DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: 2010: The Year We Make Contact

Tuesday 23 June 2009

2010: The Year We Make Contact

2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) dir. Peter Hyams
Starring: Roy Scheider, Helen Mirren, John Lithgow, Bob Balaban


Let's just get it out of the way: Peter Hyams is not Stanley Kubrick. With that in mind you can then accept the 1984 "sequel" to Kubrick's landmark film as a surprisingly good sci-fi adventure, with Hyams both paying reverence to the original and bringing his own look and tone to the story.

With a more traditional style, "2010" jumps nine years forward from the original film, following Heywood Floyd (played this time by Roy Scheider) and a team of Russian and American astronauts on a mission to find the derelict Discovery spaceship, which was left orbiting Jupiter. Typical of the '80s, late Cold War U.S./Soviet relations provide the ticking clock drama on Earth, as a Cuban Missile Crisis-like conflict in Honduras threatens the mission. Their journey allows them to confront once again the mysterious monolith, which has become active again, and is building towards another phenomenal event.

A technical marvel in its day, with today's eyes, the film has, surprisingly, lost little of its visual power. Richard Edlund's special effects and Albert Brenner and Syd Mead's production design are some of the best of the decade. Eighties cine fan-boys will instantly recognize Hyams' distinct softly lit anamorphic cinematography. Though it's a more formal style, reference is continually paid to Kubrick, specifically in the recreation of the Discovery set, HAL's voice and Keir Dullea returning as Bowman in his red spacesuit.

Roy Scheider as Heywood Floyd is a solid anchor; his warm, amiable persona reminding us of how underrated an actor he was. Solid actors like John Lithgow and Bob Balaban also appear, as well as a young Helen Mirren doing a surprisingly good Russian accent. Hyams smartly stays away from the obtuse cinematic flourishes of Kubrick, though the lack of any discernable overriding scientific or philosophical theme is perhaps the reason why this film has largely disappeared from the pop culture consciousness.

As a result, "2010" is good but not special. The lasting emotional connection in the film is the exploration of the relationship between man and machine — another common theme of the '80s. In the end, as the monolith threatens to destroy our heroes, HAL is given a chance to redeem himself, thus completing with satisfaction his narrative arc from 2001. Enjoy.

This review first appeared on Exclaim.ca


vukodlak said...

Hey, thanks for that review. 2010 was always one of my favourite SF films - it's by no means a masterpiece, but it is a good, solid film and maybe the best example of the kind of SF Arthur Clarke's and Isaac Asimov's book represent. By the way, Helen Mirren's good Russian accent is not that surprising: her real name is Illyana Mironova.

Anonymous said...

I was going to say that, too. Helen Mirren's father was Russian while her mother was English.

Also, this movie is good. The original books are a great series of SF