Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter, Leonard Rossiter, Margaret Tyzack, Robert Beatty, Sean Sullivan, Douglas Rain, Frank Miller
Arthur C. Clarke (and story, "The Sentinel"), Stanley Kubrick
Let the Awe and Mystery of a Journey Unlike Any Other Begin.
2001: A Space Odyssey is a countdown to tomorrow, a road map to human destiny, a quest for the infinite. It is a dazzling, Academy Award winning visual achievement, a compelling drama of man vs. machine, a stunning meld of music and motion. It may be the masterwork of director Stanley Kubrick (who co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur C. Clark) ... and it will likely excite, inspire and enthrall for generations. To begin his voyage into the future, Kubrick visits our prehistoric ape-ancestry past, then leaps millennia (via one of the most mind-blowing jump cuts ever conceived) into colonized space, and ultimately whisks astronaut Bowman (Keir Dullea) into uncharted realms of space, perhaps even into immortality. "Open the pod bay doors, HAL". Let the awe and mystery of a journey unlke any other begin.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 148 min.
Release Date: 6/12/2001
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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2001: A Space Odyssey - New Stanley Kubrick Collection (1968)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 7, 2007)
Prior to 1999, I’d never been able to sit through Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Oh, I’d attempted to watch it a few times, but I simply couldn’t do it. While the movie seemed to be visually spectacular, I found the story to be a bore.
While I didn’t adore the film when I checked it out in 1999, I definitely found it to be more interesting than I had in the past. A lot of this may have been due to the additional perspective and information I'd obtained over the years. I knew a little about the film during earlier screenings, but I wasn't very prepared for the style and pace at which the movie unfolds. Obviously, I knew what I was getting myself into this time.
I'd also learned more about the film in the interim. While I didn’t go out of my way to bone up on it, I'd picked up little tidbits here and there about the movie's meaning and intentions through various newsgroups and whatnot. I don't know how much this additional information added to the experience, but it doubtless helped.
As I watched it, I spent more time trying to decipher 2001. I doubt that I did too well in that regard, but I definitely saw more to it than I had in the past. The impression I got was that Kubrick seemed to say that progress and evolution are frequently marked by negativity. When the monkeydudes in the "Dawn of Man" sequence discovered how to use tools, this growth was accompanied by violence. In the future, when scientists were able to create a computer that could actually think, how did we learn that it was truly becoming "human?" Because it started to make mistakes and because it became suspicious and paranoid.
Kubrick also appeared to want to let us know that change isn't always a positive in the way he presented space travel. Whereas this area usually is shown as being thrilling and exciting, Kubrick made it look monotonous and drab, as though it’s nothing more than the equivalent of riding on a bus. To me, the implication seemed to be that we easily lose our sense of wonder and amazement, and activities that once were captivating and magnificent eventually become tedious. Progress appears inevitable but not always positive.
Did Kubrick intend those themes? Maybe, maybe not. Probably the best aspect of 2001 is the fact that it's a virtual cinematic tabula rasa; one can interpret it in many different ways. Those messages were what I saw in it, but they may differ completely from what you or other folks interpreted. Who's right, who's wrong? Who knows? Probably all and none of us.
At this point, I acknowledge that the meaning of the acid-trip ending and the "star baby" pretty much eludes me. Maybe if I watch it again, it'll make more sense, or maybe not. Actually, here's my interpretation: I'm not sure exactly when Kubrick shot the film, but from what I understand, he had it in development for years. Thus, there's a decent chance that the "star baby" bits were being done during the spring of 1967. I was born in May of that year. As such, the true meaning is obvious: I am the "star baby!" I am the meaning of life and the center of the universe. Hmm... I'm starting to like this movie more and more. (It's also possible that I may be the Lindbergh baby; the jury's still out on that one.)
On a side note, it turns out that Kubrick never offered much insight into most of the film, but he did provide his take on the "star baby" stuff. Some production notes found in an earlier DVD release stated that "The appearance of the third monolith, Kubrick has explained, sends space voyager Bowman 'on a journey through inner and outer space and finally ... to where he's placed in a human zoo approximating a hospitable terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination. In a timeless state, his life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, a "star child," an angel, a superman, if you like, and returns to Earth prepared for the next leap forward of man's evolutionary destiny.'" Yeah, whatever. I'm sticking with my explanation; the concept that I’m the center of the universe makes much more sense to me.
