Friday, January 27, 2012

2001 analysis - part 12: The 'Dawn of Man' is set in Mexico, not Africa


Shown at left is the opening title of A Space Odyssey's 'Dawn of Man' segment; note that the setting (i.e., the time period and location) are not specified. Though it's true that Arthur C. Clarke's novel, 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was developed alongside Kubrick's movie, places the Dawn of Man segment in Africa, the fact is that Kubrick had complete control over the movie, and in fact, he set the Dawn of Man at a different geographical location, as described below.

The pig-like creatures shown in the Dawn of Man sequence, are called tapirs. There is no evidence of tapirs ever naturally existing in Africa; they have, instead, lived in Asia and the Americas. The first true tapirs appeared in the Oligocene Epoch, and by the Miocene Epoch, such genera as Miotapirus were almost indistinguishable from the extant species. It is believed that Asian and American tapirs diverged around 20 to 30 million years ago, and that tapirs migrated from North America to South America around 3 million years ago, as part of the Great American Interchange. Thus, they would have passed through what is now Mexico, at some point during the Pliocene Epoch, which spans the interval from about 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago. For much of their history, tapirs were spread across the northern hemisphere, where they became extinct as recently as 10,000 years ago.[a] What this means for our analysis is that the Dawn of Man is not set in Africa. At this point, what we must do is determine whether it is set in Asia, North America, Central America, or South America.

The skull with tusks shown at left is that of a young American mastodon, a species that inhabited North and Central America during the late Miocene or late Pliocene, up to their extinction at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch 10,000 to 11,000 years ago. Mastodons were predominantly forest dwelling animals, and thus, no living American mastodons would have occupied the relatively barren landscape depicted in the movie. This landscape became barren due to the disappearance of forest areas, which was in turn due to climate cooling during the Pliocene, and remnants of dead mastodons were left behind.[b] We have now narrowed down the setting of the Dawn of Man to North America or Central America.

Female and calf American mastodon at the George Page Museum. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Mastodon' page; La Brea Mastodons by daryl_mitchell from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.]

The movie's big cat (shown at above left, attacking an ape-man, and above right, sitting over large prey), is commonly assumed to be a leopard, but it is, in reality, a jaguar. The movie's cat has predominantly medium- to dark-orange body coloring (click above images to enlarge), like a jaguar (below left), instead of having lighter coloring, as does the African leopard (below right). Also, notice that the area below the leopard's neck is white, while in the above right and below left screencaps, it can be seen that this area is darker in the jaguar.

Above left: The jaguar, a native mammal of Mexico. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Mexico' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.] Above right: African leopard at the Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Leopard' page; African Leopard 5 by DanH, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.]

As shown at left, when the movie's jaguar finishes off the ape-man he has attacked, he does so by going for the upper back area of the ape-man's head, instead of, say, for his throat. A jaguar has an exceptionally powerful bite, even relative to the other big cats. This allows it to pierce the shells of armored reptiles and to employ an unusual killing method: it bites directly through the skull of prey between the ears to deliver a fatal bite to the brain.

The leopard inhabits only forested and bushy regions, while the jaguar is known to inhabit regions which include scrublands and deserts, like those of the Dawn of Man segment of A Space Odyssey. The jaguar can also inhabit forests. The jaguar, Panthera onca, is the only existent New World member of the Panthera genus. The jaguar's present range extends from the Southern United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. The historic range of the species included much of the southern half of the United States, and in the south extended much farther to cover most of the South American continent. The fossil record points to the emergence of Panthera just 2 to 3.8 million years ago.[c][d][e][f] The foregoing is consistent with the Dawn of Man being set somewhere in North or Central America.

The large striped animal the jaguar is sitting over is an American zebra. This animal is described below.

