2001: A Space Odyssey Blu-ray Review
Picture2001 comes to us with nothing less than an outstanding transfer. Offered up in its original widescreen 2.20:1 ratio which at times seems deceptively wider only because of the long slow tracking shots of the Discovery in space. It's encoded at 1080p using the VC1 codec. Earlier releases of 2001 suffered badly from unacceptable transfers. The last edition included in the Kubrick Collection was ok to a degree but really suffered from an abundance of edge enhancement and some blocking. Thankfully there's none of that on show here though, no enhancement around the clothing of the characters whilst onboard the brightly lit space station, no blocking or noise in those abundant depths of space, no grain that I could identify.
Colours are, for want of a better phrase, out of this world. The glorious swathes of the golds and bronze landscape come across beautifully during The Dawn of Man with no shimmer or lack of delineation. Gradients of colour during these scenes too are beautifully presented with no banding on show. Bleached, sun drenched scenes during this opening belay no blooming and have no effect on the contrast at the other end of the scale with the shadows in the apes marginal caves still richly detailed as never before seen. The landscape itself is a feast for the eye, gloriously presenting the distant mountains and wonderfully set blue hues of the sky with absolute precision.
Moving forward there's no judder or brightness fluctuations with the scenes set in space or on the richly detailed moon. Reds as exhibited during the pod landing on the base at Clavious and the internal memory bank of H.A.L. are deep, blood red in colour; in both scenes not one pixel strays from its intended borders. Detail is exquisite, from the definition on the multiple space suits, the exterior shots of the Discovery, the many screens in use as information panels, the moonscape; it goes on and on. For a film of this age it's a joy to behold, and 2001 being primarily a visual feast this transfer finally does its creator justice. Like Chris in his earlier review I too tried reviewing certain scenes over and over to see if there was that touch of enhancement or those blacks really do become crushed. I can honestly report that they don't, it doesn't get any better.
The stargate sequence itself is what many people originally saw this picture for. Never mind the overtones, never mind those individual crafted shots just get to the end! And what an end, you'll not see a better presentation of a rainbow of colours, unless of course you venture into CGI. The birth and death of exploding galaxies is simply jaw dropping.
Some have mentioned smudges on the sky in The Dawn of Man sequence. It's there and it's also on the Region 1 release I have, in fact when I purchased that some time ago I thought my screen was dirty and went up to clean it! This is not a fault of the transfer itself but rather an unintended by product of the technology in use at the time. The backdrops were created by front projecting the image for the background. I can only surmise that the negatives used for this front projection though either had flaws or the surface onto which they were projected had flaws. When you first see them they are a bit of a pain but there's so much more to enjoy that they quickly merge into those glorious landscapes.
Sound2001 comes with both 5.1 PCM and a Dolby Digital 5.1 offering. It's no secret that I'll always choose the former and why should this be any different? Sonically 2001 is an unusual film really, at times totally silent. There's very little dialogue but what is there is perfectly presented through the centre channel and it never once misses a beat. The confident tones of Heywood Floyd and the rather unusual Russian accent from Leonard Rossiter on board the space station are perfect. The subdued tones of the Discovery crew whilst being monotonous are still easily heard and the warm welcoming tones of H.A.L almost seem to echo from the front stage.
Kubrick was a master of sound incorporation and here he adds individual sounds to the exclusion of all else; breathing, instrumentation pings, the grunts of prehistoric animals during The Dawn of Man. Each serve their purpose well and like the dialogue cannot be faulted.
The audio comes alive during certain scenes, the orchestral meanderings of The Blue Danube gracefully flow from your frontal stage, increasing in vibrancy as the scene comes to its climax. Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra which is intermittent throughout the film adds depth and weight to the proceeding with the kettle drums coming over superbly. The stage widens during these two pieces, mainly coming from the fronts but also adding some weight to the rears in what is really a film of its time and not one in which your surrounds will be heavily used.
LFE is acceptable when required and this really includes the end stargate sequence when the volume builds and builds. The shaking experienced by Bowman during this trip is perfectly created in your viewing areas with some deep bass and some expressive melancholy overtones.
ExtrasThe Region 1 disc I own, from the Stanley Kubrick Collection, was woefully lacking in features; especially for a film of this merit. The best we could hope for would be an audio commentary by Kubrick himself, but obviously we know that's not going to happen. And Kubrick being Kubrick it probably wouldn't have happened if he was still with us anyway. What we do have though is a comprehensive set which any film or Kubrick fan will revel in.
- Commentary with Keir Dullea and Gary Lockood.
This is a fine example of an enjoyable commentary and fantastic to see these two actors, who probably had the most lines on 2001, adding to the flavour of this disc. Aspects of the production are catered for, discussion on how Kubrick shot scenes on different continents whilst still residing in England. Some own personal histories in what they enjoyed reading and what they enjoyed viewing. The shock at working for Kubrick himself, attending conventions, camera mounting and tracking. The two are obviously old friends and this comes across as a warm, enjoyable commentary which gives extra insight in the production of this seminal feature.