I admit that while I still can't say that I actually like 2001, I definitely respect it more than I did. It remains damned slow, and the temptation to shoot the film forward via my remote control occasionally became great. At times I felt like I was watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which may well be the dullest movie of all time. Interestingly, I picked up on the obvious influence of 2001 on that film much more fully this time; in many ways, ST:TMP seems to be a virtual sequel to Kubrick’s flick. I also noticed the 2001 influences that showed up in films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Alien. Granted, I much prefer those two films to Kubrick’s offering, but I can't ignore the impact 2001 had upon them.
Visually, 2001 remains strong. Most of the effects haven't aged much over the last nearly 40 years. Of course, they could spiff them up a lot, but there seems to be no reason to do so. Kubrick moved the film along at a very slow, deliberate pace, and the effects worked quite well for it; flashier visuals would seem very out of place. Probably the area that needed the most improvement regarded the monkeymen; those costumes haven't held up too well. However, the space effects still looked good.
Love it or hate it, 2001: A Space Odyssey offered a singular work of art. As bored as I occasionally became, I couldn't argue that it should have been done differently. While my feelings about 2001 haven’t done a full 180 since I first tried to watch the film many years ago, they have changed quite a bit. While I still am not wild about 2001, I definitely respect it.
The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus D-
2001: A Space Odyssey appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.20:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The anamorphic enhancement offered only the first of many improvements found on this disc when compared to its predecessor.
The 2001 reissue of 2001 marked the third time the film appeared on DVD, but that fact is actually misleading. The first release came from MGM in August 1998, while Warner Bros. put out a second version in June 1999. Except for the elimination of some good text production notes found in the MGM disc’s case, the two products were identical; the disc content and the transfer did not differ in the slightest.
That old DVD wasn’t a bad piece of work, but considering the stature of 2001, it seemed like a definite disappointment; I referred to is as “decent and watchable but unspectacular” in my original review. That was then - this is now. While the transfer on the new DVD wasn’t flawless, it certainly came close to that level as it provided a sumptuous and outstanding visual experience.
Sharpness appeared very good. During some of the film’s wider shots, I detected a modest amount of softness, but these instances provided no real concerns. As a whole, I found the picture to appear nicely crisp and detailed throughout the majority of the movie. No jagged edges could be seen, but I did detect minor shimmering in a few spots. There were light moiré effects from the fine print on the picture phone and from the walls of an elevator, but otherwise I found the image to look very solid. I did detect some mild edge enhancement at times, though.
Print flaws presented few problems during 2001. Some light grain seemed apparent during a few of the opening “Dawn Of Man” sequences, and I witnessed a fleck of grit or two during the rest of the movie, but that was it. 2001 looked clean most of the time.
Colors looked quite solid. 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 consistently appeared clear and accurate.
Black levels also looked good throughout the movie. They were always nicely deep and dark, and contrast was fine. During some of the cave shots in the “Dawn Of Man” parts, I thought shadows were slightly heavy, but they remained within acceptable limits. Otherwise, I detected no concerns in regard to those elements; the low-light sequences stayed appropriately visible without excessive thickness. This wasn’t a flawless rendition of 2001, but it looked good.
While the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of 2001 didn’t mark the “leaps and bounds” improvements shown by its picture, I still thought the audio seemed stronger than on the prior DVD. 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 very 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.
So far so good, but the new DVD of 2001 becomes a disappointment when we examine its extras. All we find is the film’s theatrical trailer. That marks a drop from the old DVDs. Both the MGM and the original WB discs included a trailer for 2010: The Year We Make Contact and an interesting 20-minute clip from a conference at which author Arthur C. Clarke appeared. The MGM edition also provided some good text production notes within its booklet.
Why have these supplements vanished from the new DVD? I have no idea. Perhaps it was to maximize the quality of the movie itself, but I honestly can’t imagine that the space used up by those minor extras would have caused any terrible degradation of the film’s image.
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. The DVD offers fine picture and sound; only the supplements disappointment. Nonetheless, 2001 lovers will be pleased with this disc, as it presents the movie in a solid fashion.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY