Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Douglas Rain
Running Time: 141 minutes
Another review from Andy.
A classic and influential Sci-Fi film like this is surely a must-buy Blu Ray disc from the word go. But does it transfer to hi-def acceptably? Is it a quick lazy production or did Warner Brothers dedicate a bit of effort for this flag ship space epic?
Well Chisholm and I sat down last night to debut this disc. We were both very familiar with the film but neither of us had watched it for many years. I first saw the film about 20 years ago but I was a bit too young to understand everything that was going on... at the time seeing space ships was cool enough. I'd watched at again some time later and, being a bit older, followed it better. But it was as a teenager reading Arthur C Clarke's book and then hoovering up all the sequel novels that the story really gripped me. And so it was last night that I returned to 2001 for the full theatrical, hi-def, cinema roomed, blu ray'd epic viewing.
First off, some comments on the Hi-defness. Perhaps most people reading this will already be familiar with the movie and are only interested in whether it’s worth buying again on Blu Ray. Space Odyssey fans can relax... nay, not relax, …get positively excited! This is an incredibly good transfer to Blu Ray with lots of bonus material. There was no graininess that could have been expected from the original tapes, the picture is very sharp and the colours nothing short of gob-smacking. Particularly impressive are the sunrise vistas extensively presented in the “Dawn of Man” chapters of the movies. This is perfect wide screen eye candy. The hues of the clouds bathed in the early morning sunshine where rich and well saturated, the barren landscapes impressively huge and pin sharp in 1080p. The contrasts of brightly lit greys and deep space darks in the subsequent chapters based on the moon where equally impressive for their lack of colours letting the pin-sharpness of the hi-definition show itself off in a very stark environment. We did detect some minor tape damage (or something) at some points in the movie, but it was borderline irrelevant and easily ignored. The master tapes are in very good condition for their age, 40 years old this year, and the quality has come across in this reproduction.
The soundtrack is only in stereo so there's no 7.1/5.1 True HD or DTS, however the film simply doesn't need such modern cinema tricks like surround sound. The quality of the sound track was CD-perfect with no noticeable hissing or back ground white noise. The voice tracks where very clear and the music of Strauss is beautiful and haunting. The excellent heavy breathing we hear during the first EVA make us claustrophobic as though we too were in the Pod. The echoes of Bowman's movements in the alien 'cell' at the end heap on us the feelings of loneliness and emptiness that surely Bowman is feeling.
The special effects in this movie are gob-smacking to say the least. Whole sets were built to rotate with a fixed camera to give us the impression of zero gravity corridors, and the ingenious torus of the Discovery hub. The shuttle landing at the lunar base still looks better and more realistic than any modern day CGI efforts and I can say with earnest that this movie has not dated one iota since 1968. Hell, even the furniture and fashion is back in style. What this film does, cinematically, is hold a huge mirror up to modern day directors so that they can very embarrassingly see how lazy they've become with special effects and dumbed down narrative. 2001 doesn't have any narrative! Instead it relies on the audience to actually process what they're watching and then coming to conclusions as to what is being portrayed. This is the most powerful approach to story telling. And Arthur C Clarke's stories are amongst the most profound and brilliant out there. It demands further watching as you thirst to gleam more from it. Stanley Kubricks' genius is also exemplified in this film. Obviously the two giants worked very closely with each other to create such a masterpiece so stooped in accurate scientific detail yet so careful played out so to make everything seem so everyday.
Everyday, that is except for the last 15 or 20 minutes. Here Kubrick goes nuts with gloriously gaudy oil on water effects during Bowman's journey to the alien habitat. This version on the Blu Ray is completely uncut and this trippy segment lasts much longer than I can remember from my previous viewings.
I woke up this morning still thinking about this movie. How even the apes at the start out-acted most of today's plastic Hollywood stars. How the unsaid in the movie is just as powerful as the said. How fantastic and realistic it all looked. And how subsequently copied it has been over the years. The look of Star Wars is taken directly from this film. Event Horizon too mimics it in many ways. Space 1999, Red Dwarf, Star Trek.... all of them owe something to Kubrick and Clarke. This story has always been one of my favourite Sci Fi novels, but having watched the Blu Ray last night and got so much enjoyment out of it I think I can now upgrade the movie from “a film I like but haven’t seen for years” to be amongst the best movies I've ever seen. Possibly now my favourite film... for this week at least! The Chisholm and I where grinning from ear to ear for much of the length of this movie, for it is incredible. It’s well worth the Blu Ray price tag, and I'm now going head back into the movie room and absorb all the featurettes and extras for another few hours. Oh, and watch 2010: The Year We Make Contact, for the first time....