“Wait, what? It’s 2019, dude. 2019-35 isn’t 2010. COMMON CORE IS ROTTING YOUR BRAIN, MAN!”
Relax, yo. I’m talking about the movie: 2010.
Nine years after the events of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Doctor Heywood Floyd is still haunted by the tragic end to the mission of the spaceship Discovery near the distant planet Jupiter and the mysteries surrounding the loss of its crew. Feeling responsible for sending those men to their deaths, Floyd takes advantage of an offer to ride on a Soviet spacecraft that is about to be sent to Jupiter. He, along with an engineer who helped build the Discovery and its sister ship and the computer genius who created the HAL-9000 computer that apparently murdered the ship’s crew, Floyd sets off with a crew of Russian cosmonauts, all while relations between the United States and the Soviet Union continue to swirl at the bottom of the great political toilet bowl.
Of course, things get really weird once Floyd and company arrive at Jupiter.
Sometimes but not always subtitled The Year We Make Contact, 2010 was released 35 years ago today. That’s 1984, for those of you without the requisite number of fingers and toes, and if you do have the requisite number of fingers and toes, the leaders of our world’s various governments would like to have a word with you. Adapted from Arthur C. Clarke’s 1982 novel of the same name (but carrying an Odyssey Two subtitle), 2010 carried on its slumping shoulders the thankless task of being a sequel to “The Greatest Science Fiction Film Ever Made,” depending on who you ask.
Yeah, no pressure.
William Sylvester, who portrayed Heywood Floyd in 2001, was deemed too old to reprise his role, and the part was given to venerable everyman Roy Scheider, who does a great deal to anchor the film’s humanity, humor, and sense of awe. He gets plenty of help in the form of solid performances from such reliable names as John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban, and Elya Baskin. Keir Dullea returns to reprise his role as ill-fated astronaut Dave Bowman from 2001, as does Douglas Rain to provide voice to HAL, the supercomputer responsible for killing most of Discovery‘s crew.
On its own, 2010 actually works as a decent if not spectacular standalone science fiction movie. I still think it’s one of the better looking SF films – particularly of the era in which it was produced – with the Soviet ship Leonov‘s cruder, utilitarian design standing in terrific contrast to the cleaner, almost antiseptic look of the Discovery. The challenge of recreating the latter ship and its interiors from 2001 is worth a book or two all by itself, given that no blueprints or set plans existed from the first film (as the story goes, director Stanley Kubrick ordered all of that material destroyed). Production designers worked from photographs and blow-ups of screen stills from 2001 in order to recreate everything. It was an amazing effort that really pays off on screen.
Indeed, such a book exists: The correspondence between author Arthur C. Clarke and director Peter Hyams, captured via the then-nascent communications medium of “electronic mail” and chronicling the early days of pre-production on the film, resulted in The Odyssey File. One of the topics covered during their extended back-n-forth was the challenge of recreating the Discovery sets. It’s possible the book is one of if not the first of its kind, though I’d have to research to be sure.
Like the novel from which it sprang, 2010 does its best to address some of the myriad questions left behind by its predecessor, while also deepening the mystery of the beings who created and dispersed the Monoliths first seen in 2001, and who apparently are okay with us pesky humans poking our noses into other people’s business just so long as we stay off their lawn. As for the lingering questions and mysteries, Arthur C. Clarke would return to explore them again in different ways in two subsequent novels, 2061: Odyssey Three in 1987 and 1997’s 3001: The Final Odyssey.
If you’ve not yet seen it, then go on, give 2010 a spin. It’s an underrated flick, and it’s also full of stars, yo.