Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (2018 IMAX release)
A movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
Last night my friend Charlie and I saw the 2018 release of the recently "restored" version of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. This has always been one of my favorites and was one of the first films I bought in DVD format and then on Blu-ray.
It also has some sentimental significance for me. During college I took my father to see the film the week it opened at a Cinerama theater in Columbus, Ohio. He had been the one to introduce me to science fiction and to the works of Arthur C. Clarke. We had seen many sci-fi films at the theater where he worked as a part time manager when I was a child. I was eager to see what he thought of the film.
I remember being astounded by the film. This, I thought, was what science fiction movies should look and sound like. It looked fabulous up there on the huge wraparound Cinerama screen and the soundtrack was just amazing.
I staggered out of the theater in somewhat of a daze. My dad, not so much. He could see I enjoyed it but he was left confused as so many people have been since then. I was disappointed by that but chalked it up to age difference; he must have been at least 59 years old at the time!
Fast forward to last night. I've seen the movie many times since the first veiwing but never in a serious big-screen theater with a good sound system. I've also read about the production details and the level of care and attention that Kubrick and Clarke put into the film. Each time I've seen it on a smaller screen I've been impressed by the production quality and Kubrick's obsessive attention to detail. I was eager to see what it would look and sound like in a relatively "state of the art" IMAX theater.
I am happy to report that I was not disappointed. The film looks and sounds as good as ever. The color, sound, and detail are still phenomenal and doubly so because the film was produced without the benefits of computer graphics.
Not that I am opposed to the wise and judicious use of computer graphics. The original JURASSIC PARK sill impresses despite the hyper-realism now possible with animated creatures. Peter Jackson's Gollum is still a tour de force of character animation. What many modern directors have missed, however, is one basic truism of telling a story on the big screen: more is not necessarily better.
Kubrick understood this. Just look at the 2001 sets and how camera movement and sound are synchronized. The sets look real because they were real. Interiors like the Pan Am space shuttle, the moon ship's passenger observation deck, the orbital Hilton, and the way action is integrated with the Discovery's gravity-generating centrifuge. The stuff looks real. Add to this the ultra-clear lighting and detailing of how space ship miniatures were filmed and the sense of reality still resonates in an era when literally anything can be drawn and shown.
One thing especially I noticed this time around on the big screen was how Bowman and Poole's faces look up close. Normally projecting the passivity thought common among astronauts, you really do sense the tension and concern as the crew realizes the backbone of its mission may be compromised by computer error. You miss such facial details and expressions on the smaller screen. On the big screen, the tension is palpable.
Yeah, there are all kinds of errors of commission and omission. Pan Am and Bell are no longer with us. Comparing the interior of the ISS with the Discovery and its padded corridors reminds us of how far we have to go to make space truly liveable. And just the thought of building an immense underground facility on the Moon seems laughable.
But I think that audiences will still be amazed at 2001: A Space Odyssey 50 years from now. Serious art lasts and this movie is definitely a keeper.
Review copyright (c) 2018 by Dennis D. McDonald.