2010: The Year We Make Contact

Q: Who would be crazy enough to make a sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey? A: The man who made Timecop.

Peter Hyams (End of Days) brings back all our favourite characters (David, HAL, that giant baby) for this seldom-mentioned 1984 follow-up that’s basically Unnecessary Sequel: The Movie. Trying to sequelise Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi monolith is like attempting a sequel to The Godfather Part II. And all things considered, 2010: The Year We Make Contact is a solid effort. It’s just not 2001.

Hyams wisely avoids attempting to replicate the abstract splendour of Kubrick’s vision, but in doing so he fails to justify the film’s existence. Where the original’s focus was all ideas and images, 2010 is all people and talking; an approach closer to Star Trek: The Motionless Picture than the expansive grandeur of the best-looking film of all time.

Based on another novel by Arthur C. Clarke, it follows a group of scientists (Roy Scheider, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban and John Lithgow) on a mission to find the Discovery One and work out what the hell happened in that movie. Considering 2001 covered all of human history, 2010 feels relatively minuscule in scope; a conventional space picture rather than an existential epic.

The continuity also appears off-axis, set nine years after the original but apparently at the height of the Cold War. Kubrick’s vividly imagined future of clinical corporatism and casual space travel is replaced by a world that looks pretty much like the 1980s, the only acknowledgement that it’s meant to be the future being Roy Scheider keeping dolphins in his house.

2010 reuses Also Sprach Zarathustra but unaccompanied by the original’s visual majesty it just seems weird, and not in a Kubrick way. It looks good for a regular movie but terrible for a 2001 movie, and has its own share of excitement and ideas; the scenes that reintroduce HAL and David are lovingly and chillingly crafted, despite robbing the original of some of its magic.

In the end the film’s best move is steering clear of the rehashing that would be made of such a project nowadays, which would probably introduce a character called Daisy (Emilia Clarke) to explain why HAL sings that song. But why anyone thought this would be a good idea at all remains a greater mystery than the monolith itself.

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