November 29, 2010
It was a matter of time before someone took Kubrick’s Sci-Fi masterpiece and re-scored it with Alex North’s originally composed music, probably the most famous rejected score in film History. However, reports conflict on whether the studio initially imposed North as a composer and Kubrick never intended to use his music, or if the director changed his mind during the editing process, so I’m not sure if Theophaneia is accurate about presenting this as “how Kubrick originally intended”. Either way, a lot of us had wondered how the film would sound with North’s music. Here’s the answer.
PLOT: It mostly remains the same, yet there are two important differences. The first is provided by the Carl Sagan interview added as a prologue. The scientist’s mention of TV signals being transmitted out to space to be potentially received by extra-terrestrial beings does fit with the end of the novel, if not with the movie’s (althought without contradicing it) in which the room Bowman reaches is a reconstruction made by aliens after… TV signals. Think Explorers played straight and for adults. This change, however, will fly over the head of anyone not familiar with the book. The second change is the very end, in which the Star Child blows up the spaceships and satellites floating around Earth. This is supposed to represent him blowing up nuclear weaponry, but since the footage is of the ships seen earlier in the movie, it looks like the Star Child is about to destroy Humanity. Unfittingly creepy. 7.5/10.
IMAGE QUALITY: Good enough to grant approval, particularly keeping in mind that early DVD releases of the original movie looked pretty much awful, but the video of this is somewhat blurry all along, and presents slight (VERY slight) blocking in certain sequences. I have no idea how much of this is because of the original DVD and how much because of the export. Still, nothing that could ruin the viewing experience. The Sagan interview is taken from what looks like multi-generation VHS, but that’s no big deal. However, since the footage it’s replacing was originally B&W, I think making this part B&W as well and increasing the contrast would be better. Fanedit-wise, the cuts are invisible and most of the newly added images work fine, with the exception of the CGI screens during the murder of the hybernated astronauts. They are so obviously newly created that stick out like sore thumbs. Other additions and new FX are seamless. 8/10.
AUDIO QUALITY: Most of it was fine. MOST of it. I must confess that I almost gave up watching this during the Moon-watcher hitting the bones scene. First there’s a bit with no audio at all, not even background ambience, then there’s no foley work for the bone sounds, which is distracting, and then the music doesn’t seem to fit the images, with the theme really kicking in after the bones part, not to mention it gets the fadeout during a part in which it’s obvious the music would go on. This is evidence of either the theme being composed for a cut of the scene that was longer and/or different, or it should start earlier. There are some other, more minor audio problems, like a stray bit of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” remaining over the MGM lion into the newly created fanedit intention card and then abruptly stopping, and a hard cut and volume level difference at the start of the stargate sequence. Also, the Space Station Docking part doesn’t totally fit the flow of the images and ends too soon. Video should have been further adjusted. Yet otherwise, the new music is very well integrated and works fine. 6.5/10.
DIFFERENCE TO THE ORIGINAL: The most obvious is, of course, the score. Which shows, for my tastes at least, that Kubrick did the right thing. I’m no fan of Alex North’s work in general (his best is probably Spartacus, also by Kubrick), and this score is hit (Moon Rocket Bus) and miss (the main theme) for my tastes. However, it’s a very interesting “what if”. Then the movie itself is a bit shortened, and masterfully so, as I didn’t miss anything really. I only noticed the absence of the bathroom instructions, but only because I’m used to that and was expecting it, otherwise the cut is invisible. Additions include the aforementioned Sagan prologue, new footage during the stargate trip (well integrated and looking like it could have always been part of the movie, but I thought those shots were too static for that moment so it detracted more than added), and new effects, but don’t worry, no going Lucas here, apart from those already mentioned CGI screens, they’re subtle. The monolyth flare effect, particularly, is as simple as it is effective. Credits were also partially recreated, unfortunately in a different font than the original ones so they stick out. 8/10.
OVERALL PRESENTATION: This comes in the form of a DVD5 with nice and ellegant animated menus using scenes from the film, a chapter selection menu, and two semi-hidden extra features: a fanedit trailer and a CGI recreation of the space station docking, with North’s music, aptly titled “If Only Stanley Kubrick Was George Lucas”. However, at least when starting playback from the trailer, the video content will play in a loop without ever returning to the menu: trailer, space station CGI extra, movie, trailer again. I suppose this is a glitch. 9/10.
ENTERTAINMENT: Pretty much on level with the original in terms of storytelling and pacing, so if you’re a fan of 2001 you’ll enjoy it, and if you aren’t, apart from having no taste this won’t convert you. This is something every Kubrick and/or 2001 fan will want to watch at least once, but at least in my case I don’t find it too rewatchable and I think I’ll mostly stick to the original. 8/10.
So, overall, I’m getting this APPROVED with a final rating of 8/10, but wishing Theophaneia will go back and replace it with a version 2 that addresses some of the problems I’ve pointed out. Now it’s up to him (her? it?), but from an official faneditor position already!