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Friday, 30 March, 2001, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Kubrick's Odyssey: Out of this world
Hal the computer lip-reads as crewmen plot against him
Hal the malevolent computer is watching...
By BBC News Online's Helen Bushby

2001: A Space Odyssey has finally come of age, having been upgraded with digitally remastered sound on a new 70mm print.

And it shows.

The long wait to see Odyssey blast its way onto the big screen was worth it, having only ever seen it on video. It was like eating your first Belgian chocolate after a diet of cream crackers.

And everyone else in the cinema appeared to think the same.

As the credits opened and the trumpets burst out of the speakers, not a sound could be heard. No sweets rustling, no popcorn scrunching - everyone was fixated by the screen.

Kubrick: Renowned for his fastidious approach
And the crystal-clear soundtrack, including the famous Blue Danube waltz as a backdrop to the space scenes, was faultless.

For anyone who hasn't seen the film and wonders what all the fuss is about, it was made in 1968 by the late director Stanley Kubrick.

Although it won only one Oscar for special visual effects, it is now hailed as having broken the mould of science fiction movies.

Spanning three million years from the dawn of man through to his rebirth as a star child in space, its plot and lack of action baffled many critics on its release.

But it enchanted acid-addled hippies, who wanted to see if it lived up to its billing as "the ultimate trip".

Arthur C Clarke: Co-wrote the film with Kubrick
Whatever you think of the plot - the film itself is a visual extravaganza showing the beauty, bleakness and silence of space.

This was no mean feat given man hadn't even walked on the moon when it was made.

It also shows Kubrick's fastidious eye for detail off to its best effect - he employed Nasa experts to help him design the space craft, to make them as realistic as possible.

It worked - much of what he predicted does not look out of place today.

The film opens with feuding apes, who learn to use bones to kill each other after finding an enigmatic black monolith.

Monolith mania

In one of cinema's most famous film cuts, time flashes forward three million years, and the bone evolves into a spaceship - another tool for mankind.

We are transported on a space journey in 2001, when a scientist flies to the moon to examine another mysterious monolith.

And in a top-secret mission to Jupiter 18 months later, the ship's "foolproof" computer Hal 9000 kills the crew - except one man, Bowman, who manages to disconnect it.

Bowman then sees another floating monolith, is drawn into a technicoloured stargate, and watches himself age and die before transforming into a foetus-like star child orbiting the earth.

Think the unknowable

Confused? Somehow it makes more sense when you see it on screen, although the ending does take some getting used to.

But despite the magnitude of the issues Odyssey throws up, it is not without humour - albeit unintentional.

The rogue appearance of Leonard Rossiter, better known as Rigsby from TV's Rising Damp, raised several titters from the audience.

Rossiter played a Russian scientist called Smyslov to great effect, but it was very difficult not to imagine him adding "would you like a cup of cocoa, Miss Jones?" to his dialogue.

This aside, Odyssey is not a film to be taken lightly - it looks fantastic and makes you think the unknowable about life beyond earth.

It is definitely an experience not to be missed.

2001: A Space Odyssey is showing at London's Curzon Mayfair cinema until 14 April.

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