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Sunday, July 13, 2014

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY 70MM Print Review

Courtesy of Warner Bros.
1968, 159 minutes (including intermission)
Rated G

Review by Joshua Handler

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is, love it or hate it, one of the most influential sci-fi films of all time.  It's influenced more films than almost any other, caused more debate than just about any film, and has more iconic sequences in it's 2.5-hour running time than just nearly every film from the past decade combined.  This article is not as much a review of the film as the experience watching it at the Museum of the Moving Image on 70mm film.  Flaws and all, I love 2001.  Yes, it's overlong, occasionally too odd for its own good (that light show at the end is stunning for a few minutes, but it never seems to end), and occasionally too languidly paced, but whatever its flaws, it's such an outrageously ambitious and thrilling spectacle that there's absolutely no way for me not to love it.

The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens has been running part two of their "See it Big! Science Fiction" series over the past month or so.  With this series, they show classics of sci-fi cinema on the big screen, many on 35mm prints.  The final film in the series is 2001, which showed yesterday and is showing today on a 70mm print.  70mm film is twice as large as the standard 35mm film that was widely shown at movie theaters, which means the resolution is very good.  Obviously, 2001 is the perfect movie to show on 70mm because of how big it is.

Very few films have been shot on 70mm film, partially because it's incredibly expensive.  The only recent films shot in the format are Ron Fricke's Baraka and Samsara, Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, and Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, and given that most theaters are not equipped to show a film in this format, it is a treat when a theater shows one.

There is something about watching 2001 on actual film that makes it magical.  While the print didn't look perfect and obviously didn't have the resolution of a DCP (digital cinema print), the small imperfections of the film make it special.  For the most part, this 2001 print's colors pop off the screen and the soft quality of the image make it feel "classic".  While it is a wonderful print to see 2001 on, I wish it had been restored because there were a few moments in which the color on the film appeared slightly faded and a few more moments in which there could've been less grain.

The sound is so much of what makes watching 2001 a must-see experience and this print's sound is excellent.  From the booming score to the surreal, otherworldly sound design, there is really no other way to experience this than in the theater.

Something interesting I found while viewing 2001 this time around was that while Kubrick and his team predicted a future of exciting new inventions, they made absolutely no effort to make any of the people of the future look like they were from the future.  They all look like they're from the '60s.  People in sci-fi films now don't dress like they're from the era in which the film was made, but those in 2001 do.  The team went to painstaking lengths to make everything look as futuristic as possible, but they forgot to make the people look that way.

Overall, seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey in 70mm is worth the ticket price.  It is a film made for the big screen and for those who haven't seen it before, this is the perfect time and place to do so.  While the drama of 2001 is dated, the visual effects haven't aged a day and the experience is just as potent as ever.  Throughout the film, I couldn't stop wondering how they were able to achieve the special effects shots - they still look realistic.  This is a movie for the ages and Museum of the Moving Image's 70mm print is the best way to see it.

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