Comment: ‚The movie is focusing on technology and metaphysics. It provides no social commentary at all.
Reviews or analyses interpreting the „star child“ as a trace to humanism are simply misleading, to say the least. So yes – politically, „2001“ is conservative at best and, more often than not, plainly reactionary.
Kubrick was no „progressive“ to begin with, maybe Clarke was – considering „Childhood’s End“ – but even that I think is hard to say nowadays: you see, even he lived in postcolonial Colombo… As an artist, what Kubrick did was to conquer the naturalistic and technocratic world view of Science Fiction common at this point in time (in the late sixties).
A stance only feminist writers like Ursula K. Le Guin could a litte bit later challenge too. And „futuristic“ is a very problematic term to begin with.
I use it only very rarely, because referring to historic ideology it has a lot in common with fascism.‘
As the „Art History“ channel says: „This scene shows the beginning of the Paleolithic Era, and reveals that, by the usage of tools, man could stop being a victim of the world to become an active element, who has the power of action over nature.“
One could argue to set „violence“ instead of „action“: using music by Richard Strauss even in the opening sequence, the Nietzschean motive of „2001“ is present again here early on, in the prologue of the film. Darwinism (adaptability), usage, opportunism and „power through strength“ all form a true, frightening „triumph of the will“ so to speak. To sparkle human kind and its history of terror.
It’s this critique of so-called „civilization“ that stands out, no sociality and neither optimism, pessimism, or empiricism.
The apes are just flocking together. As Heidegger said about memory or memento: memory is the gathering of thought regarding what was everywhere likened to be thought before. Memory is the gathering of memento.*
*“Gedächtnis ist die Versammlung des Denkens auf das, was überall im voraus schon bedacht sein möchte. Gedächtnis ist die Versammlung des Andenkens.“ In „Was heißt Denken?“ (1952, erhältlich etwa hier – im siebenten Band der Gesamtausgabe).