Archive for the ‘2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)’ Category

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Distributor: Warner Brothers

Release Date: December 18, 2018

Region: Region Free

Length:

UHD – 02:28:49
Blu-ray – 02:28:51

Video:

UHD 2160P (HEVC, H.265)
Blu-ray – 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (Original 1968 Theatrical Mix)
5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (Restored Home Video Re-mix)

Alternate Audio:

5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital
5.1 French Dolby Digital
5.1 Italian Dolby Digital
5.1 German Dolby Digital
2.0 Portuguese Dolby Digital
2.0 Polish Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Cantonese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Mandarin (Simplified), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Thai, Turkish

Ratio: 2.20:1

Bitrate:

UHD – 62.18 Mbps
Blu-ray – 29.98 Mbps

Notes: A 2-Disc Blu-ray edition of this new 4K restoration is also being released and represents a significant upgrade compared to all previous Blu-ray and DVD editions.

Title

“I didn’t have to try for ambiguity; it was inevitable. And I think in a film like 2001, where each viewer brings his own emotions and perceptions to bear on the subject matter, a certain degree of ambiguity is valuable, because it allows the audience to ‘fill in’ the visual experience themselves. In any case, once you’re dealing on a nonverbal level, ambiguity is unavoidable. But it’s the ambiguity of all art, of a fine piece of music or a painting—you don’t need written instructions by the composer or painter accompanying such works to ‘explain’ them. ‘Explaining’ them contributes nothing but a superficial ‘cultural’ value which has no value except for critics and teachers who have to earn a living. Reactions to art are always different because they are always deeply personal.” –Stanley Kubrick (The Film Director as Superstar: Stanley Kubrick, 1969)

Those who have not yet seen 2001: A Space Odyssey will perhaps want to consider Kubrick’s words before viewing the film. Kubrick made no bones (no pun intended) about the fact that he designed the film to be a visual experience: “I don’t have the slightest doubt that to tell a story like this, you couldn’t do it with words. There are only 46 minutes of dialogue scenes in the film and 113 [minutes] of non-dialogue.” When one considers these pertinent details, it should come as no surprise that the film that many scholars consider his masterpiece is also his most polarizing. Those who love it love it for its inherent “ambiguities,” but those who hate it leave the theatre (or their armchairs) shaking or scratching their heads.

Most science fiction films that concern both space travel and extra-terrestrial lifeforms tend to feature discoveries of a more organic nature (consider the violent lifeforms discovered by the Nostromo crew in Alien over a decade later), but Kubrick’s ambitions are grander. His ambitious desire to create a very different kind of extra-terrestrial intelligence—and he articulated his intentions rather eloquently upon the film’s initial release:

“…There are about a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, and roughly a hundred billion galaxies in the visible Universe. Given the common chemical nature of the Universe, the origination of life is now felt to be an almost inevitable occurrence on planets the proper distance from their suns. Most astronomers are now very predisposed to believe the Universe is full of life. And if it is, some of it would be millions of years advanced, simply because it was formed earlier. Our sun is not a particularly old star.” –Stanley Kubrick (In 2001, Will Love Be A Seven Letter Word, The New York Times, April 14, 1968)

He elaborated on these ideas in yet another interview:

“…Such cosmic intelligences [sic], growing in knowledge over the eons, would be as far removed from man as we are from the ants. They could be in instantaneous telepathic communication throughout the universe; they might have achieved total mastery over matter so that they can telekinetically transport themselves instantly across billions of light-years of space; in their ultimate form they might shed the corporeal shell entirely and exist as a disembodied immortal consciousness throughout the universe. Once you begin discussing such possibilities, you realize that the religious implications are inevitable, because all the essential attributes of such extraterrestrial intelligences [sic] are the attributes we give to God. What we’re really dealing with here is… a scientific definition of God…” –Stanley Kubrick (The Film Director as Superstar: Stanley Kubrick, 1969)

In other words, the film is tackling themes that touch on our relationship to the universe—or our relationship to the creator (if one prefers). Considering this particular thematic material, it is no wonder that it divides viewers. It seems quite likely that many of those who dislike the film are responding to thematic undercurrents that don’t quite jive with their own theological philosophies as much as to the nontraditional plot structure (even if they aren’t consciously aware of those undercurrents). After all, the film does have a plot. It just happens to be presented in a more elusive manner than other films.

