HD DVD Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey

October 26, 2007

2001: A Space OdysseyI’m a huge fan of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ with that however I’m well aware the film isn’t for everyone, but know this review is coming from a fan’s perspective. It didn’t take me five minutes from the time I received the HD DVD of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ to get it out of the shipping box, into my HD DVD player, and onto the 110” screen. After all, three years was plenty enough waiting already right? Yes, right, wrong, crazy or just plain sentimental ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was one of the titles I wanted the most back in 2004 when I first started writing about the new high definition disc formats that were to launch in the coming years. Well the formats have launched and I have one of my most coveted titles in hand, what an exciting time to be a film lover.

Before I even attempt to describe the “plot” (or more importantly what I perceive the plot to be) of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ a little perspective might be in order. Like many who grew up in my generation (toward the end of the space race) science fiction played a huge part in my imagination, entertainment and even to some degree personal outlook on life. Of all the films/books that helped shape my fascination with science fiction ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ stands supreme as the shining example of what a science fiction movie was capable of conveying.

I’ve had (and read for that matter) countless debates about what ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is “about” and to be honest those debates are in many ways just as interesting as the film itself…Hmm, could that have been Kubrick’s plan all along? Pure genius if so, a nice aside if not. Make no mistake there are several different schools of thought when it comes to the meaning of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and some even go against Kubrick’s own interpretations (what precious little he shared).

4.5 Stars Plot: In 1968 Stanley Kubrick stated “You’re free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film—and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level—but I don’t want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else fear he’s missed the point.”

In my estimation the film is about man first, space second or more specifically mans place in the universe and how we might not be fully equipped to leave the grace of mother earth for the far reaches of space. But even my take on the film is somewhat different than Arthur C. Clarke’s (2001 collaborator and co-writer) who described it as basically an evolutionary story.

Ok maybe my take isn’t that different but it’s easy to see how we can all view the same film yet arrive at different conclusions about what we saw. For example, the wine glass that falls and shatters toward the end of the film, is it just the simple act of a glass breaking or is a metaphor for a larger point? I happen to share www.kubrick2001.com‘s interpretation of the breaking glass but that certainly isn’t the only way to interpret (if it all) the scene.

4 Stars Sight and Sound: It’s hard to mince words with a title like this, I won’t bother. The opening “sunrise” sequence with Strauss’s ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ in TrueHD gave me goose bumps and nearly had my eyes welling up with tears. That might sound a bit extreme for a mere film and I’d agree but this is of course no mere film. 2001 has captured my imagination for well over two decades now and continues to do so.

The early-earth early-man scenes looked fantastic, not perfect mind you but better than I’ve ever seen them, and better than I suspect anyone has seen since its 1968 theatrical premier (sans subsequent theatrical presentations of course). The colors were rich and saturated, gone are the faint, washed out colors I’d remembered from the earlier DVD versions. As early man discards his first tool and we cut away to space I was stuck by how black the night sky space looked.

The scenes aboard the space station were certainly much better than I’d remembered from previous viewings but were ever so slightly softer than I had anticipated. Flash forward to just a few minutes later aboard the shuttle and there was that sharpness I’d been expecting. The film approaching 40 years old may not look like video sourced from an HD camera but that’s not the point nor would that be appropriate or welcome, for that matter. Rest assured, this is the definitive home video version of 2001.

4.5 Stars TrueHD Soundtrack: I alluded to the audio earlier but wanted to go into a bit more detail, I used the TrueHD soundtrack throughout the review. All of the orchestral music, eerie sound effects and dialog all sounded wonderful and much of it struck me as hearing it for the first time. Skipping forward a bit to the scenes aboard the Discovery One, the detail of the ship both interior and exterior was rather impressive. Again not to beat a phrase into the ground but I’d obviously never seen this much detail in the ship.

Toward the end of the film as man meets his destiny we’re met with the famous “white room” scene. Again without imparting too much of my own opinion on you as to what the movie (specifically the end of the movie) means, lets just say the white room is chock full of metaphors and just may be entirely a metaphor. Bowman’s red space suit was bright, vibrant and again more colorful than I’ve ever seen it. As a matter of fact, all the colors in the “room” were deeper, richer and more impressive than I’ve ever seen and again aided in the feeling that I was seeing some of this for the first time.

4 Stars Extras: Just as with the extras on ‘Transformers’, this disc doesn’t disappoint. From the audio interview with Kubrick himself, to the multiple mini documentaries on the making of the film to the plausibility of the science of 2001: A Space Odyssey and how it’s held up over the years. If you’ve seen the film yet never delved into the extras I highly recommend them. The extras include: Audio commentary (Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood), audio-only interview with Kubrick, Documentaries (“2001: The Making of a Myth”), Featurette (“Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001,” “Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001,” “2001: A Space Odyssey – A Look Behind the Future,” “2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork” and “Look: Stanley Kubrick!”.

5 Stars Overall: This will be a first for my movie reviews at Home Theater Blog, a perfect five. No I’m not giving the image quality a five or even the extras for that matter but the disc overall. This is simply the best home video presentation available to date for one of the greatest movies ever made. 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of those rare films that elevates the medium to an art form, it tackles big ideas head-on and does so unabashedly. This is the biggest no brainer recommendation I’ll likely ever make here, if you’re a fan of sci-fi, Kubrick, or just want to own the definitive version of a true masterpiece, this disc belongs in your collection.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under HD-DVD, Movies & Television


Comments

  • DCLawyer

    Great website – but it’s hard to find older content. Why is this tagged as HD rather than as movies for example?

  • DCLawyer

    Great website – but it’s hard to find older content. Why is this tagged as HD rather than as movies for example?

  • B.Greenway

    Because its a review of a HD DVD, but you’re right, the tag just slipped past me.

  • B.Greenway

    Because its a review of a HD DVD, but you’re right, the tag just slipped past me.