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It's no secret that sequels are often little more than calculated rehashes of popular movies, with extra emphasis placed on re-creating dialogue or bits of action that everyone talked about the first time around. But Peter Hyams' 2010 (1984), the long awaited follow-up to Stanley Kubrick's monumental classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), is a different beast altogether. It may well be the only sequel in movie history that was designed to explain the plot of its predecessor...not that everyone was clamoring for an answer.
2010's relatively straight-forward narrative picks up nine years after the first film ended. The United States government discovers that the Soviets are planning to travel to Jupiter to find out what happened to The Discovery, the doomed ship that served as a sort of metaphysical launching pad in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Soviets eventually contact the U.S. and request that Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider), the mastermind behind the original mission, accompany them on their journey. It's never explained how Floyd, who was played by William Sylvester in 2001, managed to transform himself into a completely different person between stories.
Floyd and his fellow American astronauts, Walter Curnow (John Lithgow) and Dr. Chandra (Bob Balaban), are welcome additions to the crew, mainly because the Russians have no working knowledge of the HAL 9000 computer that controls The Discovery. Fans of the first film, of course, realize that nobody knows exactly what's going on with HAL. (Note also that 2010 contains a guest appearance by HAL's sister, SAL 9000. SAL speaks with Candice Bergen's mellifluous voice, though Bergen is inexplicably billed in the credits as "Olga Mallsnerd.") Soviet-American political tensions - which were a reality at the time and now may be puzzling to today's viewers - add another dimension to the proceedings. Before it's all over, you may (or may not) have a better idea what Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke were getting at with 2001.
One could debate whether there was a need to make 2010 at all. "I certainly would not have not thought of doing the film," Hyams admitted, "if I had not gotten the blessing of Kubrick." Though Kubrick gave Hyams the go-ahead, he always intended 2001: A Space Odyssey to operate somewhere beyond the realm of verbal explanation. The questions it raises aren't designed to be answered directly, since the film's "point" hinges on the unknowable mysteries of human consciousness. It's the kind of picture that can be viewed as profound, pretentious or incomprehensible depending on who's viewing it. Thus the sequel received a mixed reception; some people saw it and some people avoided it out of respect for Kubrick's original, mind-bending experience.
Clarke, for his part, was receptive when a nervous Hyams sent him the screenplay. "I felt like playing a few tricks on you - like a message from my secretary that I was last seen heading for the airport carrying a gun," he told him. However, Clarke added, "I'll say right away that it's a splendid job and you have brilliantly chiseled out the basic elements of the novel, besides adding quite a few of your own."
Whether or not Hyams succeeds in clarifying a deliberately unknowable film will hinge on your eagerness to abandon your personal interpretation of Kubrick's and Clarke's work. Regardless, 2010 can still be appreciated as a solidly entertaining piece of sci-fi, one that was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, and Best Visual effects.
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Screenplay: Peter Hyams, based on Arthur C. Clarke’s novel, 2010, Odyssey Two
Art Direction: Albert Brenner
Set Design: Rick Simpson
Cinematography: Peter Hyams
Editing: James Mitchell and Mia Goldman
Music: David Shire, Richard Strauss, and Gyorgi Ligeti
Special Effects: Henry Millar, Jr. and Richard Edlund
Costume Design: Patricia Norris
Principal Cast: Roy Scheider (Heywood Floyd), John Lithgow (Walter Curnow), Helen Mirren (Tanya Kirbuk), Bob Balaban (Dr. Chandra), Keir Dullea (David Bowman), Dana Elcar (Dimitri Moisevitch), Elya Baskin (Maxim Brailovsky).
C-116m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Paul Tatara