“I don’t mind discussing it on the lowest level—that is, [a] straightforward explanation of the plot. You begin with an artifact left on earth four million years ago by extraterrestrial explorers who observed the behavior of the man-apes of the time and decided to influence their evolutionary progression. Then you have a second artifact buried deep on the lunar surface and programmed to signal word of man’s first baby steps into the universe—a kind of cosmic burglar alarm. And finally there’s a third artifact placed in orbit around Jupiter and waiting for the time when man has reached the outer rim of his own solar system. When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this artifact sweeps him into a force field or star gate that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he’s placed in a human zoo approximating a hospitable terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination. In a timeless state, his life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn [as] an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman (if you like) and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man’s evolutionary destiny. That is what happens on the film’s simplest level. Since an encounter with an advanced interstellar intelligence would be incomprehensible within our present earthbound frames of reference, reactions to it will have elements of philosophy and metaphysics that have nothing to do with the bare plot outline itself… They are the areas I prefer not to discuss because they are highly subjective and will differ from viewer to viewer. In this sense, the film becomes anything the viewer sees in it…” –Stanley Kubrick (The Film Director as Superstar: Stanley Kubrick, 1969)

Interestingly, Kubrick doesn’t mention the film’s most famous sequence in his synopsis, and this is probably because it isn’t absolutely essential to that particular thread of the plot. When scholars and critics discuss 2001: A Space Odyssey, they will invariably focus much of their analysis on the HAL 9000 sequence. This is probably due to the indisputable fact that this sequence resembles the structure of a more traditional narrative and plays like a traditional science fiction movie. If it isn’t essential to the shape of the film’s primary story, it is certainly essential in that it grounds the film by giving the viewer something to latch onto. What’s more, it introduces elements that play into the film’s themes concerning the nature of existence.

“…The computer is the central character of this segment of the story. If HAL had been a human being, it would have been obvious to everyone that he had the best part, and was the most interesting character; he took all the initiatives, and all the problems related to and were caused by him. Some critics seemed to feel that because we were successful in making a voice, a camera lens, and a light come alive as a character this necessarily meant that the human characters failed dramatically. In fact, I believe that Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, the astronauts, reacted appropriately and realistically to their circumstances. One of the things we were trying to convey in this part of the film is the reality of a world populated—as ours soon will be—by machine entities who have as much, or more, intelligence as human beings, and who have the same emotional potentialities in their personalities as human beings. We wanted to stimulate people to think what it would be like to share a planet with such creatures. In the specific case of HAL, he had an acute emotional crisis because he could not accept evidence of his own fallibility. The idea of neurotic computers is not uncommon—most advanced computer theorists believe that once you have a computer which is more intelligent than man and capable of learning by experience, it’s inevitable that it will develop an equivalent range of emotional reactions—fear, love, hate, envy, etc. Such a machine could eventually become as incomprehensible as a human being, and could, of course, have a nervous breakdown—as HAL did in the film.” –Stanley Kubrick (The Film Director as Superstar: Stanley Kubrick, 1969)

HAL isn’t terribly different from the extra-terrestrial beings in the film (both are pure consciousness and remain unseen as they have no traditional concrete form), but this is an area that probably deserves its own essay. Kubrick’s purely visual cinematic experience complements the philosophical themes at its heart. Such material cannot help but encourage numerous interpretations. It might even be said that the very elements that have polarized audiences for decades are the same elements that have ensured its longevity. Those who love the film have a very personal connection to it since each individual viewer projects the patina of their own perception upon it. In any case, 2001: A Space Odyssey redefined the limits of filmmaking and cemented Kubrick’s legacy even as it divided audiences upon its 70mm Cinerama roadshow release on April 4, 1968. It continues to kindle the imaginations of cinephiles and will probably continue to do so for another 50 years.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Warner Brothers has given Kubrick fans an incredible 50th Anniversary package that should thrill fans of the film. This is a gorgeous box with wonderful new cover artwork that houses a standard 3-disc UHD case and a slick envelope that houses an illustrated booklet and 6 postcard sized art cards.

The UHD case showcases a slip-sleeve that includes the same exceptional artwork as the box that holds it. The two Blu-ray discs are stacked in the same tray with the 4K disc stacked alone in the second.

Packaging

Standard cases are certainly preferable to the folder-style casing that these special sets are often given, and it is was great to learn that an eco-case wasn’t used for this release. (Folders scar discs and do not keep them secure, and eco-cases are flimsy and have holes that leave the artwork and the discs vulnerable). With this release, consumers are given a gorgeous and special presentation without sacrificing the safety of the discs themselves.

Blu-ray Menu

The menus on each are both attractive and serviceable while also being intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

UHD: 5 of 5 Stars

Building on the work done for the new 70mm prints, the 4K UHD with HDR presentation was mastered from the 65mm original camera negative. Leon Vitali (Kubrick’s personal assistant) supervised this restoration, which was derived from an 8K scan of the aforementioned negative before being regraded for this transfer. This particular format is in its infancy, but it must be said—and this isn’t hyperbole—that this is absolutely and without question the best UHD transfer that this reviewer has seen up until this point. It’s very difficult to imagine the film looking any better than this outside of a theatre.

