2001: A Space Odyssey (Blu-Ray) Studio: Warner Home Video Rated: G Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: VC-1 Audio:PCM: English 5.1; Dolby Digital 5.1: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian Subtitles: English; Spanish; French; Chinese; Danish; Dutch; Finnish; German; Italian; Korean; Norwegian; Portuguese; Swedish. Time: 148 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS BD Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date: 1968 Blu Ray Release Date: October 23, 2007 I recently finished reading J.W. Rinzler’s excellent book, The Making of Star Wars. In it, he mentions Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey several times, in terms particularly of who George Lucas hired to do the special effects for 1977’s Star Wars. It was Lucas’ intent to capture the same feel of 2001 by utilizing many of the same processes Kubrick used in 1968: optical effects of models, shooting it to feel like a documentary, kit bashing on the models, etc. Being a child of Star Wars, where all through my childhood and formative years it was the “it” thing for me: I had all the toys, books, and anything else I could get my hands on. It was science fiction to me. Once Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, and the popularity of Star Wars went dormant, I was left to find other sci-fi works, including Dune and a ton of Ray Bradbury’s work, and I realized how un-sci-fi my beloved trilogy truly was. It wasn’t until 1984’s 2010 that I finally decided to see 2001. And boy, did I hate it! There were no aliens, lightsabers, Death Star’s or Jedi’s, just a ton of music and a thin plot. Over the intervening years, I have held off going back to 2001 since I was still intimidated by my original reaction to it. I am thankful to say that my recent viewing of the stunning Blu-Ray disc has finally made me a fan, and I think that it was a bit of fate that held me off from seeing it for this long. I consider this viewing as a “it chose me”, just at the right time, as did my viewings of Once Upon a Time in the West and Playtime to name a couple other instances. I believe that we are attracted to certain films as we reach different levels in our appreciation of cinema (or art- what have you) and when you see these pictures, you wonder where they have been all your life; you realize just how different you will view the form afterwards. I’m not going to delve too much into the plot (thin as it is) of 2001, since when you try to describe it you can’t help but impress one’s belief’s on what it’s about. Suffice it to say, 2001 covers several million years, starting at the dawn of man and how the mysterious arrival of a black obelisk teaches the primates how to use tools to better themselves. Jump cut to a more present day 2001, where Dr. Haywood Floyd (William Sylvester) is taking a trip to earth’s moon to see what the deal is with a mysterious black obelisk that has been unearthed on the moon. As he and the rest of his team approach the object and touch it, it emits a shrill tone. We jump again to eighteen months later and a manned mission to Jupiter. The two man crew, consisting of Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Pool (Gary Lockwood) work in tandem with the HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain) computer to ensure the trip goes as planned. As they near Jupiter, HAL 9000 begins noticing (or causing) problems that will forever alter the crew and mankind. As I said, it’s fairly easy to describe what it’s about until you see it. 2001 could be considered the cinematic culmination of the drug culture of the time, a vast metaphysical meditation on evolution, man v. machine, and the space race. Placing it in it’s time, it is a wholly masculine film where women are still relegated to a support function, and the pioneering men are in charge of taming the new worlds. Emotion is not welcome, as much as HAL 9000 tries, for Bowman and Pool, as they coolly watch their interviews and receive messages from home. These logical male pilots have adapted to their environment, while the environment that is the ship is trying to go just the opposite way. Kubrick’s intended themes in this picture have been discussed in numerous other places by writers far better than me. I will leave you with this: 2001 is a personal experience where you need to make up your own mind on what it’s about and how much you are willing to understand. Just don’t be afraid to take the trip. Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Play Station 3 Blu-Ray player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units. The picture is in VC-1, encoded at 1080p and it is framed at 2.20:1. This new Blu-Ray edition is a sight to behold with a near flawless HD transfer. Depending on who you ask (check out Robert Harris’ comments on another thread), this appears to be a new HD transfer, and the picture has never looked better. The opening pre-historic part is filled with rich, warm colors in the sunsets and desert environment. When I went back to do some close inspection of the image, I noticed what appeared to be some type of dirt on the print during the Dawn of Man sequence. If you look closely at the lighter parts of the images, such as the light sky above the mountain ranges, you will see some light smearing on the image. At first I thought I had some dirt on my screen or the lens of my projector, but the dirt remained once I cleaned both of those. When you jump to the space station scenes, which are very light and would show this dirt easily, it is absent. Therefore, I believe this is dirt that is part of the original negative of the scenes for the dawn of man sequence. When the story makes the jump to 2001, we are taken away from this warmth to the cold environment of space, of clean white corridors and splashes of chartreuse seats. These colors remain solid with no bleeding or smearing. As Floyd makes a call, the spinning space station’s window highlights the light blue of the earth, and we see the stars behind it. This image has the deepest blacks I have seen so far in a HD transfer, and the pinpoints of the star field are distinct and bright. Shadow detail is excellent; I was really expecting to be able to see the outlines of the optical effects, but they’re just not there. In much the same way Lowry Digital cleaned up the 2004 release of Star Wars, 2001 benefits in the same way. Check out the footage in the bonus docs and you can see what I’m assuming is the old transfer looks like. Flesh tones are healthy and accurate