“A joint USA-Soviet expedition is sent to Jupiter to learn exactly what happened to the “Discovery” and its H.A.L. 9000 computer.”

Director: Peter Hyams
Writers: Arthur C. Clarke, Peter Hyams
Staring: Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Douglas Rain
Release Date: December 7, 1984

We return to the great unknown. 2010: The Year We Made Contact (1984) is a direct sequel to Stanley Kubricks’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The story takes place nine years after the American Discovery One’s mission to Jupiter took a mysterious turn following the HAL 9000 computer’s (Douglas Rain) malfunction.

Dr. Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider) received blame for the DIscovery’s mission going to shit, but a chance at redemption has arrived at his doorstep. With the chance for incredibly discovery (haha, I am good) and scientific exploration as a lure, the USA and USSR have agreed to a joint mission, and Floyd is the leader of the Red, White and Blue contingent.

Floyd gets on board the Soviet Union craft and is struggling to get the information from his Cold War counterparts. Through patience and at first with uneven trust, Floyd forms a relationship with captain Tanya Kirbuk (Helen Mirren) and together they learn the crazy truth about what happened to Discovery One.

Looking at Jupiter’s frozen moon of Europa, Floyd and Kirbuk come to the realization that what is happening on that small (relative) bit of mass point to intelligent signs of life. There are warnings to stay away from the moon, but they remain unclear at the start. The predicaments in deep space are even more precarious when Russian astronaut Brailovsky (Elya Baskin) takes a manned pod near the famed monolith and is blasted into infinity when an energy ray from the monolith shoots toward earth.

The monolith (remember from 2001, the weird perfectly symmetrical sentient pillar) is a living thing, and it has made itself something special on the moon or Europa. It turns out this hefty monolith has been making an army of them. It turns into a race against time for the two-country space team as they must somehow escape the vacuuming black hole that Jupiter is becoming as a result of all the new monoliths. In the end, the nuclear explosion caused in the area creates a second sun, and as one would call it, a unifying sun. This unearthly phenomenon unites the U.S. and USSR from their straining relationship and pins them with the same jersey for team earth as they try and understand what is happening in the cosmos.

Was the mid-1980s the script writing time dedicated to solving the cold war? We have Rocky IV which comes out in 1985, and this preceded that by a few months. 2010 was soaring to a solid “B” movie ranking type until the Kumbaya, lets-solve-the-worlds-problem party. The political backdrop of 2010 is it a weak point; and it was setup directly from the beginning.

The opening of 2010: The Year We Made Contact is the most Stanley Kubrick feeling scene of the entire movie. The open-air conversation between Dr. Heywood Floyd and Dimitri Moisevitch (Dana Eclar) has the breath of space and the claustrophobia of distrust. The silently coming nearer to each other while interrogating purpose and suspicion is a visual cue of the compromise that is going to need to take place between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

The idea of the United States and the U.S.S.R coming together on this mission is fine, but to have it be a happy ending is what alienated me. The ending to 2001 was not happy go-lucky. I would be very very curious to see if there were any alternate endings that writers Arther C. Clarke or Peter Hyams had.

The best fictional telling of the USSR and USA coming to agreement in tenuous times is the graphic novel Watchmen written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. It first appeared in the 1985 issue of DC Spotlight. It should be mandatory reading for anyone.

Mandatory knowledge for science fiction fans and 2010 viewers is Hal. You have to know Hal. There is a subplot in 2010 that involves the Hal 9000 computer and the creator of Hal, Dr. R. Chandra (Bob Balaban). The doctor is on the flight with the USSR and USA astronauts to look into why Hal malfunctioned, and it turns out that the explanation is a rather important part of the story come the end of the movie. Hal went murderous in 2001: A Space Odyssey because his logic was put into a pretzel; The NSC ordered Hal to hide the truth of Discovery’s mission from the crew. The persons on board where not supposed to know about the monolith and when they began to know and understand, it created a mental breakdown within the AI. Hal went bananas. Come the end of 2010, Hal’s function was put to the test again, putting him in a focal point as to whether or not this venture for the truth will have the chance to return and tell it.

This is just my personal Stanko preference here, but I missed the evil Hal wreaking mysterious havoc on the crew. The stakes in 2010 are not reaching as high as its predecessor because there is no direct malevolent force for the crew to try and survive against. The writers replaced it with the global cold war themes, which just didn’t hit hard enough.

This is the third movie I have seen from director Peter Hyams, and it is the best work of his I have seen. In 1999 he made the Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster attempt End Of Days, and a couple years before that he made the obscure horror movie called The Relic (1987). Hyams wrote 2010 with Arthur C. Clarke, whose career in Hollywood orbits heavily around 2001 and 2010. His work on Kubrick’s original 1968 work was nominated for an Oscar in 1969, losing out to Mel Brooks’ The Producers (1967).

2010: The Year We Made Contact was nominated for five Academy Awards in 1985: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup. The movie was ousted in four categories by Amadeus (1984), and lost in Visual Effects to Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984).

In terms of the special effects, I am sorry to report that I was left a little bit underwhelmed by 2010: The Year We Made Contact. Perhaps it is because I am comparing it to 2001: A Space Odyssey and the way visually that stuck out and still holds up. The special effects in 2010 looked more aged because they tried to do more advanced effects; they pushed the field of what they could do which is commendable, but that also means less margin of error when viewing it now.

STANKO RATING: C+ (2.5/5 Stars)

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1 Comment »

  1. 2010 is sadly no longer what I consider to be a sufficient sequel for 2001. My only truly fond memory of it is that it was my first intro to the lovely Helen Mirren. I can now envision a film with the range of Interstellar or Arrival being a more worthy sequel to 2001. I re-watched 2001 last night and remembered originally enjoying it as a stand-alone film and story when I was a kid.

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