First of all, fine detail is spectacular and impresses the viewer immediately. There’s an enormous increase in information and the dynamic range is incredible as well. Depth is more impressive here than we have seen it in any of the film’s previous home video releases. The grain structure is also expertly handled and to say that it is well resolved is a bit of an understatement. Colors are incredibly vivid—although the palette tends to be rather controlled throughout. Red-soaked frames are notoriously tricky on home video, but they just look incredible here. Black levels are also incredibly deep and never seem to sacrifice pertinent detail. It is really beyond criticism.

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Blu-ray: 5 of 5 Stars

The included Blu-ray disc is simply a 1080P transfer of that same restoration. As a result, it is a vast improvement over all of the film’s previous home video releases and probably still warrants an upgrade (even if you aren’t into UHD). For starters, the 2.20:1 aspect ratio represents the film’s theatrical frame with perfect accuracy. The earlier releases didn’t scan the 65mm negative but instead used a 35mm anamorphic reduction print. The result is that this transfer features more information on both sides of the frame. What’s more, there was inevitable distortion added to the 35mm print which now isn’t a problem. This is also a much cleaner image and everything that we mentioned above applies here (although to a lesser degree as a result of the reduced resolution).

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

This is one of those releases that should please everyone on all levels—and this goes double for the disc’s representation of the film’s sound as it offers two different 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options. The first is the original 1968 theatrical mix and the second is a restored re-mix of the film’s original elements. Fans of the film have probably already experienced the restored re-mix as it was prepared for one of the film’s home video releases in 1999. In other words, the “original 1968 theatrical mix” is actually the newer track as the film’s original 6 track audio was repurposed for this release. It is nice to know that purists can sleep soundly while everyone else concerns themselves with the task of comparing these two choices to decide which they prefer.

These two options are actually incredibly similar and only distinguish themselves in the subtlest ways. It is simply a matter of how certain sounds are prioritized within the mix. However, these subtleties do alter one’s experience in interesting ways. Ambiance and music are affected more than other elements. Of course, there isn’t very much dialogue to speak of in this particular film, but both options present it in a clean and clear manner. Our favorite aspect of the soundtrack is actually the silence (which plays brilliantly against ambiance during key moments).

The dynamic range of the “restored remix” is probably a bit more impressive and it does sound a bit brighter overall (even as the original theatrical mix bests this version in terms of its rendering of low-end sounds). These enhancements, however, are re-workings of the film’s original mix and there are understandably more than a few cinephiles who aren’t going to like listening to any track that isn’t an accurate representation of the film’s original mix (no matter how subtlety these differences have been rendered).

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

4K UHD & Blu-ray (Disc One):

Feature Length Commentary from Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood

It is strange to discover that an actor’s commentary is provided for a film like 2001: A Space Odyssey but Dullea and Lockwood do a decent job. There are occasional long pauses when the film is allowed to play without comment by either actor, but these never become terribly problematic since Kubrick’s visuals are interesting enough to carry the viewer to the next comment. It seems as if each actor may have recorded their track separately as there isn’t any obvious interplay between these two participants. They both relay to the viewer how they were initially cast in the project and give their personal perspectives on working with Stanley Kubrick while also discussing their interpretation of the film’s content. Some fans may wish for more concrete information about the film’s unique production but it is actually a rather worthwhile tour through the film.

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4K UHD & Blu-ray (Disc Two):

The Making of a Myth – (43:08)

The Making of a Myth is a fairly decent retrospective documentary of the film’s production that was presumably produced for television (it is labeled a “Channel 4 Documentary”). It isn’t nearly as comprehensive as some of the “making of” documentaries that have been produced throughout the years but it beats nothing. James Cameron makes an appearance at the beginning of the program to provide an unneeded and decidedly awkward introduction, but he pretty much disappears after this as the documentary takes us into the topic at hand. It is interesting and worthwhile to note that the program originally aired in the year 2001, and that this is mentioned a few times throughout the duration.

Quite a few members of the film’s cast and technical crew are on hand to discuss their experiences and to comment on the material. For example, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Keir Dullea, Ed Bishop, Heather Downham, Daniel Richter, Douglas Trumbull, Con Pederson, Brian Johnson, and Ray Lovejoy all make noteworthy contributions while Elvis Mitchell and Camille Paglia are on hand to lend their scholarly observations (which don’t really amount to very much). One can’t help but wish they had devoted more time on how the various sequences were shot, but it was terrific to see the archival “behind the scenes” production footage included here.

Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001 – (21:25)

Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick is an appreciation of Kubrick’s masterpiece by a number of filmmakers, critics, and scholars. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, William Friedkin, Jay Cocks, Roger Ebert, Dan O’Bannon, Sydney Pollack, Ernest Dickerson, John Baxter, Paul Duncan, Jan Harlan, Douglas Trumbull, and numerous others are on hand to lend their insights. Many fans may very well prefer this program to The Making of a Myth, and those who don’t will find that they complement one another quite well.

Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001 – (21:31)

Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of “2001” is actually much more worthwhile than one might predict as it considers the accuracy of the film’s futuristic details. It is nice to report that the program has the capacity to enrich one’s appreciation of the film. It is required viewing for fans of the film.

2001: A Space Odyssey: A Look Behind the Future – (23:11)

A Look Behind the Future seems to be some sort of industrial promo that was produced for Look magazine, but the focus of the piece is the production of 2001: A Space Odyssey (although, it was going by a different title at this particular point in history). There is a wealth of “behind the scenes” footage, an interview with a few of the film’s technical experts, some statements from Arthur C. Clarke that were actually shot at NASA, and much more. It’s dry as desert dirt and one wishes that Warner Brothers had provided some contextual information, but fans will welcome this nostalgic glimpse of the production, and it is interesting to see one of the film’s early marketing tools.

What Is Out There? – (20:42)

What Is Out There? is unquestionably the most scholarly supplement on the disc as it examines some of the thematic material and ponders the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence while also questioning what this might mean for humanity. Keir Dullea introduces and reads excerpts from a variety of experts from interviews originally given to aid in the film’s production. These are broken up by excerpts from an archival interview with Arthur C. Clarke.

2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork – (09:33)

Douglas Trumbull and Christine Kubrick both appear in this short piece about some of the film’s special effects. The first portion features Trumbull discussing slit-scan and a few of the other techniques that were used in the infamous “stargate” sequence. Christine Kubrick then provides a brief contextual introduction to some of the abandoned conceptual artwork that was created for the final “trippy” portion of the film. It is worth checking out.

Interview with Stanley Kubrick [Audio Only] – (01:16:31)

This lengthy audio interview was conducted by Jeremy Bernstein during the month of November in 1966. The director was still working on 2001 when he gave this interview, and it is interesting to hear his thoughts about the film at this relatively early stage of the film’s production. However, the real value lies in his recollections about his early life and his memories and thoughts concerning the films that he had made up to the time the interview was recorded. Bernstein was interviewing the director for a short article about the director to appear in The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” column. The audio plays over a still photograph of the “Starchild” gazing down at Earth.

Look: Stanley Kubrick! – (03:15)

A comprehensive examination of Kubrick’s time as a photographer and the various photographs taken by the director during this period of his career would be of enormous value. Unfortunately, this short piece is an all too brief gallery of a handful of his photographs proceeded by three textual screens of information. One wishes that a complete gallery of Kubrick’s photographs could have been represented and that the complete photographs had been shown. There are many photographs that haven’t been included here, and many of those that are included aren’t shown in their entirety.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (01:51)

The film’s original wordless Cinerama trailer relies only on the film’s cutting edge visuals and the majesty of Richard Strauss (Also Sprach Zarathustra). It’s nice to have it included here.

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Final Words:

2001: A Space Odyssey isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a historically and aesthetically important film that changed the landscape of cinema in profound ways. One would hope that cinephiles who aren’t fans of the film can at least allow themselves a grudging appreciation and respect for it. Frankly, it isn’t this reviewer’s favorite Stanley Kubrick film, but its power is nonetheless undeniable. Those who don’t wish to take our word for it may find it easier believe one of contemporary cinema’s most popular auteurs:

2001 to me is the most cinematic film that has ever been made and it has been an honor and a privilege to be able to share the film with a new generation… 4K UHD allows the closest recreation of viewing the original film print in your own home. Kubrick’s masterpiece was originally presented on large format film and the deeper color palette and superior resolution comes [sic] closest to matching the original analog presentation.” – Christopher Nolan

Nolan’s enthusiasm for this release mirrors our own. This is an essential release not only for Kubrick fanatics but also for anyone who enjoys the science fiction genre. It is one of the essential home video releases of 2018.

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One Sheet

 

Also of Interest to Kubrick Fans:

 

Filmworker

DVD COVER

Leon Vitali was a rising British television actor when Stanley Kubrick picked him for the role of Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon. That first encounter with the famed auteur proved decisive — he swiftly resolved to devote the rest of his life working for the director, this time behind the scenes, and took on just about every job available: casting director, acting coach, location scouter, sound engineer, color corrector, A.D., promoter, and eventually restorer of Kubrick’s films. Tony Zierra’s affecting documentary profiles the devoted “filmworker” — Vitali’s preferred job title — as he enthusiastically recounts his days with the notoriously meticulous, volatile, and obsessive director. The experiences brought both tremendous sacrifice and glowing pride.

Filmworker celebrates the invisible hands that helped to shape some of Kubrick’s masterpieces and reminds us that behind every great director, there may very well be a Leon Vitali.

This documentary is currently available on DVD from Kino Lorber.