Yeah, folks, it's just not necessary to say "Well, I liked 2001 better, though!" Oh, really? How original. The sequel to Kubrick's masterpiece, one of the greatest movies ever made, nearly unanimously praised in every corner, doesn't quite live up to the first film in your critical eyes? Wow! Well, guess what? 2010 writer and director Peter Hyams probably likes 2001 better, too!
Here's another lethal shocker! The film isn't quite as great as the Arthur C. Clarke novel it's based on 2010: Odyssey Two! Yes, folks, a film isn't quite as good as its source material. You need to walk this off for a few minutes?
Back in 1982 when 2010: Odyssey Two was published Clarke told Kubrick to keep any old schmoe from making the sequel into a movie, because Clarke didn't feel like dealing with it. Yet once Hyams got Kubrick to say, and I quote, "Sure. Go do it. I don't care.", it was all systems go for MGM and that Hyamese Cat, man!
Luckily, he also managed to get Clarke to hand over more than the Apathy Kubrick offered up! In fact, good old Arthur C. kept in contact with Petey H. as a near constant consultant from half-a-world away using a new and revolutionary slice of technology known as "EMail". Yes, apparently someone can type a message on a device called a "Com... pu... ter" and, much faster than any Post Office could deliver it, the "Electronic Letter" shows up on somebody else's "Com-Pu-Ter" so that they can read it.
But I kid. Yes, while dated now, this was as cutting edge as TRON at the time! Plus... it was probably really cool to get emails from Arthur C. Clarke. I can kind of picture Hyams, director of Outland and Capricorn One, saying "Guys, Guys, Guys... Just got an Email from Arthur C. Clarke here, ah, Gather Round. Ah? Oh, what, let's see yours? AH? That's what I thought. Everybody, please, RAISE YOUR HAND if you got an email today from the great Arthur C. Clarke, please? What's that? Well I'll Be! Only one hand up and it's MINE! Just as I thought. Guess who rules, man... it's me, Peter Hyams, personal daily correspondent of Arthur C. Clarke, that's who. Now let's direct this bad boy, a'ight?"
Yeah, I'm kidding again, but seriously... they did publish the whole Email correspondence as a book! True Story.
Regardless of any behind the scenes development or comparisons to related works or even discussions about who has the most obnoxious dog, 2010 is a very fine film. If there had been no 2001, this would be a no-brainer! On its own, this is a great piece of Science Fiction, a well-done drama and an exciting adventure. In reality, it's the sequel to 2001 with all the baggage and high expectations that come with it.
Luckily Hyams doesn't turn in the Sci-Fi equivalent to Exorcist II: The Heretic! In fact, its noteworthy that Hyams made a very good film in its own right not by attempting to duplicate 2001 or immitate Kubrick, but by making his own film as best he could.
Shall we to the plot? Just try and stop me, Star Child! It's been nine years since the Discovery One's mission ended... badly. Nine years since Dr. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) vanished after the rest of the crew became Space Mummies at the invisible hands of the Crazed Computer Hal 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain)! The only thing Earth has to go on is Bowman's last words "My God... It's full of Stars!"
And because the benevolent Astronauts and Scientists of the USA are so very "Go Team!" and so in touch with their inner children, the first thing they did was look around and say "Who do we blame for this one?"
The answer is your favorite Bush Baby Buyer AND Mine.... Doctor Heywood Floyd (now played by Roy Scheider)! Naturally, when the USSR invites him to join them in their way-cool gravity-rich, climate controlled and rent controlled special spaceship Alexei Leonov on a mission to re-discover the Discovery, Floyd is PINK with Envy. He doesn't just jump, he... okay, he says "Yes", all right?
It turns out that the Americans could really use a lift from the Soviets because they're going to make it to Jupiter WAY before the Americans can get there on their own. On the other hand, the Russians could really go for a little Old Fashioned USA Cooperation, seeing as how the Russians have no idea how to turn HAL on again.
Might I suggest adding lovely ladies like Helen Mirren (as Captain Tanya Kirbuk) and Natasha Shneider (as Irina Yakunina) to the crew? That might turn him on. Okay, I'm sorry. Really, the other computer SAL 9000 might be more his type (especially as she's voiced by Candice Bergen). Okay, I'll stop.
Joining Floyd is, logically, the programmer of both HAL and SAL Dr. R. Chandra (Bob Balaban) and and to add a space suit full of coolness Dr. Walter Curnow (John Lithgow)! On the OTHER side of that whacked out Inter-Stellar Iron Curtain they have hanging there down the middle of the Leonov, Mirren and Shneider are joined by Dr. Vladimir Rudenko (Saveliy Kramarov), Maxim Brajlovsky (Elya Baskin), Dimitri Moisevitch (Dana Elcar) and other guys who are so hairy they look like they should be manning the Dark Star instead, man. Man, oh, man... If I were Heywood, I'd be like "Thanks for the ride, guys, but are you sure there's room for both myself AND your Beards?" What are you guys going for here, Rasputin or ZZ Top? Man, between Balaban, Oleg Rudnik and Vladimir Skomarovsky, I could've been fooled into thinking this was either a beard absorbency contest or a documentary about sea anemones, man! At one point they even slapped some face-fuzz on Scheider!
