Have You Seen… ‘2010’?

Film and TV you might not have checked out but really should…

2010

The spacecraft Discovery encounters “something wonderful” in 2010 (image credit: MGM, used for illustrative purposes only).

Year: 1984

Starring: Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban, Keir Dullea, Douglas Rain

Directed and written by: Peter Hyams

What’s it about?

As tensions between the United States and Russia approach boiling point, Dr. Heywood Flloyd joins a Russian expedition to Jupiter in an effort to uncover the mysteries surrounding the ill-fated Discovery mission and the enigmatic object known as the monolith…

In review – why you should see it

2010 is the sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey and based on Arthur C. Clarke’s novel, 2010: Odyssey Two. With the stature of 2001 in mind, 2010 (marketed with the subtitle “The Year We Make Contact”) would seemingly have the odds stacked against it, yet, despite being inferior to Kubrick’s film and Clarke’s novel, Peter Hyams’ (Capricorn One) film is still an overlooked slice of superior, cerebral SF.

Taking 2001 as a launching point, 2010 continues the story in a very entertaining and imaginative way and ably directed by Hyams, who also serves as screenwriter and cinematographer – delivering some striking images that are comparable with those of Kubrick’s. Whilst the screenplay adheres to the overall narrative of the novel there are some departures (undoubtedly for budgetary/creative reasons), the most significant being the conflict between the United States and Russia which was not a theme in Clarke’s story and which, despite some stereotyping and Cold War clichés indicative of the times, is a logical and valid component of Hyams’ adaptation and provides tension and drama whilst delivering some prescient commentary of real world issues. The film’s hopeful conclusion sends an important message that, sadly, still has resonance today but offers a grander perspective of humanity’s place in the universe and leaves the viewer with a sense of optimism and wonder.

The cast portray their characters well, with enjoyable performances from Roy Scheider (whose genre credits to this point included Jaws and Blue Thunder), succeeding William Sylvester in the role of Dr. Flloyd and John Lithgow as the likeable all-American engineer, Walter Curnow as well as the welcome return of Douglas Rain who voices the Discovery’s troubled A.I. computer system, HAL (the reasons for his malfunction revealed with some slight retconning) and a mysterious cameo from Keir Dullea as ‘Bowman’. Rounding out the central cast is Helen Mirren who stars as Tanya Kirbuk, commander of the Russian spacecraft Leonov and Bob Balaban as computer expert Dr. Chandra, both of whom share a number of good scenes with Scheider. Chandra also has memorable interplay with HAL as he reactivates the supercomputer and establishes a trusting relationship with it. Glimpses into Flloyd’s home life during the opening act and the subsequent narrations thread throughout as he transmits messages to his wife and son back on Earth add greatly not just to Scheider’s character but also to the film’s emotional core. It’s to Hyams’ credit that he injects a lot of characterisation into proceedings, something that would not have worked for 2001 but is in harmony with the more human-focused approach taken with 2010, which seeks to provide answers (and establish its own mysteries – the possibility of life on Jupiter’s moon Europa, the status of Bowman and the warning of an incredible event) without detracting from the overall enigma of Kubrick’s masterpiece.

2010 is a highly enjoyable continuation of the Space Odyssey story with some entertaining human drama and edge-of-the-seat tension as the film reaches its climax. If you like imaginative high concept science fiction (or indeed read the novel) then it’s well worth your time.

Geek fact!

David Bowman’s last transmission “My god…it’s full of stars”, utilised in 2010, was never spoken in the film version of 2001 but the line was featured in Arthur C. Clarke’s novel.

Also worth a look…

Interstellar : in a similar vein to 2010, Christopher Nolan’s science fiction epic (which coincidentally also features John Lithgow in its cast) combines scientific theory with speculative fictional concepts, grounded in strong character drama.