- 2001: The Making of a Myth. - 0:43:09
A Channel 4 documentary presented by James Cameron and introducing a number of famous players in the industry, some of who worked on 2001. Arthur C Clarke is on screen discussing his early works and how he sold the idea to Kubrick, Douglas Trumbull describes working on 2001 as being in special effects Nirvana, Speilberg appears and cannot praise the man highly enough. Like most other Channel 4 documentaries on film this is certainly worth a watch and opens some insight into Stanley Kubrick's history, methods and application on 2001.
- Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001. - 0:21:25
More film makers including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg relating their own personal experience of what Kubrick, and his productions, meant to them. Again Spielberg insists that there was no other better man for framing and trying to get ideas across. Lucas sees him as an inspiration and someone who he constantly looks up and compares himself with. Even though I enjoy Lucas' films (well some), he obviously has some way to go!
- Vision of Future Past: The Prophecy of 2001. - 0:21:30
Echoing the warnings of technology which is one of the themes contained within 2001 this introduces some of the technology presented in 2001 and what has come to pass since 1968 up to the turn of the millennium. Some of the technology in 2001 has obviously been realised, some still a long way off.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey - A Look Behind the Future. - 0:23:11
This is a documentary shot whilst 2001 was still in production, mentioning that it should be released in 1967! A short obviously to get the interest of the viewing public. Pre production designs are shown, the construction of sets, the intricate design of costumes. This feature also contains a detailed look at the huge centrifuge which Kubrick had built to film the inside of the Discovery.
- What is Out There? - 0:20:42
A short, badly presented by Keir Dullea who is obviously reading from a script, where a discussion takes place on the possibilities of life existing on other planets. Some of the concepts in 2001 are discussed, specifically if these aliens would be seen as God like beings because of how further evolved they would be both emotionally and technologically. It's a worthwhile watch but I feel it could have been a little less robotically presented.
- 2001: FX and Early Conceptual Work. - 0:20:42
Some discussion presented by, amongst others, by Douglas Trumbull and Stanley's wife Christiana, on some of the special effects used on the film and some of the preproduction art work created by Christiana herself. It's apparent from the art work that some changes were made until Stanley produced his vision on screen.
- Look: Stanley Kubrick! - 0:03:15
Kubrick started out as a photographer for Look Magazine; here we are offered a number of his black and white still from those early days. It can be seen from these stills that Kubrick really does have an eye for capturing and summing up events as they happened.
- Kubrick Interview with Jeremy Bernstein. - 01:16:30
For Kubrick fans probably the most interesting addition on this disc. Those fortunate enough to own "The Stanley Kubrick Archives" will be familiar with this work as it's on CD which comes with that mighty work. Recorded in 1966 it has Kubrick, laughing away, discussing his life up to that point in time. His experiences at school which he found worthless and a waste of time, learning more from being in the big world. How he got into photography and from there, how he and some friends managed to source some money to produce their first feature. This is a brilliant interview for all Kubrick obsessive fans (and let's face it are there any other variety?). Rather than coming across as the tyrant he was often portrayed as he comes across as an affable, amusing, likeable character. Invaluable.
The original trailer.
There we have it, a worthwhile set of extras which any fan would be both proud to own and revisit every now and again, if only to hear Kubrick laughing on the audio interview. People are interviewed in these features who you will recognise instantly, Douglas Trumbull, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Dan O'Bannon; all offer up nothing less than glowing tributes to a man who for them helped change their world. Once Kubrick hit the scene they knew the bar had risen and they all had to rise with him. Finally this release comes with the extras which is so deserves.
VerdictCan you see I'm a Kubrick fan, I hope so. For me I have been waiting for this release for so long. The initial DVD release was pretty substandard, the Region 1 edition included in the Kubrick Collection was better (still not great), but sadly lacking any flesh upon its bones. Finally a release with a worthwhile set of extras to sink your teeth into, fantastic sound and simply wonderful video quality for a film soon to enter into the prime of its life. Perhaps at 40 life will start afresh for 2001 and I have had heard a rumour of an Imax release to experience it in all it's glory. Make no bones about it, watching 2001 is not just about sitting back, it is an experience in itself which will either bore you to tears or, like myself, have you raving for years to come.
It boils down to this, as Kubrick desired, it is the most subjective film out there; you do deserve to give this at least a couple of viewings because it slowly reveals itself viewing after viewing. Even to this day I'm still getting more from it, I still like to read about it and once I know I'm going to give it another watch I absolutely love the anticipation of leading up to walking into my cinema room, sitting down, lights out and pressing play.
Kubrick himself was reported as being tearful wandering around the set of the huge centrifuge after filming on 2001 was complete; for me I think he knew that this was the pinnacle, that nothing else he would do would even remotely come close to this level of perfection for his art-form. So dust down those Kaftans and hippie beads, make sure you add this to your growing BluRay collection. As H.A.L. himself would say "Its puzzling... I don't think I've quite seen anything like this before", or since for that matter!
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.97
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- Commentary with Keir Dullea and Gary Lockood.