2001: A Space Odyssey Collector's Box Set
Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood
Certificate: U
Available now

A mysterious monolith appears to the ape-like ancestors of humanity. Millennia later, a similar object is excavated on the surface of the moon, and beams a signal out into space. A mission to Jupiter is launched, to make contact with a larger monolith that lies waiting...

It was inevitable that some kind of collector's edition of 2001 would be released this year. Sadly, in the real 2001 we have yet to send humans as far as Mars, let alone Jupiter, but this is still the perfect occasion for this movie's DVD premiere.

This majestic and strident film has aged remarkably well since its release more than 30 years ago, largely thanks to the ground-breaking quality of its special effects and the fact that director Stanley Kubrick elected not to show any actual aliens. Instead, the immaculately smooth black monoliths suggest the perfection of an alien technology we can only begin to imagine. They also evoke the awesome authority of the biblical stone tablets that bore the Ten Commandments, and, on a more general level, remain a potent symbol of the unknown things that await us out there in the depths of space.

Kubrick and his co-writer Arthur C. Clarke set out to be deliberately obscure and to raise more questions than they answered in the movie (for me, though, the Star Child symbolises that we are still an infant species in the cosmic scheme of things). Despite having much of its mystery dissipated by its cinematic and printed prose sequels, 2001 still exudes an enigmatic quality.

A thick vein of arty pretentiousness runs through the finished product, which can be off-putting. For instance, Kubrick wanted to realistically convey the tedium that is part and parcel of space travel, but during the first half of the movie he achieves this too successfully, and some of the lengthier scenes can prove rather boring! However, in the comfort of your own living room, should the film test your patience too much, you have the option of watching it in its conveniently divided segments.

The most gripping section of the movie is without doubt the tense confrontation between man, in the form of astronauts Dave Bowman (Dullea) and Frank Poul (Lockwood), and machine, in the shape of the deranged computer HAL (voiced by Douglas Rain). Who can forget the classic line, "What are you doing, Dave?"

This box set also contains a CD of the soundtrack, a 16-page booklet and a limited-edition 70mm frame from the movie, but the lack of extra features on the DVD is a bitter disappointment. Nevertheless, the medium of DVD is definitely the second best way (after the big screen, of course) to view this work of art.

Richard McGinlay