The American zebra (Equus simplicidens) was a North American species of equid from the Pliocene and the Pleistocene epochs. Remains of it have been discovered in various locations in North American, including in the western part of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, at the Miñaca Mesa. The Miñaca remains date from the North American land mammal age known as the Blancan age.[g] The Blancan age lasted from about 4 million years ago, to 1.9 million years ago. According to Kurten,[h]

"The beginning of the Blancan age is marked by the appearance of a horse of modern type ([the American Zebra]) and by temporary emergence of the Bering land bridge, with resulting intermigration between the New World and the Old...

"The American zebra has been known to science since 1892, when [American paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope] published his description of Equus simplicidens...The name, "simple-toothed", alludes to the enamel pattern of the cheek teeth, which is simple in comparison with that of many other horses...

"[Experts agree that Equus simplicidens] is closely related to the living African species called Grévy's zebra (Equus Grevyi). It is the largest of today's zebras, standing up to six feet at the shoulders. It has large ears, somewhat reminiscent of a donkey, and a long, narrow muzzle. The black stripes are narrower and more densely spaced than in other zebras, which gives the animal a greyish look from a distance. A striking feature is a longitudinal black stripe along the back, separated from the vertical stripes by a white band. We do not know whether this pattern, or anything like it, was present in the American species, but the long narrow muzzle is the same...The other living zebras are more distantly related to the simplicidens-grevyi group."

Note that Kubrick depicts the American zebra as having stripes.

Grévy's zebra stallion. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Grévy's zebra' page; Grevy's Zebra Stallion by Rainbirder, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.]

Detail of the head of a Grévy's zebra. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Grévy's zebra' page; GreveysZebra25 by Greg Hume, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.]


Kubrick believed that our ape-like ancestors originated in the area of what is now the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The disappearance of forests in this area due to a Pliocene cooling event, forced tree-dwelling apes to become accustomed to walking on land. Kubrick believed that these walking ape-men were our ancestors.

Current science claims that man's ancestors arose in Africa. However, we can make a couple of key observations about the film's ape-men, that together, rule out all of the known species of Hominin which are considered to be, or could have been, ancestors of man, that are known from remains to have existed in Africa during a time span of 4 million to about 1.9 million years ago.

Going by information available from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History,[i] we need to consider ten species, seven of which are australopiths (Australopithecus africanus, A. garhi, A. afarensis, A. anamensis, Paranthropus aethiopicus, P. boisei, and P. robustus), and three of which fall under the genus Homo (Homo habilis, H. erectus, and H. rudolfensis). It is not hard to rule all ten of them out, because two of the three species of Homo (H. erectus and H. rudolfensis) had more human-like facial appearances than the ape-men depicted in 2001, and H. habilis and all seven austropiths had short canine teeth, whereas the canines of the ape-men shown in the Dawn of Man sequence are relatively long.

A close-up from the movie of one of our ape-like ancestors (this particular individual is the leader of the film's main 'tribe' of ape-men). If the film's ape-men are members of a known species which was, or could have been, an ancestor of man, instead of a different species theorized by Kubrick, it must be a member of one of the ten species noted above. As mentioned, we can exclude all of them, based on the facial appearance of the film's ape-men (Homo erectus,[j] and H. rudolfensus,[k] both had a more human-like facial appearance than the ape-men of the movie), and for H. habilis and the australopiths, on the dentition of our specimen (you can click on the image to enlarge it, to view the ape-man's teeth more closely): Our man's canines are too long to belong to any of the seven australopiths. The canines of australopiths were small like those of humans.[l] And, Homo habilis had tiny canines.[m]

Another shot showing the long canines of the movie's ape-men.

Above left: Members of our tribe of ape-men eating the meat from a recently-killed tapir. Above right: A close-up of one of the ape-men devouring his piece of tapir meat. Long, sharp canines are ideal for tearing flesh.

