2010 (1984)

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2010 (1984)

Post  BoG on Mon Mar 15, 2010 9:02 pm

Yes, it's 2010. Now. May as well take a look at the film of that name, also known as 2010 Odyssey Two and 2010: The Year We Make Contact, the supposed sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Only, it rarely comes across as a sequel, seemingly far removed from the Kubrick film of 16 years earlier. The main character is scientist Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider), who had been played by William Sylvester in 2001 and who was the 3rd biggest character in the earlier film.

Other prominent characters are engineer Walter Curnow (John Lithgow), Floyd's buddy, and Chandra (Bob Balaban), the genius who created the HAL-9000 computer. These are the Americans; most of the other cast play Russian cosmonauts, headed by pilot Tanya Kirbuk (Helen Mirren, the only British actor in the group). A little unusual, the half-dozen other Russian characters are portrayed by Russian actors (all having emigrated to the U.S. from the then-Soviet Union). And this is what really dates the film now - in this version of 2010, the Soviet Union is in full swing, a miscalculation by writer/director Peter Hyams, I feel.

The other clear indication of the difference in style from Kubrick's film is how Floyd is portrayed. Hyams was lauded for usually presenting characters that had some depth to them (an article in Twilight Zone Magazine,  Feb.1985 issue, even compares Hyams favorably to directors Spielberg, Lucas, Dante & Carpenter, "who can't tell a human from a prop stick.").   There may be something to this, as Scheider does present a very human Floyd here, very different from the unemotional Floyd of 2001 fame (though he was, since Jaws, the by-now-standard bemused Scheider character).  

At the same time, Floyd and the other characters do not suggest some future time frame here, unlike the almost alien, far future atmosphere created by Kubrick for 2001. We really felt like we were in an alien time frame in 2001; in 2010, the characters merely suggest 1984 (the real year, not the novel/film) or 1985.  Likewise, Hyams chose to show many scenes on Earth in this 'future' before the trip to Jupiter. Kubrick avoided this in 2001, sticking to the moon and outer space; again, he was able to suggest a futuristic regime in this manner. 2001 engendered awe; 2010 just drags us back to ho-hum reality.


There are some impressive moments for the time, during this new mission to the now-empty Discovery One spacecraft. Most of the scenes in outer space and the spacewalks are extremely well done. And, the moment when Bowman (Keir Dullea) arrives, appearing behind Floyd, is very well done (I still remember how the audience reacted in the theater when I first saw this... "turn around" - Oooo, oh-oh).  But, it's kind of slow overall and the revelations in the last act concerning why HAL went crazy in 2001 have a very mundane tone to them. This undermines the entire HAL character (voiced again by Douglas Rain).

Here is the problem: in recreating the whole Cold War situation here, including an escalation of USA-Soviet tensions in the last act, Hyams has grounded this film in eighties sensibilities - permanently;  I feel like I'm watching scenes from 1986 or 1987 when I watch this film. Then he presents a morality theme, a cosmic event that teaches us short-sighted humans some lessons about peace and civilized behavior. It may have been done better in the Star Trek episode, Errand of Mercy, in 1967. Not to mention, the later Watchmen graphic novel & film. It wasn't very original, I have to say, and a bit simplistic - almost grade-school style moralizing.

The final moment does touch on a cosmic aspect, leaping perhaps millions of years ahead into the future; but, that's only the last 20 seconds of the film. BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10 __ A final note of trivia: Chandra uses another computer on Earth, this one with a female voice; this is voiced by famous actress Candice Bergen.

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