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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 8/24/98
updated: 5/22/01




2001: A Space Odyssey

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The Films of Stanley Kubrick on DVD


2001: A Space Odyssey (new Kubrick Collection version)

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

2001: A Space Odyssey
1968 (2001) - MGM (Warner Bros.)

Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A/D-

Specs and Features

148 mins, G, letterboxed widescreen (2.20:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:27:44, at start of chapter 21), Snapper case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menus with sound effects, scene access (32 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, Closed Captioned



2001: A Space Odyssey (Warner Kubrick Collection version)


2001: A Space Odyssey
1968 (1999) - MGM (Warner Bros.)

Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/B-/B

Specs and Features

148 mins, G, letterboxed widescreen (2.20:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:27:36, at start of chapter 21), Snapper case packaging, footage of speech given by writer Arthur C. Clarke (at a luncheon prior to the film's premiere), two theatrical trailers (one for 2001 and another for the sequel 2010), animated film-themed menus with sound effects, scene access (32 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French (DD 1.0 mono), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned



2001: A Space Odyssey (MGM)


2001: A Space Odyssey
1968 (1998) - MGM

Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/B-/B

Specs and Features

148 mins, G, letterboxed widescreen (2.20:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:27:36, at start of chapter 21), Amaray keep case packaging, footage of speech given by writer Arthur C. Clarke (at a luncheon prior to the film's premiere), two theatrical trailers (one for 2001 and another for the sequel 2010), animated film-themed menus with sound effects, scene access (32 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French (DD 1.0 mono), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned


There are a very small handful of landmark science fiction films, that can truly be said to have influenced almost every film that followed. Among these are such classics as Metropolis, Forbidden Planet, Star Wars, and Blade Runner. But 2001: A Space Odyssey stands alone in these ranks, as that rarest and most amazing of achievements in science-fiction: a work of unparalleled vision, grounded firmly in the realm of science, yet presented with breath-taking cinematic style and artistry.

To call 2001 high-concept is a major understatement. The basic plot is as follows: Millions of years ago, at the very Dawn of Man, the appearance of a mysterious, black monolith inspires a small band of primitive ape-like humanoids (Australopithecus anyone?) to begin using tools, thus triggering the evolution of modern man. Suddenly, it's the year 2001. Humans (by now, space travelers a go-go) have just discovered a duplicate monolith, that's been buried under the surface of the Moon for four million years. Little can be learned about it, except that it was clearly placed there by an extraterrestrial intelligence. Then the monolith sends a single radio signal towards Jupiter. Within months, the gigantic spaceship Discovery has been dispatched on a top-secret mission to determine who (or what) may have received the signal. In the end, we're witness to an astounding, even metaphysical series of events - perhaps nothing short of the next step in human evolution. Let's just say that this film will keep you thinking for a while...

2001 is a staggering work - a signature piece by director Stanley Kubrick. As you may know, it's based on a short story (entitled The Sentinel) by writer Arthur C. Clarke, who later expanded the story into the full-length novel 2001. Clarke, well-versed in the sciences, mathematics and engineering, is widely credited with the invention of the geostationary communications satellite, an idea which he first presented in a 1945 magazine article. One of the goals these two men set for themselves when making 2001, was to accurately portray, for the first time on film, what it would really be like to travel in space. Keep in mind, that at the time 2001 premiered, mankind had only just begun to travel in space, and had yet to reach the moon. The fact that the film still holds up amazingly well today is an impressive testament to the efforts of Kubrick, Clarke and an Academy Award-winning visual effects team, led by Douglas Trumbull. In fact, the only thing which really dates this film are the scenes with Dr. Floyd (William Sylvester). He and his fellow scientists are all stiff, Ward Cleaver look-alikes. Okay, those chairs on the space station are a little retro too. But Discovery astronauts Frank Poole and David Bowman (Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea) look very contemporary. One wouldn't be surprised to see either of them on a present-day NASA space shuttle crew.

2001 is a visual feast and features an impressive classical soundtrack as well. Johann Strauss' The Blue Danube is widely recognized, in no small part due to its use here. And Richard Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra has become virtually synonymous with this film. 2001 also boasts perhaps the most infamous (and paranoid) computer in all of science-fiction... HAL 9000. HAL presented the public with perhaps the first accurate representation of what an artificial intelligence may look and act like. Of course, HAL is still decades ahead of his time, even by today's standards. The best we can muster now is Deep Blue, which doesn't hold a candle to HAL (I'm guessing a hypothetical HAL vs. Kasparov chess match would result in Kasparov renouncing the game). Oh, well. As the song goes, "the future's so bright, I gotta wear shades..."

