2010 (1984)

Genres - Mystery, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Sci-Fi, Space Adventure  |   Run Time - 114 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Peter Hyams wrote and directed this financially successful but hugely disappointing sequel to Stanley Kubrick's 1968 sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, that revisits many of the mysteries introduced by that earlier picture. The story concerns a group of astronauts played by Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren and others, who travel to Jupiter to learn what became of interstellar voyager Dave Bowman, the spaceship Discovery, and the computer HAL 9000. The combination of the central premise and the movie's star power sounds tantalizing enough that it isn't difficult to see why MGM/UA greenlit the project. Though creating any sequel to 2001 means setting the bar exceptionally high, 2010 falls far shorter than one might expect. The delight of the Kubrick film lay in its enigmatic qualities - the cosmic riddles that it outlined but never solved. In attacking this sequel, some critics have accused Hyams of deflating Kubrick's mysteries. This isn't exactly true - we never learn the origins of 2001's monoliths, for example, or the true nature of the embryonic Star Child. What we get, instead, is in many ways far more upsetting: a series of constant promises that "something wonderful is going to happen" and then an idiotic conclusion that desecrates the movie - and that seems ripped-off from the denouement of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Even more unfortunate is the fact that Hyams avoids creating the sort of timeless science fiction parable that he could have constructed, and instead ties the picture's conclusion to mid-1980s Cold War tropes and ideologies - which makes the film feel hopelessly dated. To its credit, 2010 does contain some excellent performances by its three leads. It also benefits from excellent special effects (created by Dick Edlund) that outstrip the original. From scene to scene, Edlund and Hyams skillfully bring off the haunting vastness of space, and a few sights here (such as the out-of-control Discovery, spinning frenetically on its central axis above Jupiter, and a bizarre aberration that eventually forms on that planet's surface) are chilling to behold. But why the decision to almost completely omit the Star Child from the drama? For two hours, promised by the film's posters, we wait for that magnificent being to materialize - rounding the bend of one of the planets or suddenly manifesting itself as a colossal entity in space. But that never happens; instead, it only appears for a couple of seconds as a tiny apparition in one of the spaceships. Lame. Fans of the original picture who haven't seen this dud are strongly advised to avoid it altogether; it's a senseless waste of time and effort from all concerned.