FILM RATING: 5 stars
(Upgraded from 4.5 to 5 stars on September 29, 2011)
“My God…It’s full of stars!”
One of the best science fiction movies of the 80s, other than the Star Wars and Star Trek movies, is 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984). This sequel to director Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey continues to be undervalued and overshadowed by its predecessor. But this is truly one of the great science fiction movies of all time in my humble opinion. It stands on its own as a great movie as well as a great sequel. I actually prefer it over the original 2001, as crazy as that will sound to some, but it just connected with me at the right time I think. Don’t get me wrong, 2001 is a classic groundbreaking science fiction film that predates Star Wars and Star Trek. It paved the ground for Star Wars and Star Trek to get made. It’s a poetic masterpiece of filmmaking by one of the great film directors of all time…and on a cinematic level I truly appreciate it’s beauty. But 2010 got to my heart first. I saw it first…and then I saw 2001 because I loved 2010. There was just something about 2010 that was more of a movie that a teenage boy could get into. It was simpler, it had more “answers”, it was more straight forward hollywood filmmaking, and it was less “artsy” than 2001. And even now at my ripe old age of 37, with my newly educated filmmaking mind, I still prefer 2010 over 2001.
I was 11 when 2010 came out in theaters, but I remember very vividly seeing it for the first time when I was probably 12 or 13. My Dad was working as a bartender at a small motel called The Highlander in Madison, Wisconsin. For some reason I was hanging out there one night and 2010 was playing on HBO on the TV I was watching. I remember being completely captivated by the movie, even though I came into the middle of it. I still have images in my mind of me staring at 2010 on the big wood-furniture encased television that sat on the floor in the TV room at the motel. I’m not sure when I actually saw the full film, but it’s been one of my favorite sci-fi films since. It’s currently in my Top 100 movies of all time, somewhere in the 51-100 range.
By now you probably know the basic story behind 2001 and 2010, as written by author Arthur C. Clarke, so I’m not going to bother trying to summarize the story or plots of these movies. If you haven’t seen either movie, watch 2001 first…then watch 2010…and come back to my review. Filmmaker Peter Hyams is the mastermind behind 2010 the movie. He wrote the screenplay, produced and directed the film, and was the Director of Photography on it as well. I’m not sure why Kubrick did not make the sequel to 2001. I’m sure there’s a story out there about it. These two films are like oil & vinegar…mixed together they give you a complete telling of Arthur C. Clarke’s story from two points of view. But they also work separately. And there are many people who like one movie and not the other. Some who like both. I like both, but give the higher marks to 2010 because as a film, it connected with me more than 2001. But of course 2001 had to be there for 2010 to exist.
I’ve heard arguments that 2001 is more timeless than 2010 and holds up better now because it doesn’t have that “pesky” russian vs. USA storyline. But I like that 2010 is set at the height of the Russian-US nuclear war age of the 80s. I like that the story revolves around these two bitter enemies having to work together in space and set aside their differences for the greater good of humankind. The monolith, and the “aliens” or “god” that it represents, bring the planet together, united as a race at the end of the movie. I know it’s a little bit “sappy” and “silly” now in our post-communist age, but at the time, it was an impossible idea. That’s what makes 2010 timeless for me…the underlying idea of rivals coming together against a foreign threat. We’ve seen this idea expressed in countless movies after 2010…and probably some before it.
The production design on 2010 basically uses the same great space aesthetic established in 2001. Apparently the production team for 2010 meticulously studied the original film for all of its details, then crafted the sets, models and visuals after it. For me, the spaceships are totally believable, even though they aren’t as slick as J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek (2009). I’m always able to escape into the movie and get lost in its story. All of the lead actors are perfectly cast in this movie, with great chemistry between Roy Scheider and Helen Mirren. Their yin-and-yang banter is perfectly executed, representing opposing countries, opposing genders, and opposing ideas. While the movie is told from the point of view of Scheider’s character Dr. Heywood Floyd, Mirren’s “captain” gives a nice counter-point.
You can’t really talk about 2001 or 2010 without mentioning the music in both films. While Kubrick went more classical and orchestral sounding, using various classic composers’ works from his temporary soundtrack, Hyams went with a modern and electronic reinterpretation of similar music by David Shire. I like Shire’s work…it fits right in with the movie and its time period in the 80s.
I purchased 2010 on bluray this past weekend and watched it for the first time in a few years. I’ve also got the DVD of the film that was released back in 2000. The film definitely looks better on bluray than on DVD. It’s the best presentation of the film I’ve ever seen. And the “exterior space” scenes are absolutely brilliant looking. It’s the “interior” scenes that look fuzzy and excessively grainy. But 2010 lacks the restoration that so many other classic films have been receiving as part of their bluray release recently, like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Granted, 2001 was shot on 70mm film, giving the studio a much better original to work from. It doesn’t look like the studio rescanned the original 2010 film negative with our new higher resolution scanning technology. It looks like they took the old scan they did for the DVD ten years ago, color corrected it a bit, tweaked the audio, and put it out for sale. It’s not bad, but I look forward to the restoration of this film digitally sometime in the future…maybe for a 30-year anniversary edition in 2014. When you see other films on bluray that have been cleaned up and restored after rescanned, you just hate to settle for a lesser quality presentation. But I realize 2010 is not the critical and popular favorite that 2001 is, so the studio probably didn’t want to spend the time and money on this one.
Overall, I can’t recommend this film enough. It’s a classic in my movie mind and I highly cherish re-watching it every few years to reconnect with the spiritual message that it proffers. Now I can enjoy it over and over on bluray for years to come!