dropped the ball last year and did not give Stanley
Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey a major re-release
in the year 2001. Aside from that monumental blunder,
the film did receive the expected amount of re-analysis
and praise, most of which added up to the same conclusion
weve always had about the film: it is one of those
few works that elevate filmmaking to level of the novel
or the painting. Its a true work of art that, like
those older art forms, will forever exist in our minds
as something much more than what we simply saw and heard
One has to wonder: when
the year 2010 rolls around, will the underachieving little
brother of 2001 get even a fraction of the same
respect? Writer/Director Peter Hyams collaborated with
Arthur C. Clarke (author of the novel 2001: A Space
Odyssey and the sequel 2010: Odyssey II) and
the film was released in 1984 to much fanfare and the
inevitable comparisons to the incomparable original. But
it was truly a case of apples and oranges; 2010
was a good film, maybe even a great one, and as a great
film it had little interest in how another director did
thingseven if that director was Stanley Kubrick.
Hyamss movie is 180-degrees
different than 2001, but utilizes the now-famous
symbols that Kubrick birthedthe monolith, the fetus,
the astronaut David Bowman, and the spaceship Discovery
(which had to be re-created from scratch after Kubrick
had all of the original plans and models destroyed for
fear of it ever showing up in some other science-fiction
Many would suggest that
this very concept was an outrage, that Kubricks
symbols were somehow holy and should exist only as he
left them, as wonderfully rich enigmas. Hyams and Clarke
took a different view; 2001 was a film that demanded
an intellectual and spiritual response from anyone who
saw it; 2010 was their response. That doesnt
mean their interpretation is correct. Nor does it mean
Salvador Dalis "Last Supper" painting is more correct
than Da Vincis is. Art is response to the world
around us, and Hyams was out to provide his interpretation
of what 2001 meant to him.
is full of answers (too many answers for many critics).
It begins with Haywood Floyd (Roy Scheider), the man who
had been held responsible for the failed Discovery mission,
finally getting a chance to find out what happened. As
America and the Soviet Union inch closer to nuclear war
(this was made in 1984, remember), they also both inch
closer to having the technology to reach the empty, orbiting
Discovery craft which houses the dead HAL-9000 computers
and, possibly, an answer to the mysterious monolith that
floats outside of Jupiter.
The Soviets are way ahead
in the space race and are ready to launch a reconnaissance
craft, but have no insight to HALs programming.
So, three Americans are allowed to come with them
Floyd and computer scientists Dr. Chandra (Bob Balaban)
and Walter Curnow (John Lithgow). Suffice to say, there
is more talking in the first two minutes of 2010 than
there are the entire 139 minutes of 2001.
They reach the ship and
re-start HAL, who they learn had NOT gone crazy but had
simply been given a directive from the U.S. government
to dispose of Bowman if he got in the way of the mission.
Meanwhile, the Soviet ship gets too close to the Jupiter
monolith, and another astronaut is lost into space, just
like Bowman was.
Unfortunately, the war
on Earth escalates and the astronauts are ordered to come
home. Ignoring for the time being a strange, life-like
sign from Jupiters moon Europa, the astronauts prepare
to leave in two weeks when the Earths rotation is
correct. But Floyd is visited by the specter of Dave Bowman,
who randomly shifts from fetus to middle age to old man
as they speak. Dave tells Floyd that they must use American/Russian
teamwork to take off for Earth immediately because "something
wonderful" is going to happen. "Its all very clear
to me now," says Dave, making him the envy of everyone
whos ever seen 2001 or 2010.
What happens is this: zillions
of monoliths swarm across Jupiter, consuming it and turning
it into a second sun; while a repeated message is beamed
to Earth, reading: "All These Worlds Are Yours Except
Europa. Attempt No Landing There. Use Them Together. Use
Them in Peace." The war on Earth ends.
There is an undeniable
elegance and beauty about what happens in 2010,
which seems to be a story about Gods Creation. A
new sun is created, new planets are offered up, and an
entire new chance is given to mankind. The only stipulation
is the mysterious moon Europa, which is perhaps the new
Forbidden Fruit in the galactic Garden of Eden.
2010 sort of lets
HAL off of the hook, telling us that HAL did not know
how to lie until we taught him. This is rather simplistic
and disappointing, given the natural progression of intelligence/evil
that Kubrick had so carefully built up in 2001.
However, at the end, there is an interesting scene: the
astronauts returning home have abandoned HAL in space,
and HAL is visited once again by Dave. It is clear that
HAL was aware all along of his destiny here with Dave,
and is somehow integral to what is happening cosmically.
As Jupiter is in the final stages of being swallowed by
the monoliths, it looks just like HALa black circle
surrounded by a larger red one. Considering that one of
the first images in 2001 (the sky in "The Dawn
of Man") ALSO looks just like HAL, Hyams has created a
rather elegant bookend, placing HAL as a presence that
is as timeless as the monolith, a quiet, rational, intelligent
force that has no ego, pride, or anger, but CAN be used
for evil, should humankind instigate it.
Unlike 2001, Hyamss
film focuses on human emotions: fear, sadness, hope. In
doing this, 2010 is reminiscent of Martin Scorseses
The Last Temptation of Christ, which angered many
by treating Jesus like a flawed, flesh-and-blood man.
2010 is similarly "blasphemous" by taking HAL and
the monolith and subjecting them to expansive human scrutiny
(the scientists discuss the dimensions of the monolith
and how they have been unable to penetrate it with lasers,
etc.). But the message is the same as in Last Temptation:
the strongest faith is that which has been challenged,
tested, and still survives. And despite the trials 2010
puts us through, 2001 emerges unscathed; in fact,
stronger for having survived.