computer system. The Discovery One is being sent to Jupiter - namely to find out what the monolith's transmission means, and where it goes. When HAL endangers the crew's lives and begins to malfunction, it's up to Dave to disconnect the computer, in order to save his life, then set forth to the home of the new monolith. We then enter the "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" sequence, as he is then sent into another dimension, where we see that his human body is laid to rest and he is reborn as a new member of the next evolutionary species: a starchild.
I'll admit the movie is hard to appreciate, but if you can appreciate it for what it is, it is probably one of the most beautiful composed films in cinematic history. I haven't read the books, but the movie is enough for me, it can convey 101 different messages without a word.
2001 has been my favorite film since I first saw it when I was about 14. It was the first time I watched a film and realized that there could be more to a movie than just the story on the screen. I watch it occasionally, but it is still fresh every time and still has the power to amaze. It continues to blow me away. The effects still bring a smile when I watch it now. My understanding of the film has also continued to grow and develop over the years. As has my understanding of HAL.
I think Kubrick/Clarke has said that if anyone has understood this film, they (Kubrick and Clarke) have failed. You are not supposed to understand the ending, especially not the first time. I think the point of this film is that your are supposed to think about it for a long time. I like to think that Kubrick and Clarke left the ending open for everyone to interpret their own opinion on upcoming events after David Bowman is reborn as the star child.
You're still in the 20th century and the 3rd millenium!
3...2...1...HAPPY 2001! Just another year!
YOU'RE NOT CELEBRATING THE NEW MILLENIUM AND THE 21ST CENTURY?
Everyone else: we were too busy getting high to notice anyone hating it