Wednesday, July 7, 2010

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - Stanley Kubrick - Blu-ray Review

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writer: Stanley Kubrick (Screenplay), Arthur C. Clarke (Novel)
Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter, Douglas Rain

A couple years back I got the chance to see a 70mm print of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) at the AFI Silver Theater. My first thought after seeing it the way Kubrick intended was "There is no way I will be able to watch and enjoy this movie on a TV again." The movie just looked so amazing on the big screen that I just didn't see how watching it on a small screen would ever be able to compare.

That being said, when I bought a Blu-ray player, 2001 was one of my first purchases. It sat on my shelf for quite awhile before I finally got around to watching it though. As much as I love the movie, it is one of those films that you have to set aside some time to watch. However, one day last week while doing some chores I decided that I would put the blu-ray on in the background so I could see how it looked. I had seen the movie enough that I thought I could watch it without giving it my full attention.

I was wrong. After the movie had been in for about ten minutes I was sitting on the couch, watching intently and ignoring the chores that needed to be done. The transfer on the blu-ray was just so impressive that I had to give the movie my full attention. A 40-inch television is no match for the 70mm print I saw at the theater but it was still impressive in its own right. There was one thing that watching it home had over the theater experience though. There was no one else around to make any noise and since a lot of this movie is so quiet, you can hear just about anyone talking in a theater, no matter how quietly.

Screenshot from Blu-ray.com - Click image to see more.

Movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey are the reason blu-ray exists. This blu-ray is one of the best high definition transfers I have seen thus far. You are really able to make out all the incredible details that Kubrick put into the movie. The special effects of space ships looks beautiful and unlike a lot of other sci-fi movies I have seen, the special effects of 2001 actually hold up to the scrutiny of the detail provided by a blu-ray presentation. Kubrick was a perfectionist and it really shows here.

While the dialog is pretty sparse, sound is extremely important to the film. The background music, which consists mostly of classical music that makes the space sequences seem almost like a ballet, sounds beautiful. The intense breathing that we hear while the characters are in the space suits is presented perfectly and really adds to the suspenseful feelings of those scenes. That eerie high pitched whine made by the monolith is completely ear piercing. That may not sound very pleasant but it was nice to see how well it was presented on the blu-ray.

As for the movie itself, what can I say? I know it certainly isn't a movie for everyone but it has always been one of my favorites. I don't claim to have a perfect grasp of everything Kubrick was trying to say with but I think I've developed a pretty good feel of just what the film means to me. It is a slow moving film but it is always intriguing. I manages to be a slow meditation on where humanity has been and where it is going and it will definitely leave you with something to think about.

With this film Kubrick was able to create a science fiction film that even after 40 years does not seem dated. By only showing representations of alien life and humanities next stage in evolution the movie manages to avoid a lot of the things that makes a sci-fi film seem cheesy when watching it years after it was made. Even though we are now 9 years passed the date in the title, 2001 still manages to be one of the most realistic interpretations of the future that has ever been put on film.

If you are someone that really enjoys the film I also highly recommend reading the book The Lost Worlds of 2001 by Arthur C. Clarke. The book tells the background of what went into making the film from Clarke's point of view. It also contains several chapters from early drafts of Clarke's novel that obviously would not worked for the film Kubrick was making but are interesting to compare to what actually ended up in the final versions of the novel and the film.

Rating: 10/10

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