Friday, December 16, 2016


Imagine someone like notorious bad movie maker Ed Woods mounting a sequel to Orson Welles's CITIZEN KANE (1941). The film does not need a sequel but if one was to be made, the last person you would want to be in charge of the production would be the hapless, clueless and untalented Wood.

While not on quite the same level of ineptitude involved in the above scenario, that's kind of what happened when hack director Peter Hyams helmed 2010 (1984), a sequel to Stanley Kubrick's immortal masterpiece 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). Hyams, who began his directorial career in 1972, had previously directed only two science fiction films, the cult favorite CAPRICORN ONE (1978) and the Sean Connery starring outer space murder mystery OUTLAND (1981). Neither film was very good but Hyams was working steadily and producing slightly upscale B movies. But he was no George Lucas or Steven Spielberg and he was certainly no Stanley Kubrick. 

2001 was a landmark achievement in both film in general and the cinema of the fantastic in particular. It was ambitious, ambiguous, puzzling, mysterious and full to bursting with awe and wonder. It left many moviegoers scratching their heads and wondering what it was that they had just seen.

The screenplay by Arthur C. Clarke and Kubrick was turned into a novel by Clarke and reading that book answered some of the questions raised by the film but 2001 was, in many ways, a Rorschach test for each individual viewer. In short, it could mean almost whatever you wanted it to mean. It didn't need a sequel to explain away dangling plot threads and tie up loose ends. It was complete and total unto itself, a remarkable cinematic experience that was like nothing ever seen before.

But Clarke himself penned the sequel novel 2010: ODYSSEY TWO in 1982 and when the book was purchased and went into production by MGM Studios, Peter Hyams was put in charge. He did quadruple duty as director, producer, screenwriter and cinematographer (there's a rumor that he also drove the craft services truck). Kubrick didn't offer any objections and consented to let Hyams make the film as long as he would "just go do your own movie."

Set nine years after the failure of the Discovery One mission in the first film, Dr. Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider), has retired from the National Council for Astronautics, feeling guilty over the deaths of the Discovery crew members. He's a university chancellor now but at the beginning of the film he's approached by a Russian scientist who tells him that the Russians are launching their own mission to Jupiter in an attempt to recover the Discovery and find out what went wrong. They need help from Floyd and two other American scientists (Bob Balaban and John Lithgow) and since the Russians mission is already planned and can get to deep space before an American crew can launch, Floyd signs on.

The Russian ship is  commanded by Tanya Kirbuk (get it?) (Helen Mirren). They find the Discovery spinning in orbit around Jupiter. The vessel is secured and breached and HAL 9000 is reactivated. But before you know it, another mysterious monolith appears in space, this one bigger than the ones seen before. A Russian astronaut dies attempting to explore the monolith, a tragedy which sets in motion a chain of events that will radically transform that sector of the solar system.

2010 answers some questions posed by Kubrick's film while creating more mysteries of it own. It's not the dazzling adventure through time and space that was a highlight of 2001 but it is, believe it or not, actually a fairly solid piece of outer space exploration and adventure. Hyams does a decent job in all of his various tasks and the film received five Academy Award nominations: Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, Best Visual Effects, Best Costume Design and Best Sound. 

Arthur C. Clarke has a cameo appearance early in the film. He's seen sitting on a park bench, feeding pigeons, outside of the White House while Floyd has a meeting on an adjacent bench. And a dummy copy of TIME magazine is seen in one shot with the headline "WAR" above head shots of Clarke and Kubrick.

2010 is not a bad movie. However, it is an entirely unnecessary one and I can't help but wish that all of that money, time and talent was put towards making an original science fiction film instead of a footnote to a masterpiece. 

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