- Written, Produced, Shot and Directed by Peter Hyams
- December 7, 1984
With global tensions rising, a joint USA-Soviet expedition is sent to Jupiter to learn just what happened to the Discovery and its HAL 9000 computer.
It should go without saying that it is tough to follow up a certifiable classic in any genre with a sequel. You usually can’t capture lightning in a bottle twice let alone come as close. The best you might achieve is ‘good’. Why you would attempt to do that let alone attempting it nearly decades later is beyond me. Yet here we are with the sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact.
But you know something? This is not a bad film. The special effects here aren’t quite up to snuff of the original and there are some liberties taken with the science presented in this film such as the ton of stars you see around out in space. When you get close to any planet the illumination of that planet tends to drown out starlight. Here it looks like they had a fire sale on background stars.
Excessive stars aside, this is a continuation of big ideas and big questions. It gives you some answers to things posed in the first film but leaves other elements ambiguous such as why exactly did these aliens create another star in our solar system with a planet orbiting it? What’s the purpose to it all? I cannot imagine they did such an extraordinary thing for shits and giggles.
Heywood Floyd (previously played by William Sylvester, here by Roy Scheider) was essentially an incidental character in the last film but is a central character in this film. Scheider was just one of those great actors who did so much at one point. He was cool yet made his characters relatable.
Scheider’s Floyd is frustrated and somewhat resigned to having taken the blame for the failure of the original Discovery mission. I’m a little curious how he would have taken the blame and essentially been kicked out of the National Security Council yet still know what’s all going on in the NSC let alone the space program when it comes to secret missions. He would still have security clearances but not be getting regular briefings. When the Russian (Dana Elcar) comes and speaks with Floyd, Floyd is exceedingly well informed about the plans of the government to go and investigate what happened using a second ship.
“My God! It’s full of stars!” is a pretty famous line and often associated with 2001: A Space Odyssey but it’s never uttered there. I would swear upon a stack of Bibles that it is in the predecessor but it’s not. It is included here in the opening and referenced as the final transmission from Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea). It’s a great line and the way it is utter is just communicative of the scope of all the character went through as well as of what is to come. BUT IT’S NOT IN THE FIRST FILM!
Speaking of Keir Dullea, he is surprisingly youthful for the time that has passed between the original and this film. I watched 2010: The Year We Make Contact and 2001: A Space Odyssey close together and the man looks virtually unchanged.
Bowman is not quite the same person as he was in the first film. In fact it’s implied he’s not even that character when we see him but rather some type of reproduction or even combination of he and something else. He possesses the thoughts and memories of Bowman to the point he feels a strong need to check up on his now remarried wife in a rather odd and emotional transmission. It is a scene that rather effectively establishes the change or possible change because even Bowman isn’t sure.
I give credit to Hyams for an attempt at an intelligent film that mostly works. The director did not dumb things down. He even took care of my issue from the original of the long lagging scenes of not much happening. In 2010 there is enough done to establish what’s going on but not so much you could remove it all and cut the runtime in half.
We do get an explanation for the error that occurred with HAL 9000. HAL 9000’s creator Dr. Chandra (Bob Balaban) learns that the National Security Council ordered HAL to hide information about the Monolith from the crew and programmed HAL to complete the mission alone which conflicted with HAL’s programming of openness and caused the equivalent of a mental breakdown for HAL. A simple enough and straightforward forward explanation that also manages to satisfy.
2010: The Year We Make Contact is dialogue heavy and fortunately the dialogue is largely engaging. The characterization is solid, and you get an idea of not only what the characters are going through but how they are being affected by the political situation back at Earth. Strangely there was a period when the situation presented here was highly unlikely, but the more things change the more they stay the same.
A great deal of what goes on here on the mission intersects with or is affected by events back on Earth. Great discovery and leaps in our understanding are held back because nations cannot put aside their differences just long enough. These scientists understand what is before them but are hindered by political realities. All too much of a real-world thing.
I understand why 2010: The Year We Make Contact gets treated like the red headed stepchild, but it does not deserve it. It’s an intelligent science-fiction movie that while not of the high quality of its predecessor is still of a fine quality in and of itself. If you haven’t checked this one out I suggest you should. You won’t regret it.
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