2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY – 50th ANNIVERSARY (A disappointing experience of a Masterpiece)


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Kubrick: 1

Vue: 0

Donning my Cinerama cap and my new, freshly ironed (thanks to my other half) Hal 9000 T-shirt, I set off to my local VUE Cinema in the prestigious Printworks in the centre of Manchester.

Once I managed to pick up our tickets, after the not too rare foul up with the automated ticket machines, the irony of which was not lost on me; Myself, along with my Mum and Dad, who are both old enough to remember seeing this back in the late 1960’s, all sat in one of the smaller screens at the multiplex which boast one of the few ‘REAL’ IMAX theatres in the North of England.

But they had decided to screen this classic to an almost packed auditorium on one of their more modest 1.85:1 screens and projected the 2.20:1 ratio movie onto it. Now, I know this cinema well, having frequented it on and off since it was built back in the early 2000’s and I can tell you that they not only have a selection of 2.35:1 ratio screens, they are in fact some of the largest I’ve seen.

So, how did they choose to present this big screen marvel… in a manner not too different from what we would expect at home! A widescreen movie on a 1.85:1 screen, though our TV’s are in fact 1.77:1 but it is the same difference; instead of almost filling a massive 2.35:1 screen, with just a little matting at each side.

But, since the rise of Digital Cinema in the latter half of the naughties, this is an all too common issue and in my view, a major let down to the ticket paying audience. Essentially just making us pay for a larger version of a home screening. But this was not all.

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Other cinemas had made a bigger deal with this, with events or even some publicity but none of that was present here. It was just presented as another movie on one of their screens. But this was supposed to be a special re-release and I would have at least liked to have heard the CD playing as we waited for the show to start, but no, just the normal insipid mood music, which in no way puts you in the mood for a 50 year old sci-fi epic.

Once the movie started it was great. Complete with its Overture and a correctly executed Intermission, with the 10/15 minute break before the Entracte played us into the second act. This was a pleasure and a rare one in this era of ‘pack em in, get em out’ cinemas.

I was unlucky in the fact that I was not able to get a 70mm showing but as this digital print went, it was spectacular! Crisp, rich with a strong soundtrack. But…

The sound was strange. Now I am not up on older film shows with my experience being limited to showings of actual ageing prints with their original sound tracks, either optical or magnetic, rather than this digital version but I was surprised that the dialogue tracks where being played throughout ALL the channels in what appeared to be a simple stereo format, rather than just the front channels. I would have expected this to have been reformatted as they would do with the DVD and Blu-ray digital soundtracks but like I say, This is not a subject that I have that much experience with in terms of older movies in cinemas.

But after a few minutes of getting used to the slightly disconcerting echo as the dialogue travelled down the carrier speakers of the auditorium, it was a spacious soundscape for an epic spectacle. Though, I am not sure how well this 60’s recorded soundtrack was reproduced through the robust sound system of a modern cinema.

Overall, the film was as GREAT as ever and a real pleasure to watch on the moderately big screen but the VUE Printworks Cinema failed to do this Kubrick masterpiece any real justice. The only thing that saved this trip from utter disappointment was movie itself.

VUE just seemed to be going through the motions and getting this pesky re-release of what they seemed to consider an ‘artsy fartsy’ film out of the way so that they could concentrate on trying save Solo: A Star Wars Story from in inevitable failure.

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For my thoughts on 2001: A Space Odyssey, though written back in 2012, check out my review.

But as for VUE – More effort needed.

 

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