Quantcast

2001: A Space Odyssey (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

For 50 years, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey has blown away audiences and inspired some of our biggest and best films and filmmakers. In celebration of this milestone, front by Christopher Nolan, the film was restored and rereleased in IMAX theaters to commemorate the occasion. Its amazing that a film from 1968 was already perfect for the format and could make such an easy transition, but that is the genius and master stroke that is the film that escalated Stanley Kubrick from very good filmmaker to legend overnight. Warner Bros is also not hesitating and bringing it to the best possible home presentation when it released the film on December 18th to the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. Originally slated for October 30th, the released suffered from a couple delays for reasons I’m not sure of, but if something’s going to be great, its always worth the wait (And indeed this one was). Don’t hesitate, order yourself a copy from the Amazon link below.

Film 

An imposing black structure provides a connection between the past and the future in this enigmatic adaptation of a short story by revered sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke. When Dr. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and other astronauts are sent on a mysterious mission, their ship’s computer system, HAL, begins to display increasingly strange behavior, leading up to a tense showdown between man and machine that results in a mind-bending trek through space and time.

Stanley Kubrick’s master opus, 2001: A Space Odyssey has long been labeled, and rightfully so, one of the greatest achievements in science fiction cinema. Many feel its one of the ultimate examples of “true” science fiction, scuttling the likes of Star Wars more into the realm of outer space fantasy. Whatever corner you want to shove either, I’d also argue the film is also a masterstroke in the genre of horror as well. Many will credit Kubrick’s The Shining as his entry into the all time canon of horror, but really, you could argue he had already put 2001: A Space Odyssey in there first.

In my years, 2001 is a film I’ve continually returned to. Though revisiting many of my favorite movies is hard to do with a consistency nowadays, 2001: A Space Odyssey is one I’ll typically return to at minimum every other year. Somewhere in my late 20’s, returning to it after probably a longer hiatus, I found myself more frightened by it than in awe. The score suddenly unnerved me in new ways, the prophetic nature of the film became a little more personal and clear. The emptiness of space extended to a sense of haunting, quiet loneliness. The unknown became that much more scary. And I found myself loving it even more from this angle and peeling more layers back in my mind.

One big reason much of Kubrick’s work has held up and been heralded for so long is that he is one of the finest directors of understanding the visual medium. Being an excellent photographer was his vice in moving toward and informing his motion pictures. Kubrick’s films work on a primarily visual level that you can just cut the audio and be informed or just sit back and appreciate his attention to detail and precise framing. With 2001, he shot space and spacecrafts like no one else had ever done. To this day, you could hold his work side by side with actual outerspace footage and they look damn near accurate. Its still quite shocking to this day. This is a big reason why we have conspiracy theorists thinking we faked the moon landing and Kubrick had a hand in it. If he never made 2001: A Space Odyssey, there’s a chance we wouldn’t have those theories (Please note, I said “chance”). And that’s not to forget, his interiors are beautiful and the 60s stylings inform the furniture and set design in a surreal and timeless fashion. Douglas Trumball’s work on the film would inspire others like Silent Running, but also architecture like that of Disney theme parks’ Space Mountain and Epcot. The touches of this film are all over, and many “retro” things fall back on using the film’s style and structures in creating new old things.

2001: A Space Odyssey is a film that continues to amaze and evolve with me as I grow older. I never see it as the same film when I return to it. No, its not as if the gaps between viewings are so long I’d forgotten tings or that I noticed a production aspect or plot point/device/set up that hadn’t been apparent before. There’s a feeling that changes with it. The way I digest it changes. How many brain processes or looks at what happens becomes a different kind of clear. Few films can do this for me (Blade Runner being another), but when it does its quite interesting and keeps me freshly attached to the film forever. When I was younger, it was being enamored with the scale and effects, as I’m older I think of the repercussions and various interpretations of the ending I can see or feel due to my own personal journey in life. It helps keep the movie continually on its toes, free, open and timeless.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: When it came to Blu-ray, despite it being an older VC-1 encoding, 2001: A Space Odyssey was one of the top notch releases on the format. Stanley Kubrick’s have always been handled with good care in their transfers from Warner Bros. With his first film entering 4K, it no different. Your jaw will hit the floor HARD when you first take a look at the film. Between the natural 4K transfer and the restoration work done on the film, its become THE title to beat on the format. They’ve managed to make the film look a lot younger while keeping it true to its cinematic natural. The image is crisp, with all of its natural blacks and colors intact. The details run rampant here and the ships STILL look real and not even hinting at being a model. I had Brian here trying to overhype this to me for the better part of a month and a half and he still undersold it. You MUST see this to believe it. Its unbelievable. When it comes to the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format there is no better video transfer.

