Peter Hyams' sequel to Stanley Kubrick's groundbreaking "2001: A Space Odyssey" opens nine years later as an American team led by space agent Heywood Floyd sets out for Jupiter to find out what happened on the 'Discovery' space ship's disastrous voyage. In order to accomplish their mission, the Americans join forces with a group of Soviet astronauts, even though on earth, the governments of the two super-powers are readying themselves for all-out nuclear war. The two crews try to overcome their differences as they seek answers to the central questions raised in "2001": What is the meaning of the black monolith? Why did HAL 9000 mutiny and will it do so again if resurrected?
Directed by: Peter Hyams
. Starring: Roy Scheider
, John Lithgow
, Helen Mirren
, Bob Balaban
, Keir Dullea
, Douglas Rain
, Madolyn Smith Osborne
, Dana Elcar
, Taliesin Jaffe
, James McEachin
, Mary Jo Deschanel
, Elya Baskin
, Saveliy Kramarov
. Music by: David Shire
'2010: The Year We Make Contact' (1984) is the sequel to the classic film '2001: A Space Odyssey' (1968). However the only claim it has to being called a sequel is that it is based on the book that was a sequel to the book '2001' was based on ('2010: Odyssey Two'). Other than this link, the film shares none of the glory of the original - it had a completely different crew, which is manifested in the poor quality of its art, and it had a generally lower production quality, manifested in its poor effects, music, and execution.
2010 isn't so much the year we make contact as the year the Space Odyssey story continues. After the USS Discovery spaceship was lost near Jupiter with its computer malfunctioned and its crew missing or dead, a joint US-USSR mission is sent out to discover what happened. Their only clue is the last transmission of the astronaut David Bowman - "My God, it's full of stars!" The story begins with the enigmatic atmosphere of the original and manages to maintain it, but with a lot less style. Despite there being plenty of room for the making of a powerful cosmic mystery, 2010 ploughs linearly through a step-by-step revealing of 2001's secrets in a way that betrays the depth of its questions by delivering overly simplistic answers. We discover why the HAL 9000 computer malfunctioned, and some of what happened to David Bowman - but thankfully the film leaves several questions open - and this is better than it answering every question in the same overly simplistic manner.
Directed by Peter Hyams, the film has clearly attempted to be a commercial success of its own - it comes with an original subtitle, and doesn't even pretend to be making an attempt on the original, but rather focuses on getting the plot across in an easily digestible manner whilst tossing in some low-budget special effects. But Hyams was no fool - he realised that the attraction to the Odyssey stories lies in the mystery of the Monoliths - strange alien objects with an unknown purpose - and that it would be theatrical suicide to say too much about them; ultimately all he reveals is their dimensions - 1 by 4 by 9 - the squares of 1, 2, 3.
The film still has its own moments of greatness. There are some incredibly tense scenes of difficult EVA manoeuvres, some poignant shots of the Monolith, and the iconic final transmission that literally echoes with mystery. Unfortunately the film still uses the "Thus Spake Zarathustra" title music - this is unfortunate only because it uses it to bad effect. Rather than the incredible title sequence of 2001, "Zarathustra" simply plays over a slow fade-in on a shot of a satellite dish. The rest of the music of the film is originally composed and utterly underwhelming, sounding like every other low-budget sci-fi movie.
Rather than the grand cosmic themes of the original, 2010 focuses on the Cold War. The US and USSR must cooperate on the mission if it is to succeed, and even when they do their efforts are stifled by political strife back down on Earth. Ultimately the film's thematic climax is peace, not cosmic awakening or evolution. But whilst this may be less involved, it is still nevertheless satisfying, and not too far removed from 2001's ideas; global unity and peace is a clear next step in human evolution, and indeed in the '2001' book the final act of the Starchild is to destroy Earth's nuclear weapons.
If you are looking for 2001, 2010 will disappoint you. But if you are looking for an enigmatic story in space, 2010 will deliver. Bypass the low-quality visuals and the low-quality music, and what you have is a story of a mission under pressure from political tensions whilst in the background a cosmic mystery unfolds, culminating in "something wonderful". The film closes on a satisfying climax that is nonetheless completely unexplained - the purpose of the Monolith remains unknown, and it is with the open question of its purpose that the film cuts to its credits.
Review by Virgil Ierubino from the Internet Movie Database.