Stanley Kubrick’s genre-defining sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey has finally arrived on 4K Ultra HD. But how does the much-anticipated release fare on the format? Is it a heavenly trip, or a descent into HAL?
The story: A film that many have interpreted in various ways, we start with apes and a large, extra-terrestrial monolith – basically a big rectangular slab. Yes, people from outer space have seemingly been meddling with humanity for many centuries, and when another such monolith is discovered on the moon years later it triggers events that lead to a two-man trip to Jupiter. But complications arise when the AI brain of the operation, a computer named HAL (trivia that everybody likely already knows: each letter is one less than in ‘IBM’), goes somewhat doolally.
“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
The 4K disc: The visuals of 2001: A Space Odyssey stunned audiences when released in 1968, and it still possesses the ability to do so. This presentation is sure to add more converts to the fold. We’re sadly all too used to reporting on 2K transfers that get upscaled for 4K, thus losing resolution. Here we have a pure 4K transfer that’s actually been downscaled from an 8K master, which was newly created from the film’s original 65mm negative. To say that it looks stunning – beyond the original visuals themselves – would possibly be an understatement. All but the finest, almost imperceptible level of grain throughout most of the film might suggest the use of digital enhancement, but none of the telltale effects of that are evident. We just get a gorgeous-looking, generally very detailed picture which is afforded additional beauty via its Dolby Vision HDR treatment. Originally it was thought that Christopher Nolan’s cinema re-release print would be what we got on 4K, but instead we get a virtually pristine transfer with perfect whites, vivid reds and stunning blacks – and just wait until you take the Jupiter trip…
Not only was the visual component of 2001 something that caused amazement upon release, the audio treatment also threw all manner of rules out of the window – and it remains quite awe-inspiring. Classical pieces – most notably Johann Strauss’ The Blue Danube and the music that many just call the 2001 theme, the initial fanfare of Richard Strauss’ Thus Spoke Zarathustra – bump up against stark audio effects such as just the sound of one man breathing, and at other times there’s just pure silence (well, plus tinnitus in our case, but hopefully you’re not simlarly affected). Two DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes are included, one “restored and remixed” (created in 1999) and the other based on the original ceinematic release audio. In reality there isn’t a massive difference between the two, although we did stick to the newer mix for the majority of our viewing. Even the new mix may be pushing 20 years old, but they knew what they were doing and it still sounds quite incredible, with pleasing bass rumble where appropriate and that “theme” in particular still proving a show-stopper.
The only extra included on the 4K disc is an audio commentary from actors Kier Dullea and Gary Lockwood, which seems to have been sticky-taped together from two separate recordings, as the pair don’t interact. Of the two extra standard Blu-ray discs included, one is devoted entirely to extra features, including featurettes, conceptual artwork and a superb TV making-of documentary.
Release date: October 31, 2018
Format: 4K Ultra HD
Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood
Want to know what to get next? Check out STACK‘s 4K Ultra HD specifications guide.