Saturday, June 4, 2011

#302. 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

Directed By: Peter Hyams

Starring: Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren

Tag line: "We are not alone."

Trivia:  In order to make the American spacesuits as authentic as possible, costume designer Patricia Norris used a Teflon fabric that cost $175 a yard

With his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick explored a world of imagination, giving an entire generation their first glimpse of the wonders of outer space. Favoring spectacle over narrative, 2001: A Space Odyssey is - even today - considered a cinematic masterstroke. 

With its sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, writer/director Peter Hyams takes an entirely different approach, constructing not only an entertaining science fiction film, but one that explores - and attempts to solve - the mysteries of its predecessor. 

Dr. Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider), who authorized the Discovery mission that ended in tragedy nine years earlier, has volunteered to go back to Jupiter so he can board the now-abandoned vessel and determine exactly what went wrong. 

Among those traveling with Dr. Floyd are Dr. Walter Curnow (John Lithgow), a scientist, and Dr. Chandra (Bob Balaban), the man who programmed the Discovery's HAL 9000 computer. All three are being shuttled to Jupiter aboard a Russian spacecraft under the command of Tanya Kirbuk (Helen Mirren), whose crew stands ready to assist the Americans when they arrive at their destination. 

With the U.S. And Russia teetering on the brink of war, this joint expedition was proposed to help ease tensions between the two countries. But what these astronauts discover once they reach Jupiter will change much more than the political climate on earth; it will modify the very layout of our solar system. 

2010 is an amazing accomplishment in that it completely alters the tone of the original Kubrick masterpiece, focusing more on characters and situations, while at the same time remaining entirely committed to continuing the original film's story. Many of the elements that made 2001: A Space Odyssey a fascinating motion picture are there for the taking in 2010. We once again board the spaceship Discovery, and watch as Dr. Chandra reactivates the much-maligned HAL 9000 computer, the malfunction of which is believed to have caused the initial mission’s failure. Even the inexplicable monolith is still hovering nearby, no less mystifying than it was when Astronaut David Bowman (Kier Dullea) set out in a pod nine years earlier to examine it. 

Yet where 2001 was all about the wonders of deep space, 2010 gives us more of the who, the what, and the why. We learn the reason behind the HAL 9000’s breakdown on that original voyage, as well as what really happened when David Bowmen left the Discovery to get a closer look at the monolith. But 2010 does more than simply solve the technical mysteries of the original; it also takes a stab at the deeper questions, the most prominent being the monolith and its role in the evolution of life. 

Where 2001 sought to open our eyes and excite our senses, 2010 hoped to broaden our minds and satisfy our curiosities. And as far as I'm concerned, it's done just that.


Chris said...

I think I'm on the opposite side of the fence to you, in my opinion the sequel should never have been made, as the unsolved questions in 2001 are part of what made it great to me. But for people wanting some answers, it served a purpose.
Actually the book version of "2001" by Arthur C Clarke I read also gives away a lot, which I didn't like.

DVD Infatuation said...

@moviesandsongs365: I admit my enjoyment of 2010 may seem a bit odd, seeing as I rank the original film among my top-25 of all time. I think what I liked most about it was that it didn't try to BE another came up with its own way to tell the story (which was, of course, to fully TELL the story). 2001 was great because it was so vague, yet so incredibly beautiful at the same time. By 1984, when 2010 was released, space travel wasn't as awe-inspiring for movie audiences, so the movie had to take a different approach.

Thanks for the comment!

Chris said...

space travel wasn't as awe-inspiring in the year 1984, hadn't thought of that, thanks for the insight, I guess you're right. Kubrick's 2001 is timeless, but is also shaped by being made in the pre-space era.

DVD Infatuation said...

@moviesandsongs365: Sorry for the late reply!

Yeah, I think the filmmakers behind 2010 had little choice but to focus on story. After movies like STAR WARS, ALIEN and even a slew of low-budget pics, audiences weren't really of a mindset to sit and stare at deep space in wide-eyed wonderment, like they did when 2001 was released. They needed "more", and I felt that 2010 was able to give more while still remaining somewhat true to the story put forth in the original.

Thanks again for the comment. It's appreciated.

John said...

While I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and didn't think it came across as 2001-lite, I was left with two questions. Why would these beings transform Jupiter into a sun and thus obliterate Europa, its moon that supposedly had evidence of life discovered by the ship's crew? And it was suggested that the monolith was responsible for that life. So I didn't get why the alien entities would destroy their own creation. The second question is why did the monolith wait nine years before doing its thing with Jupiter, coincidentally right when the ship from Earth arrives? So these were two plot holes for me. But it was a visually stunning and exciting film.

John said...

I just realized that my plot hole was even bigger! Earth is warned after the starification of Jupiter to leave Europa alone. Ha! There wouldn't be a Europa!