Obviously a film that stands as a classic, as well as one of the best films from director Stanley Kubrick, "2001" remains a masterpiece today, a film whose artistry and detail are still magnificent considering the film's age. The film opens with the "Dawn Of Man" sequence, where apes rule the planet, simply searching for enough food to survive. Coming upon a towering black monolith, the apes begin to learn to use tools not only for food, but for fighting.
Zoom ahead thousands of years, and man has not only taken over Earth, but also ventured into space. Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) is heading a manned mission to the moon, where a giant monolith has been discovered below the surface, buried almost as if on purpose. Not only that, but it seems as if the object is beaming a signal towards Jupiter.
The film skips towards a crew headed to check out another monolith near Jupiter. Dave Bowman (Dullea), and Frank Poole (Lockwood) are the crew members, but they're not alone. Along for the ride is HAL 9000 a super-intelligent computer that essentially does a good deal of the humans work for them, making them feel insignificant. The film is slow and detailed, deliberately paced and almost calming in the same way that I felt "Cast Away"'s middle part was calming last year, although I don't mean to compare the two pictures. There's a silence, a peacefulness, almost meditative, that is entirely missing from many of today's films. Dialogue is minimal and the classical music score (as well as HAL's eerily calming voice) put us at peace.
Again, Kubrick's visual effects still stand up particularly well today - in fact, if you consider the film's age, I would think that the film would be considered as amazing visually as things could get at that time; even today, nothing looks fake or phony and their somewhat primitive nature in comparison to what's available today actually only helps the movie to feel more realistic.
The film is a marvel and a classic, but the real question is likely what the new DVD includes, so...
VIDEO: Warner Brothers has gone back to remaster "2001" for this new DVD release. Where the two previous releases were not anamorphic, this disc offers the film in a new 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, taken from restored elements. The movie is not without a few very minor flaws, but overall, Warner Brothers has done a terrific job with the presentation. Sharpness and detail are not stunning, but the image offers a smooth, film-like presentation that I found consistently very, very pleasing.
Again - the flaws are few and far between. There are some very minor print flaws a couple times during the film - a slight speckle here, a minor mark there, a little bit of grain. None of these problems is distracting in the least. The film isn't a particularly colorful one, but what few colors there were on display stuck out nicely, looking crisp and vibrant, not exhibiting any signs of fading. This is a fantastic new transfer from Warner Brothers that does a very fine job at bringing the picture back to full glory.
SOUND: "2001" also recieves on this disc a terrific newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation that does add a good deal of activity to the proceedings, but still manages to remain appropriate and helpful to the experience rather than overdone and distracting. What is more worthy of discussion though, is the quality of the audio, which is often breathtakingly pleasing to listen to. The choice of wonderful classical pieces throughout the score has never sounded better here, flowing through the room with impressive grace and remarkable clarity. I haven't heard a score for an older picture sound this good in ages - in fact, I've heard scores from recent pictures that don't sound this full and rich.
Surrounds do recieve some use. They're not put to agressive use throughout the movie, but some sound effects during the opening and ambient sounds during the film are nicely offered by the surrounds. The score really steals the show, though, and sounds outstanding when re-inforced by the surrounds. Dialogue sounded clear and easily understood. An excellent presentation.
MENUS:: Menus are non-animated, with film-themed backgrounds and slight sounds behind the main menu.
Final Thoughts: Although Warner Brothers once again generally forgot the extra features for this new release of "2001", the film has never looked or sounded better. If you're interested in owning this classic, the new Warner Brothers edition is certainly the best way to go.
The Film ****
Video 95/A = (380/400 possible points)
Audio: 90/A- = (360/400 possible points)
Extras: 70/C- = (210/300 possible points)
Menus: 75/C- = (150/200 possible points)
Value: 85/B = (255/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ****
DVD GRADE: B