Published on December 3rd, 2018 | by Kim Kurtenbach0
2001: A Space Odyssey at Regina’s Kramer IMAX Theatre
The Kramer IMAX in Regina is screening a special print of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hurry – it’s only on until January 4th, 2019.
Last Friday night, my wife and I attended the Kramer IMAX theatre for the opening night premier of Stanley Kubrick’s monumental 2001: A Space Odyssey, which drew a sold-out crowd of enthusiastic film fans. The film remains a stunning achievement in picture and sound, enhanced by a newly restored 4K rendering overseen by Christopher Nolan. The movie itself was the star of the evening, but the venue created a rare atmosphere of reverence, the way that great athletes are great athletes, but watching them at the Olympic level enhances the experience for spectators by the sheer extravagance and once-in-a-lifetime feeling it radiates. 2001 at the IMAX made me feel disappointed that the moon landing wasn’t faked.
Like the symbolic monolith discovered by Moon-Watcher in the film, the Regina IMAX theatre displays a towering presentation, one that strikes hard to those who have never seen a movie in this format. This format is a global rarity, one of only four copies in the world. Not to be confused with other types of IMAX showings that may be digital or 5/70mm film, this is a truly expanded 15/70mm copy. Projected on a screen 52 feet tall and 73 feet wide, the movie beckons you forth and seduces you in. The audio track, already a magnificent beast in its own right (consider all the great sounding musical recordings from the late 60s), is projected from behind the screen through a 10,000+ watt sound system. More on the audience effect of that later, but let’s just say, for now, it’s like the amp that goes to eleven.
Cut into three sections, The Dawn of Man; Jupiter Mission; Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite, with an intermission at (roughly) the 90-minute mark — yes, they took an actual 15-minute intermission for drinks and long-line bathroom breaks — the film moves along smoothly despite having a longer run time without dialogue than with. That is to say, of the 148-minute run time (plus intermission), nearly 88 minutes of collective footage is without dialogue. While this description can be a real turn-off to the casual moviegoer, it’s a rich reward for the patient film fan. In fact, the sensation may not be unfamiliar to those who watched last year’s television wonderments Twin Peaks or The Leftovers. The difference here is that 2001 uses the noise and the voids, the visual innovations and long periods of carefully orchestrated symphony of sound, to not only suspend your disbelief, but to totally screw with your sense of how time passes for a direct purpose. That purpose is all in the name of a beautifully ambiguous final scene. Consider the way you get lost in old photographs you find in a bin at home while listening to music: before you know it, and hour and a half has passed. But so has 15 or 20 or 30 years of memories. In fact, without all the effort of 2001 to have you submerged and spinning in this slightly haunting, suspicious art gallery of a space carnival it presents on the IMAX screen, you may be ill equipped to consider the ending at all.
2001 was originally released on April 4, 1968 and to very mixed, if not downright negative reviews. It has been said that more than 200 people walked out of premier, one of the most famous being Rock Hudson who, perplexed, asked: “Can someone tell me what the hell this is about?” It confounded critics and confused its audience. And people that are confused for too long, say 148 minutes plus intermission, begin to feel stupid. And if there is one thing that can be said about all people in general it’s that no one likes to feel stupid.
To that end, the reviews in 1968 were not all flattering. They called it boring. It was hard to sit through without talking. It was slow and didn’t explain things well. These articles and harsh critiques are becoming increasingly difficult to Google as the modern era doesn’t want to admit that it once failed to recognize 2001 as anything but a masterpiece. But the fact was that at the time of its original release people in general — beyond “not getting it” — didn’t realize that they didn’t have to get it.
Some people got it too much because, you know what was popular in 1968? Drugs. And lots of ‘em! Taking hallucinogenics or smoking weed and experiencing the film became a niche thing. It somehow became the measuring stick to tell if you were packing your bowl too tight. Or, not tight enough as the case may be. Maybe it was that segment of the audience, or just the relentless, never-ending push of the faithful to see beyond the stuffy reviews of the time that allowed 2001 to stay in theatres long enough to reach that tipping point where, over time, more and more began to praise it rather than dismiss it.
But still, there is no “getting it.” If your expectation is to drive down to the Regina IMAX, grab a popcorn and understand every nuance of the relentlessly anatomized 50-year-old movie that is consistently mentioned as a top cinematic influencer of the past century, well…stop. You might as well try to understand (and explain to everyone else) Andy Warhol’s soup cans or Salvador Dali’s…everything, come to think of it…or ‘Revolution 9’ by The Beatles. Face it, 2001 is a movie you might just not get. Would you like me to try and explain it? Well, I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that. But here’s the good news: it doesn’t matter. It’s an experience. What I can do for you, and will continue to do, is place emphasis on why it’s worth your time to make the trip — however far or near — to the Regina IMAX before the last showing on January 4th of the New Year.
Anytime I ask fellow Regina residents, when the last time they were at the IMAX was, I usually see a furrowed brow, followed by a long pause, followed by an offhand remark about 42 minutes of birds or sea-life or trains. I suppose it’s hard to see what’s right in front of you, and that’s partially why the mind tends to conjure up locations, when I say once-in-a-lifetime-movie- experience, the likes of Burbank, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto and London. When I say that the Regina IMAX is special, I mean that beyond a convenient it’s-just-down-the- street way. It’s globally unique. Not three short years ago, CBC tried to alert everyone to this fact by underscoring the significance of Star Wars: The Force Awakens being shown in Regina.
