2010: The Year We Make Contact

Directed by: Peter Hyams
Category: Science Fiction

Here's a confession. I only recently saw Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey for the very first time this past year. Gasp! Yes, it's true. I honestly don't know why I never took the time to see it either. But when I recently watched the stunning blu-ray, I was floored in a way that movies don't often affect me. It literally blew my geek mind. I became obsessed with 2001 and devoured every documentary I could find on it, as well as probably watching it a good half a dozen times within the next few weeks. 2001 easily became one of my top 3 favorite films of all time, and it will always be.

Then I remembered that somewhere in the 80's, one of my favorite directors, Peter Hyams, attempted to do the impossible, make a sequel to one of the best, most respected films of all time. The balls on this guy. And so seeing as how I personally love the guy, with a large chunk of his filmography being pretty stellar in almost every genre, I felt it my duty to track this film down and see if one of my favorite directors, making a sequel to one of my favorite films by another one of my favorite directors, could live up to that legacy. In case you were wondering, that film is 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

One of the things that's most impressive about 2010, besides Hyam's stellar camerawork, is the casting. Roy Schieder (always brilliant), Helen Mirren, John Lithgow, Bob Balaban and hell, even Keir Dullea, surprisingly, makes an appearance and of course, Douglas Rain returns as the voice of HAL; all deliver top-notch performances, as you'd expect. Along with some impressive model and special effects work, Peter Hyams's 2010 is a well made technical achievement, but does it hold up against Stanley Kubrick's monstrous seminal masterpiece?

No, it doesn't. But that's okay, because what film can? What Hyams has done is created a moody, atmospheric, and often times tense-filled science fiction film that can easily go up against the best of them in this genre. While it's nowhere the level of awesome that Kubrick gave us with his groundbreaking film in 1968, 16 years before this films release, working from another novel by Arthur C. Clarke as the foundation, Hyams has crafted arguably one of the better sequels to a great film that nobody ever talks about, yet doesn't get enough credit where it's richly deserved. I'm really surprised myself. If this past year has taught me anything, it's that there are a ton of great sequels out there that nobody ever talks about. Worse yet, there are great sequels that don't get the proper recognition or releases they need. Case in point, Exorcist III and Psycho II right off the top of my head. I actually found these two films more entertaining than the originals, and the fact that even as a sequel, nobody ever mentions them is staggering. Does 2010 fall into that category? Definitely not. But it's a good sequel as far as sequels go and my point is that even as a science fiction film, I find it rather surprising that outside of a sequel, it's never mentioned as a great example of sci-fi thriller on it's own merit.

Worse yet, that it's never received a decent DVD or Blu-ray release is beyond perplexing. While there has been a Blu-ray release going back to 2009, it seems Warner Brothers made no effort to clean the print up or fix some of those annoying special effects issues commonly found in early 80's films where you see pesky boxes around an effects shot that makes it stand out against the rest of the background. If you owned the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS back in the day you know exactly what I'm talking about. And if you read any reviews for this Blu-ray, it's pretty unanimous; a good film has been given a massively inferior Blu-ray release. Only time will tell if WB ever rectifies that.

2010: The Year We Make Contact is a sequel in every sense of the word. It picks up years after the events of the first film. The world is in tension, with threat of war looming overhead. Dave Bowman is still missing, and the presence of the black monolith is still unexplained. A U.S. and Soviet joint expedition is sent to Jupiter to try and reactivate HAL in the hopes of figuring out what happened on that fateful day years ago.

If you've ever seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is your duty to see this sequel, if for no other reason than it will help 2001 make much more sense. A lot of  it was never fully, or even partially, explained. In the case of 2010, author Arthur C. Clarke and writer/director Peter Hyams at least attempt to explain questions and ideas that lingered ever since the original. Like, "What is the black monolith?".

Having been made in 1984, seeing some visually creative futuristic design schemes through the eyes of the films production designer and set decorator circa the early 1980's are another standout. I wish design and decor really turned out the way the early 80's envisioned it. Regardless, Hyams, who usually always works as his own Director of Photography/Cinematographer, utilizes the design aspect to his full advantage, giving the film a rich visual sheen that compliment his assured visual approach.