Depth:  2001’s depth of field is quite impressive here, even at home on a smaller screen. No matter your screen size, this movie feels so much larger than the limitations of your home. As space crafts float detached and freely through space, there is an impressive confidence with every camera movement and comfortable ease with which the characters flot. Narrow tunnels wonderfully display such an impressive push back, making every corridor seem lengthy. No motion distortions occur in the film with any sort of jitter or blur.

Black Levels: Natural blacks improve the picture even more, giving the galaxy an even more immersive and three dimensional feel when even just floating around. Detail hangs on most impressively with great shading, darkened interiors and sharpening of the the space craft’s exteriors and interiors. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are very strong here and filters look terrific when they take over a frame. Display monitors feature a nice glows to them that pops off the screen. The space suits have a nice bold, ripe look to them that feel rich and full. The highlight of all is of course the trippy sequence leading us into our final moments. It bursts off the screen, bleeding almost three dimensionally into your eyes. The HDR really takes off here and an already immersive and bursting sequence is even moreso now.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent no matter the story or location in the film. They keep their look throughout. Facial features and textures are clear as day, almost to the touch. You can see freckles, wrinkles and more in medium and close up shots with great clarity.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Original Mix, English Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics:  Accompanying the film are two different 5.1 tracks, and they are really pretty similar to be honest. It doesn’t matter though. This is an immersive 5.1 audio experience. Some may be disappointed in the lack of a new freshly done Atmos mix, but this 5.1 will make you forget that. It full utilizes the film and really back the punch and whallop the film is intending it to have.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Ships rumbling, destruction, the trippy end sequence and more give nice vibrations through your subwoofer to the best impact.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Interiors of the ships are plenty realized, giving you a true feeling in the ship, whether you be in the control room, “coach class” or trapped in a quiet pod. Movement is plenty accurate and unique sounds and volume placement bring a welcome addition to the immersion.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, sounding as modern day as they ever could.

Extras 

2001: A Space Odyssey is a 3-disc set containing 2 standard Blu-ray discs (1-the feature, 2-special features) and a digital copy of the film. Aside from the commentary, all supplemental features are found on the standard Blu-ray release. This comes in a nice hard shell casing that also houses a booklet and an envelope with 4 very nice cardstock images.

4K Ultra-HD

Audio Commentary

  • By Actors Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood

Blu-ray

2001: The Making Of A Myth (SD, 43:08) – A look back at the impact and legacy of Stanley Kubrick’s film with a host of observers/talking heads.

Standing On The Shoulders Of Kubrick: The Legacy Of 2001 (SD, 21:25) – This features filmmakers and creators (Steven Spielberg and George Lucas show up) talking about how their admiration for the film and how it inspired them.

Vision Of A Future Past: The Prophecy Of 2001 (SD, 21:31) – A featurette that looks at the sort of “then and now” with many aspects of the film that tried to gauge the future back in the late 1960s.

2001: A Space Odyssey: A Look Behind The Future (SD, 23:11) – A vintage behind the scenes from closer to around when the film had been released, complete with contemporary interviews on the film.

What Is Out There? (SD, 20:42) – This piece dwells in wondering about the mysteries of the unknown regarding intelligent life forms from across the universe and what human relation to them would be.

2001: FX And Conceptual Artwork (SD, 9:33) – Effects man Douglas Trumball goes over the work done on 2001.

Look! Stanley Kubrick! (SD, 3:15) – Highlights Stanley Kubrick’s photography days with a magazine.

11/27/1966 Interview With Stanley Kubrick (HD, 1:16:31) – Audio only interview with Kubrick with a single still on the screen as you listen.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:51)

Summary 

2001: A Space Odyssey is a true, timeless masterpiece that continues to both wow and provide an appreciation in interpretation and admiration of its craft. Warner Bros has done monumental work in bringing the film to 4K UltraHD Blu-ray, making every one of the delays absolutely worth the wait. This is the BEST image the format has offered, be it old or new. And yes, I’m serious. There’s no reaction other than “stunned” when seeing this restoration for the first time. Its an improvement over an already impressive, almost perfect, Blu-ray presentation with its legacy extras kept intact. Toss in some shelf friendly, and really sweet packaging and you have yourself the most fine release of fine releases. If you haven’t gone to the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format yet, this could convert you and should be everyone’s first purchase on the format. Instant pick up and as I mentioned in my Top Blu-rays list, the best release of the year.

Images used in this review were NOT captured from the 4K Ultra-HD release of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Warner Bros has not provided us images for press usage and we are unable to screen capture 4K Ultra-HD titles on Why So Blu at this time. We apologize for any inconvenience or disappointment, but hope the written words provided in the Video specifications section of the review present a well enough estimation to make an informed opinion or decision regarding the release.

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “2001: A Space Odyssey (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Given how difficult it is to find copies, seems like many 4K enthusiasts have been all about this release.

  2. Brian White

    As Brandon stated if you’ve been sitting out the 4K format, this is the title to dive right in for. It’s only money after all. You can get more!