Plot: What’s it about?
This film opens with a sequence in which a strange black monolith entrances a band of primitive creatures, who are unsure what to make of it, but can’t seem to leave it alone, to be sure. The monolith soon inspires one of the animals to take a new direction and with that action, evolution is advanced to the next logical level. Of course, it is more complex than that, but for the sake of brevity here, I’ll leave it at that. We soon find ourselves in the year 1999 and once again, mankind has discovered a black monolith and once again, it entrances all who see it. As such, a team of explorers is dispatched to the moon to uncover the truth, if there’s anything to unearth, that is. Capt. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Capt. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) are the mission crew members, while HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain) is the brilliant supercomputer on board the S.S. Discovery. What does the monolith mean and even if Bowman & Lockwood search it, will they be able to learn the truth? Did some other race or species place the monoliths and if so, who and why?
I’ve owned this flick in many forms over the years, from VHS to Criterion laserdisc to the previous DVD edition, but all have left something to be desired. Now Warner has solved a few of the problems, but left some out in the cold, though the good outweighs the bad in this case. The good points are the restored & remastered video/audio, which has the film looking & sounding better than ever, which is of course, the main issue with any disc. On the bad side, Warner has removed the Arthur C. Clarke interview from the prior disc and included little bonus material, which is a let down. But the presentation of the film itself is the main concern and since it looks & sounds excellent, I won’t complain much in the end. I believe 2001 to be a true classic film and as time passes, it gains more and more fans, both critics and audiences alike. Kubrick directs a pretty long picture here and uses minimal dialogue, but it never becomes dull, not even in the slightest. From the opening moments to the final reel, 2001 is a pleasure to watch and though I’ve seen in more times than I could count, I never tire of seeing it once again. I do wish some extras were tacked on here since I know they exist, but with such impressive audio/video present, this release is highly recommended.
I think one of the reasons this movie works so well is the performance of Keir Dullea, who is often overlooked when discussing the picture. Yes, he has the lead so to speak, but his work is not often praised, as Kubrick is usually the name being tossed about. Dullea gives the kind of performance that is easy to overlook, but if you pay attention, I think nuances and intense control can be seen, both of which were needed to make this role succeed. The pressures of working within Kubrick’s perfectionist system were extreme, I’m sure, but Dullea seems in such controlled form here, as if it had no effect on him at all. You can also see Dullea in such films as 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Blind Date, Black Christmas, Brainwaves, and 3 Days of Rain. The cast also includes Gary Lockwood (Splendor in the Grass, Trekkies), William Sylvester (Heaven Can Wait, Devil Doll), and of course, Douglas Rain (2010: The Year We Make Contact) as the voice of HAL 9000.
Video: How does it look?
2001: A Space Odyssey is presented in a 2.20:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As is the case with all the remastered Kubrick titles, this edition shows a large improvement over prior versions, which should please fans. The restored source print is pristine and very sharp, which allows the other elements to shine through, which they do. The colors are more accurate this time around, especially the reds and whites, which seem richer and truer, to be sure. The contrast looks smooth and consistent also, which means a solid level of detail throughout. I did see some edge enhancement, but all in all, this is a superb treatment in all respects.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included Dolby Digital 5.1 track is better than expected, which much range and depth, to be sure. I was taken back at times by how well mixed this option is, from the subtle surround use to the musical score, which sounds incredible here. I heard some nice directional presence from all the elements at times, but never in a forced manner, the mix retains a natural atmosphere, which is vital of course. In the end, I’ve never heard this movie sound so rich and sharp, I think fans are in for a real treat with this mix. In case you’re wondering, the infamous missing line of dialogue is restored here, so no worries on that end. This disc also includes a French language option, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a list of awards the film has won, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.