Much more of a conventional science fiction film compared to Stanley Kubrick's audacious original, what it lacks in ambition, it makes up for in it's more straight-forward approach to filmmaking; the downside being that it's lacking any real creative spark. With 2001, Kubrick implemented elements and ideas never before seen on film. In fact, I can't recall any other film ever that utilized a lot of the stylistic and creative choices found in 2001, or since. 2010 has none of that. What it does offer is a solid science fiction film that takes it's time in telling it's story. No gimmicks, no experimental tactics, and no surrealism. It's a smart, slow-burn science fiction film that doesn't offer scares or action, but rather a thinking man's sci-fi tale full of intelligent ideas with style to burn. It's without a doubt a film worth checking out.


  1. Yeah, no one ever talks about 2010 but it's a really solid piece of sci-fi. I only watched it recently too after being blown away by Hyams' Outland.

    I quite like that it's not trying to imitate Kubrick. Hyams isn't interested in surreal endings or arty shots of space with classical music in the background.

    You're totally right about Scheider - he's always a solid actor. If you haven't already check out Sorcerer or The Seven-Ups.

    1. Oh man Jack, Outland is pretty stellar. This guy, I'm shocked he's not more well known as a filmmaker. I mean, nobody ever even remembers his name, but dude! Outland, Running Scared, The Presidio, Stay Tuned, Time Cop, SUDDEN DEATH!!! The guy is a true visual genius in any genre and it sucks he doesn't get the recognition he deserves.

      I haven't checked out Sorcerer yet or The Seven-Ups. I've been waiting for Sorcerer to go down in price a bit so I can snag that blu-ray.

  2. Yeah man glad you cought up with both of these films...2001 is my top number one film of all time...I've been meaning to write an article on both of these films...but the first one is one of the best films ever made in my book. Not just because of the incredible camera work and beautiful imagery, but because of the mystery it elicits...the feeling the film evokes...and the themes...the ideas...it's just amazing. Same as you, Im always floored by it.

    2010 had a huge task, a gargantuan gargantuan task...following up Kubricks masterpiece is not an easy thing, but I applaud Hyams, he did not deliver a crappy sequel...and it was still an extremely spooky and mysterious film....but as you mentioned, its not better than Kubrick, cause let's face it, no one will ever be better then freaking Kubrick! Kubrick is God in the eyes of all true film buffs!

    Now you got me all worked up and I'm gonna have to see both of these films and write an mega article about em! Hey man, I strongly recommend reading 2001: A Space Oddysey the novel, it's as if all the mystery is unveiled..though I'm sure you love the mystery the film offers, the book explains the mystery away and you finally know exactly what the monolith is...you know exactly what everything is! its one of the best novels I've ever read as well! But of course...it was written by another master: Aurthur C. Clarke!

    1. You know what's funny? After I saw 2001, I sat down to do a review and it got so long and so ridiculous that I just gave up because it would have been too much and I didn't know when to stop. Like, I could just go on and on and then I realized, "But everyone already knows this is an amazing film, I'm probably the only one who hadn't seen it until now, so why bother". LOL.

      As much as I love the mystery, I think I'll take your advice and read the book then. I just feel I need some of that shit explained so I can UNDERSTAAAAAAAAND.

      I picked up a few prints of this after I saw it because I needed a constant reminder in my home of this amazing film. But then for X-Mas, my girlfriend drew me an original piece based on 2001 and it proudly hangs on my wall. :)

  3. Yeah, the book feels like you took that magic pill from LIMITLESS, it just opens up you mind! Hey man, I like writing about stuff as if no one knew about it because there's always people out there who haven't experienced it, ever, so it's cool to write that way, you're readers aren't only people who have seen everything, there's all sorts of people reading these blogs, even those who have never had the pleasure of seeing 2001! Actually, after reading 2001, you'll want to read 2010., 2061, and 3001...all rewarding...especially 3001! I highly recommend all four books man, they are an experience, and vastly different from the films. Hope you enjoy them, they are some of the best sci-fi books youll read!