Movie Notes: 2010: The Year We Make Contact

October 9, 2006

2010: The Year We Make Contact

3 stars = 3 stars

Starring Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren
Directed by Peter Hyams

2010: The Year We Make Contact is a sequel to the masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey (2010 was made in 1984, but has no relation to the George Orwell book 1984, nor are we anywhere near going to Jupiter in 2006). Anyhow, initially it has a way of feeling useless, sort of custom-made for people that thought 2001 made no sense and were unwilling to read the Arthur C. Clarke book(s). But it soon picks up pace, and as events culminate, it captures a fair amount of the wonder presented in 2001.

In 2010 the United States and Russia, still enemies, are working together (this film was made before the collapse of the Soviet Union) to figure out what happened to the spaceship Discovery, abandoned and in orbit around Jupiter. Nobody knows what happened to the robot HAL or astronaut Dave Bowman. The nature and meaning of the monolith is still a mystery. So three American scientists (Roy Schieder, John Lithgow, Bob Balaban) join a Russian ship (Leonov) and its crew to go to Jupiter and investigate.

Thankfully there are more people on the space ship this time out, making the dialogue and events more interesting and more or less explained. The purpose of the monolith is revealed, and we even get the glimmer of life on Europa, a moon of Jupiter. There are also some tense moments during as the initial boarding of Discovery, the reappearance of what’s become of Dave Bowman, and an escape from Jupiter as the monolith takes matters into its own hands.

However interesting this may sound, 2010 isn’t a great film. Despite solid, compelling writing by Clarke, I feel there was serious failing in the direction style of Peter Hyams, or more specifically, the difference in direction between Kubrick and Hyams. This film has that “made for television” feel at times, versus the epic, awe inspiring, perfectly framed shots of Kubrick. Plot-wise, this is a grander movie, but the end result on the screen doesn’t reflect this.

2010 is worth watching if you’re a die hard sci-fi fan, want a little more clarity after 2001, or like your movies straight up, no thinking. For something more symbolic, metaphoric, and mind bending, stick with 2001. And if you haven’t seen 2001, I strongly recommend not watching 2010 first.

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