Okay, I'm doing that thing again... Sorry.
Once they rediscover the Discovery the Americans, the Russians and their Beards soon realize they're also joined by something else... Namely, the Monolith! And this time it's about the size of Godzilla's Bunk Bed! It's huge and ominously waiting to reveal its strange plan. Plus... where there's Monolith, there's Dave, now an evolved being that goes through all of his life stages, up to and including the Star Child within blinks of the eye. To the few entities that Dave chooses to communicate with, he promises one thing... that what is about to happen is "Something Wonderful".
And wonderful it is... once we get to that point. Truly, even the novel had a few slow points and many of those translate to the film (even with the large subplots removed from the adaptation). On the other hand, Hyams as both writer and director does a very fine job of bringing Clarke's main story to the forefront in a very fine and dramatic way. True much of the point of 2010, in both novel and film form, is to demystify the somewhat obscure 2001 and most true fans of 2001 would argue that such a thing truly isn't necessary. This is true... it's not necessary and some of the explanations put forth here do remove the fun of speculating just what the hell really happened throughout the events of the first film.
However, necessary or not, the film is very good nonetheless. From a deeper understanding of HAL 9000 and the revelations of just why he became what he did to a major expansion of the Heywood Floyd character to Clarke's frozen-in-time predictions about the Cold War, coupled with the optimism and hope that parallel's the book's outlook for the future, 2010 becomes a winner almost in the face of its naysayers.
Further, the acting is quite fine. Douglas Rain still manages to take a flat computer voice (with no face save that red dot) and turn it into something much more. Knowing what HAL is capable of his long, pensive pauses manage to fill the viewer with an apprehensive dread about what might happen. Balaban is complex as the scientist who feels sympathy for these computers not because he is cut off from humanity, but because these computers have become so human to him. Mirren's accent is near-flawless and she does a remarkable job of balancing Starship Captain with grace and poise. Scheider proves that he is most certainly the right casting choice to continue the Heywood Floyd character. His depth and rough exterior make him believeable as both the scientific mind and the space explorer. Victor Steinbach, James McEachin, Madolyn Smith and Mary Jo Deschanel are all great in their relatively small parts and if you look closely you'll even see Clarke and Kubrick themselves in cameos... in one way or the other. Yes, folks, 2010 is most assuredly "full of Stars"!
The special effects are fantastic. To keep the ships of 2001 from showing up in latter day Sci-Fi flicks (like the pod ship from Silent Running showed up in Battlestar Galactica, for example), Kubrick had all of the models from the first film destroyed. This forced Hyams' team to recreate the Discovery from watching the first film very closely. True, there is no "Waltz in Space" that we see in the original, but then again, Hyams never attempted to either top or redo Kubrick's film. In his own film, Hyams employed Richard Edlund and Entertainment Effects Group to recreate the Discovery and interpret the ships Clarke described in his novel, not to mention using early CGI to convincingly portray some of the most amazing sights in this film. The newer ship designs (see the Leonov) were good enough to influence the more realistic ships of such science fiction shows as Babylon 5.
Further differentiating this film from 2001's Space Ballet is the fact that 2010 actually has a Musical Score specially written for the film by David Shire and it's quite good and fitting for the film. Still, true fans of 2001: A Space Odyssey will be pleased to hear that iconic segment of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" comes thunderingly to the soundtrack at some key moments!
Writing or directing a sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of the most celebrated and transcendent pieces of filmed art of all time, would be an unenviable task for anyone. However, neither Clarke nor Hyams set out to recreate 2001, even though Hyams took great pains to ensure that much more than lipservice was paid to the film's predecessor. There are more than a few flaws here, yes, and the depth of the book doesn't quite translate here (does it ever?), but taken for all with all, 2010 is still a solid Four Star out of Five Motion Picture! Any film would suffer when compared to one of the greatest and most acclaimed movies of all time, but if this film stood alone as it is, it would probably be considered an amazing classic. Ironically, it could never stand alone without the shoulders of 2001 to stand on and its very existence in this regard manages to negate its own necessity. Yes, yes, we all know this, we get it, let's move on. 2001 was "Something Wonderful"! 2010 is no LESS a great film for standing in the shadows of the Monolith that its superior predecessor was. Watch it, read it, enjoy it and let's accept the apples and oranges theory of comparing these two flicks. Now, if you'll excuse me... I'm done working on this computer for the season, as the YEAR 2010 is drawing to a close. I think I'm going to go shave. See you in the next reel... if there's room!
The Link is hollow!
It goes on forever, and...
Oh My God, it's full of stars!!!
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