There have been 2 different versions of 2001 released on DVD, repackaged for a number of different releases. The best of these is Warner's newly remastered version, so we'll start with that one first. The film has finally been given anamorphic widescreen treatment, and the quality is nothing short of astonishing. The film simply looks amazing, in all its 2.20:1 widescreen glory. Remastered from a brand new print taken from the original neg and color-corrected to Kubrick's own standards, the video on this DVD features rock solid color, terrific contrast and crisp detail. There's absolutely no digital artifacting or edge enhancement to be seen, and shadow delineation is excellent. Best of all, the image has been digitally cleansed to remove ANY kind of print artifact you'd expect to see - dirt, scratches, etc. There's not a speck, pop or blemish to be seen anywhere. Amazing.

All of the other versions of 2001 on DVD were basically repackagings of MGM's original 1998 disc, and the quality was less than desirable. To start with, the film was letterboxed-only - no anamorphic widescreen enhancement. The video was generally good, although there were some occasional problems with contrast. This was particularly noticeable in some of the spaceflight sequences early in the film - the range of blacks seemed condensed somehow, resulting in a flat-looking picture. There was also a lot of unneeded edge-enhancement visible in the picture, most apparent in the Dawn of Man sequence. The new Warner version is definitely the one to buy for picture quality.

The audio on the new Warner disc is presented in newly-remastered Dolby Digital 5.1, and once again it's terrific. There's tremendous dynamic range in the mix, so that the most quiet passages are almost reverent, while the thundering drums of Also sprach Zarathustra will crash over you like a sonic tidal wave. There's also a great sense of atmosphere created in the mix with active use of the rear channels - note the quiet wildlife sounds in the Dawn of Man sequence, and the ever-present machine noise aboard the Discovery on its way to Jupiter. Very nice. You should also know that the so-called "missing line" of dialogue on the original DVD has been restored on this new edition (shortly after the Intermission, a portion of HAL's response to Bowman's calls from the pod was omitted on the MGM disc - the words "I read you" to be specific). 5.1 audio is also available in French on the new Warner disc. As for the earlier disc, you also got English 5.1, but was much less dynamic and atmospheric. Mono audio was also provided in French. Just forget about it and buy the new version instead.

Actually, let me qualify that. You may want to own both versions, because the extras is the one area where the original DVD has a slight edge. The new Warner disc contains a theatrical trailer for the film. That's it. The original MGM disc featured two theatrical trailers, one for 2001 and one for the sequel 2010. It also included an 8-page booklet of production notes. Most interesting, however, was a short film of a speech given by Arthur C. Clarke, at what appears to be an MGM luncheon on the day of the film's premiere. I kept thinking as I watched this, how cool a Clarke commentary track would have been (I'd bet a lot of money that he would have done one if asked - oh well). And there were a couple other very cool touches to the MGM disc. When you first started the disc, after the MGM logo, you saw a title screen, with the Discovery floating over Jupiter. After a moment, a hatch opened and a pod drifted out, claws flailing. It's headlights swept the screen, and revealed the selectable menu options. There were sounds to complete the effect, and even a flashing meteor or two in the background. And when you selected one of the options (scene selections, for example), the screen 'warped' in an effect similar to visuals seen late in the film, to reveal the next menu screen. Virtually all of this has been lost on the new Warner disc, although the main menu features the same basic graphics - just non-animated. If you're not going to use the animation, why not just redo the menus completely? Ah well.

2001: A Space Odyssey is an amazing film, well worth a look in any format. The new Warner DVD is definitely the way to go as far as picture and sound quality - it's absolutely reference grade material. But if you own the earlier disc, I'd recommend keeping it for the extras it included. If you don't, you'll probably be able to get it for cheap now that this new version is available. In any case, I'm just very happy to finally see 2001 looking and sounding like the masterpiece it is on DVD. Highly recommended.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com

The Films of Stanley Kubrick on DVD

2001: A Space Odyssey (new version)


The Stanley Kubrick Collection (new version)

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