to the point where you can just about tell how Dullea’s makeup was done as he ages. The later scenes in the pod bay where we see the three different colored space suits show the level of accuracy absent in previous releases. In looking at the standard def release, the color on the space suits looks more drab and lifeless. Detail is excellent, both in the foreground and the background, again, allowing us to truly experience the world that was created for the film. I had to laugh at the part where Floyd stops to read the ten rules of using a space bound restroom, since I too could just about make out these tiny words. There was a mild amount of video noise and only a minimal amount of edge enhancement. There are several scenes that have excellent depth and it truly looked like a 3-D image. Again, as I said in my review of Warner’s Viva Las Vegas high def releases, you can see just how much care was put into this release. Audio: I listened to the PCM 5.1 track via the HDMI connection between the PS3 and the Denon 3808 in direct mode, where no enhancements are made to the audio. The feature contains a PCM English 5.1 track. At first I was not too impressed with what I was hearing, but then I realized I didn’t have that track activated. Once I switched over, to the PCM track, volume increased significantly and the soundstage was more enveloping. The soundtrack is very well balanced, using the fronts primarily and rolling out to the surrounds to create atmosphere. 2001 is a masterpiece of sound design in which sounds that would be more routine in today’s soundtracks are all you hear: the sounds of the ships and environment, the labored and quick breathing of Bowman and Poole as they take their space walks. These types of sounds become narrative devices to heighten tension, where in today’s movies we’d have them competing with the various sound effects and music to convey the same mood. The music also becomes a character, with a bold presentation of various classical tracks, each one robust and clear. Fidelity in all the channels was excellent, with accurate vocals and effects. The high’s of the trumpets and horns come through clear, clean and bright. LFE effects were minimal with nothing sounding too boomy and just enough bass in the drums to make an impact. The soundtrack was clear and free of any hiss or distortion. Bonus Material: With the advent of Blu-Ray, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. For this release, the extras are in MPEG-2, 480p unless otherwise noted. Feature Length Commentary with Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood: The two actors do a good job of giving us a balance of behind the scene’s information with their personal thoughts on the story. Well worth the time. 2001: The Making of a Myth (43:08): James Cameron hosts this documentary that goes into the making of the project. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, William Friedkin, and a host of other noted directors contribute their thoughts on the impact of 2001. Dullea, Arthur C. Clarke and a number of the crew also contribute. This is an excellent doc that digs into Kubrick and the movie giving us behind the scenes looks at the filming and how they achieved some of the amazing shots. Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001 (21:25): Most of the same participants of the previous doc contribute, especially the noted directors. They each explain how 2001 inspired them and made them strive to try and beat it. It is amazing to hear the praise of Spielberg, Sydney Pollock and others just gush about the movie and Kubrick since none of them are slouches by any means. Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001 (21:31): This is an interesting exploration of whether or not the future predicted in 2001 has ever been realized. While we know most of it has not (thank goodness were not eating our vegetables out of sippy boxes), the contributors make some astute observations on how our society is turning more in on itself, concerning ourselves with domestic issues instead of worrying ourselves about what’s “out there”. They also note how close the production was to visualizing the look of earth and the moon before we had the real world images provided by the various Apollo missions. 2001: A Space Odyssey- A Look Behind the Future (23:11): While the stuffy narrator may have placed a bit more hope in the Saturn and Apollo missions than was actually realized, it is still interesting to see how hopeful society was in the mid to late 1960’s. The vintage film (which is basically and 8th grade science film) goes into the MGM studios to give us a behind the scene’s look at the making and filming of 2001. We finally get to see some of the production and set designs as well as hearing first hand from the scientists enlisted to make the movie as scientifically accurate as possible. What is Out There? (20:42): A philosophical discussion about the themes explored in 2001. Dullea hosts and reads the script, while we get behind the scenes pictures and films of Clarke explaining the work, the nature of God as it relates to space exploration and the theories behind extra-terrestrials. Rather dry. 2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork (9:28): A look at how the effects were achieved, such as Bowman’s trippy contact with the obelisk. Fun word combination: “diaphanous nebulosity’s”. Doug Trumbull and Christine Kubrick contribute. Look! Stanley Kubrick! (3:15): “Kubrick’s early work as a photographer chronicling 1940’s America for Look! Magazine reflected his natural talent for visual storytelling.” A collection of still photographs taken by Kubrick and set to a jazzy soundtrack. 11/27/66 Interview with Stanley Kubrick (1:16:30): “Director Stanley Kubrick, with physicist Jeremy Bernstein, discusses the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey in this 1966 audio interview.” The fairly affable Kubrick is open and informative about his childhood, schooling and career, including some info on 2001. Theatrical Trailer Conclusions: Often referred to as “the granddaddy of all science fiction films”, this tremendous Blu-Ray release makes you understand why. Warner’s continues to bless us with some excellent transfers with a bunch of relevant and interesting bonus features. While there are some anomalies in the beginning of the picture, it does not over shadow just how great this transfer looks. It is my current choice for release of the year, and it comes… HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!