2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

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This isn’t so much a review of the movie, it is more of a review of the situation in which I saw it.

I have watched 2001 many times; always from the comfort of my living room. I have a big screen, hi-def monitor, and an adequate sound system. I have never has the opertunity to see this film in a theater, or projected from a 70mm print. This experience however was totally different and a bit of an experiment. I watched this on a 6” monitor mounted in the back of the chair in front of me on a plane.

I took an international flight from America to Europe and therefore I had a few hours to kill. When I saw that 2001 was available to watch, I thought to myself that this could be an interesting study.

The result was that the film lost all of its majesty. The quality of the image was poor, and the display was not letterboxed. It was a pan-and-scan, full screen version. It felt small and insignificant in a way. The story was still obtuse and ponderous, and the special effects were still something to admire. But the power of the image was totally lost.

The H.A.L murder scene is still my favorite murder in all of cinema history. It latterly give me goosebumps, and makes my stomach queasy. Listening to a machine try to bargain for its “life” as it is slowly being torn to shreds is one of the most horrific situations my mind can process.

The stargate sequence was less stunning because I felt like I was watching it and not inside of it in the way that witnessing it on a big screen can do. The dawn of man sequence felt like men in costumes dancing around. The color was faded and bleached, the sound was terrible through my decent Apple earbuds. The costumes looked cheap and the action seems to be on a stage and not actually in the wild.

It is a real compliment to Kubrick and his team that they were able to make such a divisive movie that people are still stunned by decades later. It is a movie that every time I watch it my thoughts on it change a bit. It stays the same, and I orbit around it seeing it from different perspectives as I grow older.

This made me think of the people that don’t pay attention to aspect ratio or film presentation. I wondered if anyone has sat down on a plane, having never seen 2001, and watched it for the first time. The “I don’t see what the big deal is” attitudes towards this film would be totally understandable if this were the case. The woman next to me during the trip watched both Citizen Kane and another 70mm masterpiece, West Side Story. I occasionally looked over at her and wondered how many times she has seen these before, and hoping that this wasn’t the first time. On my return trip home, I noticed a woman watching yet another 70mm classic, The Sound of Music. It did warm my heart to see all these people checking out classic cinema, instead of the rest of the junk that was available to rent on the plane. Although I did see people watching Tomorrowland and Jurassic World.

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