Above left: The leader of the tribe of ape-men (foreground) and the members of his tribe, normally walk on all fours. Above right: Some of the members of the tribe are shown walking upright while holding their newly-discovered bone-weapons. The significance of this will be discussed later in the analysis.

a. Wikipedia, 'Tapir'. Web, n.d. URL =
b. Wikipedia, 'Mastodon'. Web, n.d. URL =
c. 'leopard'. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. URL =
d. 'jaguar'. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. URL =
e. Wikipedia, 'Leopard'. Web, n.d. URL =
f. Wikipedia, 'Jaguar'. Web, n.d. URL =
g. Studies on Mexican Paleontology. Ed. Francisco J. Vega et. al. Springer, 2006. Google Books, pp. 254, 258. URL =
h. Kurten, Bjorn. Before the Indians. Columbia University Press, 1996. Google Books, pp. 22, 25-26. URL =
i. Smithsonian, National Museum of Natural History, "What does it mean to be human?". Web. 27 Apr. 2016. URL =
j. As can be viewed at the Homo erectus web page at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History web site.
k. As can be viewed at the Homo rudolfensis web page at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History web site.
l. 'Australopithecus'. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. URL =
m. Wood, Bernard (April 2, 2014). "Human evolution: Fifty years after Homo habilis." nature, International weekly journal of science. Web. URL =


Thursday, January 26, 2012

2001 analysis - part 11: The hidden plot - Heywood Floyd is an alien


Top left: A photographer snaps some pictures of the monolith at TMA-1 on the moon. Top right: Between the taking of each snapshot, the photographer advances the camera, resulting in its being flipped and rotated ninety degrees clockwise (as viewed from his own perspective). Above left: A view of Poole reclining. If we rotate the image ninety degrees clockwise (from our own perspective), Poole will appear upright. The point is that the camera rotation at TMA-1 is a hint to each member of the audience to 'mentally rotate' (in his or her mind's eye) certain images presented on the movie screen. Above center: Heywood Floyd's daughter as she appears to Floyd on his video telephone screen, when he calls home from the space station on her birthday. Above right: The image of the daughter rotated clockwise by ninety degrees. Note that the two long, light gray objects behind the daughter now appear similar to legs, as if someone's feet are planted near the girl.

There are, in reality, no one's legs or feet near Floyd's daughter, as becomes obvious when she stands up near the end of the phone conversation (as shown at left), and her body's true orientation with respect to the surroundings of the room she's in becomes evident. The long gray objects (indicated by the two arrows in the screencap) are parts of a piece of furniture, not someone's legs. Nevertheless, Kubrick has here given us a hint as to something in his film that is 'hidden' from plain view: What's being suggested, by the image rotated ninety degrees clockwise as shown above, is that there could be an alien standing over the girl, in specific, an alien from the race that planted the monoliths, and it has effectively kidnapped her. Floyd's daughter wouldn't know she's been kidnapped, however, because the alien has fooled her by taking on human form (i.e., it normally appears to her to be a human; but see below). The reason we see the 'suggested alien' on the monitor appearing as it does to Floyd (i.e., like an alien instead of a human), is because we are here looking through Floyd's eyes, and Floyd himself is one of the aliens; or more accurately, an alien life force is 'occupying' his body.

Since our 'suggested alien' is standing right next to the daughter, it seems that she's lying about no one being around (she says that her mother isn't home, and that her caretaker, Rachel, is in the bathroom). What's ultimately being suggested, however, is not that the Floyd's daughter is lying, but instead, that the aliens can influence the minds of humans - they are able to get the girl to believe what they want her to believe, i.e., that no one is in the immediate area. This serves, in part, as a kind of security precaution, in case Floyd's phone conversation is overheard by someone else in the space station. If his daughter was to scream over the phone something like, "Help!! I've been kidnapped by aliens!", anyone who might overhear the conversation would no doubt get suspicious.