The current copy of 2001 being shown for the month of December is one of just four (very expensive) copies in the world. They were created from the original negatives into a format that fits the gargantuan screen, perfectly to its slight curvature. At three times the size of nearest counterpart (5/70mm renderings), the new configuration has the film running horizontally as opposed to the vertical movement of traditional projectors. While there are over 1000 IMAX theatres in 66 countries around the world, North America has about a dozen that could accommodate the 4 special prints.
The sound system is both compelling and peculiar in its own right. While we are currently accustomed to the surround sound experience, both at home and in the new digital theatres, the Kramer (Regina) IMAX has the audio tracks emitting from behind the behemoth of a screen. I have heard rumours that there are as many as 70 speakers creating the 10,000 watts of sound (fact) and it lacks nothing in terms of filling all the space of the 159-seat room. And here lies another unique aspect of the IMAX 2001 experience: the sounds of the film, and there are many, including digital squelching, magnified breathing in space helmets, crescendos of symphonic triumph, the swirling, rising, bewildering cacophony of noise and followed by the impossible madness of deafening nothingness, all intertwined with the normality of daily (space station) conversation, assaults your senses in such a powerful way that you are affected by it, as an entire audience entity.
There were moments that the sound was so loud it oscillated between annoyance and near intolerance, before yielding to silence. And when I say silence, I marvelled at the lack of any sound to the point that I became self-conscious of the fist-full of popcorn I was about to cram into my gaping food hole. I paused and heard nothing. Not a shuffle, nary a whisper or crinkling of wrapper. I gently dropped the kernels in my mouth and began sucking on them silently, the way one would with cotton candy. I did not want to disrupt the harmonious unison of this shared experience; 159 patrons simultaneously riveted and unaware of their commitment to the screen and the sound (or lack thereof). Church funerals are rarely this aware of their communal responsibility to veneration. As the film did its job of drawing close the audience curiosity, seducing and assaulting the senses until a reliable movement of time was forgotten, the audience reciprocated with consideration and silent awe, thus further enhancing and perpetuating the mystique of the film. It was brilliant.
Further to the local angle I have been playing up of Regina having a world-class venue for this 50th Anniversary celebration (and reminder) of the last great space/moon movie made before man actually landed on the moon, are other Western-Canadian connections related to this specific film: It turns out that much of the inspiration Kubrick got to make 2001 came from director Roman Kroitor and specifically Kroitor’s 1960 documentary short Universe. The connection here is that Kroitor was born in Yorkton, SK; studied at the University of Manitoba; created Universe for the National Film Board of Canada and became the co-founder of IMAX. Later into the 1970s, Kubrick would greatly influence the production of a then unknown fairy- tale-in-space by his friend George Lucas, as well as Kroitor contributing an idea of his own to the project, something Kroitor and Lucas both referred to simply as The Force. Prior to Star Wars being influenced by 2001 and before 2001 had been influenced by Universe, Kroitor had collaborated with Winnipeg born actor/narrator Douglas Rain, who would become the often imitated, never duplicated voice of HAL 9000. Rain passed away in Stratford, Ontario on November 11, 2018.
Coming out of the theatre, we walked alongside a father and son, the boy looked to be around twelve or thirteen years old (I think. My wife said 10. We really don’t know). “Did you like the movie?” I asked him. “Yeah!” he grinned, not pausing to consider. “Did it look old to you?” I asked. “No,” he replied flatly. 2001 has aged that well. When I was thirteen, if I watched a 50-year-old movie, it was on the TV and something along the lines of The Three Stooges or Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. Those looked old to me, even then. They didn’t look contemporary in any way. Maybe Kubrick found a way to mess with our modern perception of time and space the way the Monolith did to Dr. Bowman.
If you’re not quite enticed by the lure of 2001: A Space Odyssey currently playing at the Kramer IMAX in Regina, you’ve probably never seen the movie. If you have, you’ve never seen it like this, and that alone should have you running to the ticket office. If it is a first time viewing for you, here are a couple more little things you will get with the price of admission:
– you will now totally understand between 7 and 9 Simpson’s jokes that you didn’t get before.
– you will meet Heuristically programmed Algorithmic computer, or HAL9000. He will run violently amuck five years before Michael Crichton’s western robot rampage Westworld (1973), and over fifteen years before Skynet (Terminator, 1984) tried to crush the human race like a bug in the night. Fun!
– you will straddle the ever-thinning line between the old world and the new; cutting edge film technology projecting a 50-year-old movie that looks half its age.
– you will wonder at the screen and sound, confounded by how some things were done — the floating pen, the rotating rooms, the costumes and concepts — even though you’ve had 50 years of cinematic experience to figure it all out. That’s movie magic.
– you will spend less than it costs to roll a sticky ball down a warped lane in smelly, borrowed shoes.
If you’re the type of person to visit Regina to see a film like 2001, you’re likely the type of person that appreciates a proper cocktail, a great dining experience, a record store, a unique local shopping experience, and an adventure away from home for the night. The IMAX is a good reason to make a road trip, 2001 is a great excuse, and your guide is Tourism Regina.
You can see showtimes or purchase tickets to 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Regina Kramer IMAX here.