2001: A Space Odyssey appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.20:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. At all times, the film looked absolutely terrific.
Sharpness appeared excellent. Even during the film’s wider shots, the flick stayed tight. I found the picture to appear nicely crisp and detailed from start to finish. No jagged edges or shimmering could be seen, and I noticed no edge enhancement. In addition, source flaws seemed to be absent, as I detected no specks or marks.
Colors looked quite solid at all times. 2001 could be a somewhat sterile movie, so lots of bright tones weren’t on display, but the hues that did appear were very good. The “Dawn Of Man” scenes offered fairly natural and warm colors in their daybreak shots, while the futuristic segments contained accurate and distinct hues. Red lighting could have caused problems on a few occasions, but those instances stayed clear and lacked any noisiness. Ultimately the colors of 2001 appeared clear and accurate.
Black levels also looked good throughout the movie. They were always nicely deep and dark, and contrast was fine. The low-light sequences stayed appropriately visible without excessive thickness. I felt really impressed by this consistently stellar transfer.
The PCM 5.1 soundtrack of 2001 also impressed. The soundfield appeared quite broad and engaging, especially for an older movie. The forward soundstage offered a wide spectrum of audio, as a lot of ambient effects emanated from the side channels. Music showed fine stereo imaging throughout the movie, and localization of sounds appeared logical and appropriate. Audio blended together neatly in the front and sounds also panned pretty cleanly and effectively.
Surround usage was pretty positive for an old film. Although the rears seemed to mainly restrict themselves to general reinforcement of the music and effects, they occasionally provided distinct audio. For example, clear echoes cropped up from the surrounds when the monkeymen would shout, and some good split-surround atmosphere accompanied those scenes. Overall, the soundfield worked quite well.
Audio quality also seemed strong for a movie from this era. At times, speech could sound a bit thin, but that concern appeared mainly during the monkeyman scenes. For those parts of the flick, I thought the creatures’ utterances came across with too much of a reverberated tone that made them sound a bit hollow. Otherwise, dialogue seemed rather natural and distinct through the rest of the film; I detected no problems related to intelligibility of edginess. HAL’s lines were a highlight, as extra bass was mixed in with them; as a result, HAL’s speech showed a nice layer of depth that made his words stand out from the others.
Effects appeared a little slight, but that was consistent with audio from the era. With that in mind, I thought these elements came across as acceptably clear and accurate, and though the dynamics weren’t terrific, the effects still managed some decent low-end at times. For example, I heard a nice rumble during the psychedelic “Jupiter” shots. Music also displayed good clarity and pretty positive range. The classical works offered throughout the movie seemed appropriately bright and clean, and though bass response could have been a little deeper, I still thought the music sounded fresh and crisp. All in all, 2001 featured an exceptionally good soundtrack for a movie from this period.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-ray compare to the last DVD release from 2007? The audio was a bit smoother and richer, and the Blu-ray provided superior visuals. While the DVD looked pretty good for its format, the Blu-ray seemed tighter and clearer.
The Blu-ray shares the same extras as the 2007 SE. In addition to a trailer, we find an audio commentary from actors Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, both of whom were recorded separately. Each one provides his own running, screen-specific chat. They look at their pre-2001 impressions of Kubrick and how they got their roles, working with him and other thoughts about the director, aspects of 2001 and its impact, sets, effects and technical elements, and a few other areas.
Expect a spotty discussion of the film. While we do learn a reasonable amount about the production, we also get stuck with quite a lot of dead air as well as occasional moments that amount to little more than narration. Lockwood dominates, and that’s not a great thing; he’s chattier than Dullea but he seems somewhat full of himself, and his attitude wears thin. This is a decent commentary so it’s worth a listen – just don’t expect anything special.
Next we go to a documentary called 2001: The Making of a Myth. This 43-minute and five-second show mixes movie clips, archival elements and interviews. Hosted by James Cameron, we find notes from Dullea, author Arthur C. Clarke, special photographic effects supervisors Doug Trumbull and Con Pederson, special effects artist Brian Johnson, scientific consultant Fred Ordway, writer/art critic Camille Paglia, editor Ray Lovejoy, AT&T artificial intelligence expert Dr. Ron Brachman, film critic Elvis Mitchell, Space Policy Unit director John Logsdon, AT&T videophone technologist Roy Coutinho, voice recognition expert Dr. Larry Rabiner, and actors Heather Downham, Ed Bishop, Dan Richter, and Keith Denny.