The fact that Floyd's body is occupied by an alien life force, explains his artificial, 'mechanical'-sounding manner of speaking, such as at the meeting at Clavius (shown at left): Even though the alien is able to occupy a human body, it's unable to fully mimic a human manner of speaking. However, Floyd is able to get through voice print identification security at the space station (as shown in the below left screencap), since the tone of his voice is the same as that of the 'original' Floyd (since Floyd's own vocal chords are being used to speak). Also, the alien is able to recognize people who Floyd knows, remember his home phone number, etc., because it has all of the knowledge and basic memory contents that the human Floyd had - the alien is effectively occupying not only Floyd's body, but his mind as well (and is therefore controlling his actions). Another hint we're given that Floyd's mind has been taken over by that of an alien, is that Floyd is shown having to read the instructions for the zero gravity toilet on the lunar lander (as shown at below right). Certainly the 'real' Floyd wouldn't need to read them, since, as suggested in his earlier conversation in the space station waiting area, with Elena, Dr. Smyslov, and the others, he has traveled in the lander before (i.e., he has made past trips from the space station to the moon). The point is that the alien must sometimes 'refresh' its memory about certain details - the retention of Floyd's memory by the alien isn't perfect.

Above left: Floyd has no trouble getting through voice print identification at the space station. Above right: Floyd needs to read the instructions for the zero gravity toilet on the lunar lander.

The rotating space station (shown at left) looks physically similar to a giant rotating film reel, and the rectangular slot in the hub in the middle could be imagined as being a key-hole: One 'key' to unlocking the meaning of the movie is image rotation, as described above.

Another rotation hint in 2001 is that the stargate transitions from a vertical orientation (above left) to a horizontal orientation (above right) while Bowman is moving through it, as if it has been rotated by ninety degrees.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Hannibal Rising - Analysis of the Movie - part 1: Introduction


[Image at left from the Wikipedia 'Hannibal Rising (film)' page; "Hannibalrisingposter",[a] licensed under fair use via Wikipedia.]

Welcome to the analysis of Hannibal Rising. Buttons at the bottom of each post enable navigation through the parts of the analysis. Regarding the appearance of possible anti-Semitism on this blog, please see the 'Disclaimers' section near the bottom of this page.

We begin the analysis with a brief description of the film, followed by a summary of the plot up to the point of Hannibal Lecter's childhood escape from the Lecter family's hunting lodge.

Hannibal Rising is a 2007 horror film and the fifth film of the Hannibal Lecter franchise. It is a prequel to Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal. The film is an adaptation of Thomas Harris' 2006 novel of the same name and tells the story of Lecter's evolution into the infamous serial killer of the previous films and books. The film was directed by Peter Webber from a screenplay by Harris, and was released in 2007. It stars Gaspard Ulliel, Li Gong (credited as Gong Li), Dominic West, and Rhys Ifans.

In 1941, an eight-year old Hannibal Lecter lives in Lecter Castle in Lithuania. Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union turns the Baltic region into part of the bloodiest front line of World War II. Hannibal, his younger sister Mischa, and their parents travel to the family's hunting lodge in the woods to elude the advancing German troops.

The Lecter family (lower right) approach their hunting lodge.

Later, the Nazis are driven out of the countries soon to be occupied by the Soviet Union. During their retreat, a German plane first attacks, then crashes into, a Soviet tank that had stopped at the Lecter family's hunting lodge looking for water. Due to the explosion and fire from the crash, everyone is killed except Hannibal and Mischa.

A German plane crashes into a Soviet tank, in the front yard of the Lecter family's hunting lodge.

Hannibal and Mischa survive in the lodge until six former Lithuanian militiamen, led by a man named Vladis Grutas, storm and loot it. Finding no other food in the bitterly cold Baltic winter, the men look menacingly at Hannibal and Mischa. They cannibalize Mischa right in front of her brother, who escapes and is found by Soviet soldiers.[b]

As with the other Hannibal Lecter movies analyzed on this blog, there is much in the way of underlying meaning in Hannibal Rising, and the movie contains a 'hidden plot' as well. We will begin exploring these aspects of the film, in the next part of the analysis.

a. Poster for Hannibal Rising: The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, The Weinstein Company / MGM, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist.
b. Wikipedia, 'Hannibal Rising (film)'. Web, n.d. URL =

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