“Myth” examines science and space travel in the 1960s as well as the state of science-fiction films. We also look at the science of 2001, its effects, working with Kubrick and various acting topics, music and editing, themes and interpretation, various other movie-making subjects and some speculation on alien life.
“Myth” acts as a decent examination of 2001 and related subjects, but I can’t say it does a ton for me. Part of the problem stems from its split focus. Half of the show looks at the creation of the movie while the other half views scientific elements. The two parts don’t coalesce especially well and this becomes a somewhat scattered take on things. Really, I’d have preferred one show for each aspect. “Myth” has enough going for it to merit a viewing, but it doesn’t impress.
Next comes the 21-minute and 20-second Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001. It features Trumbull, critics Jay Cocks and Roger Ebert, Kubrick’s assistant Anthony Frewin, The Complete Kubrick author David Hughes, Stanley Kubrick: The Complete Films author Paul Duncan, former Warner Bros. executive John Calley, Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography author John Baxter, and filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Sydney Pollack, George Lucas, Caleb Deschanel, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett, John Dykstra, Peter Hyams, Dan O’Bannon, Ernest Dickerson, William Friedkin, Janusz Kaminski, and Jan Harlan. “Legacy” discusses sci-fi flicks prior to 2001 and then gets into an appreciation for the film. This brings out some decent insights, but much of the featurette comes across as generic praise. I’d like more depth and less happy talk. Yeah, we know Kubrick’s a genius and 2001 is a classic – we don’t need 20 minutes of yammering to tell us that.
Visions of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001 fills 21 minutes, 25 seconds with comments from Ebert, Pollack, Friedkin, Clarke, Baxter, Frewin, Muren, Hughes, Duncan, Trumbull, O’Bannon, Dykstra, Harlan, Calley, Almost Heaven: The Story of Women In Space author Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles, and filmmakers Rob Coleman, Richard Edlund and Hugh Hudson. This one looks at what scientific elements of 2001 hold up and which don’t. As with “Legacy”, a smattering of nice notes emerge here, and there’s even a little mild criticism of some elements. However, the tone of praise remains dominant, and this doesn’t turn into a particularly fascinating piece.
After this we locate 2001: A Space Odyssey - A Look Behind the Future. The vintage featurette goes for 23 minutes, five seconds as it shows the movie set. We get a vision of the future and an inspection of various elements of 2001. It’s not especially informative, but it’s a fun glimpse of the production.
Keir Dullea hosts the 20-minute and 36-second What Is Out There? featurette. He provides a few minutes of introductory notes before we see some archival footage of Clarke. Dullea also reads some statements by various authorities. I like the old film material, but the show lacks great focus and comes across as a rambling, dull view of the possibility of life elsewhere.
Technical elements come to the fore in 2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork. It lasts nine minutes, 28 seconds and includes comments from Trumbull, and director’s wife Christiane Kubrick. We get notes about various special effects and different visual areas. We get some nice production art in this interesting piece.
For a glimpse of the director’s pre-film career, we check out the three-minute and 10-second Look: Stanley Kubrick! featurette. This offers a montage of the photos Kubrick took for Look magazine during his pre-film career. It provides a nice representation of his work.
Finally, we discover an Audio-Only 1966 Stanley Kubrick Interview. Recorded on November 27 of that year, the chat lasts one hour, 16 minutes and 26 seconds. In it Kubrick discusses his youth and his education, how he became interested in films and how he moved into that field, and his work up through the early stages of 2001.
No one should expect real revelations from the fairly mechanical Kubrick, but it’s a treat to hear him chat anyway – especially for such a long period. He does delve into aspects of his life and career pretty well, albeit with a superficial emphasis much of the time. Nonetheless, I like the interview and think it provides a pretty intriguing view of the man.
While I continue to maintain mixed feelings about 2001 itself, I can’t argue with its enduring legacy and the high level at which it was executed. This Blu-ray presents excellent picture and very good audio. The extras are a bit of a mixed bag but they add value to the set. This is definitely the best 2001 release to date.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY