Reviews: Two Thousand Ten The Year We Make Contact

A more action-oriented take on the 2001 franchise.

2010: The Year We Make Contact is the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. In contrast with the drawn-out, incomprehensible (to many people) plot of the first film, 2010 is a much more straightforward, accessible Science Fiction movie that explains most of the dangling story elements from 2001 while telling the tale of exactly what the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens want with Jupiter... and humanity. Although the film and book are much closer together in terms of their overall plot, the movie plays up the tension between the Russian and American astronauts and compresses the timeline for the sake of drama. The result is something of a Broken Base — some fans dislike 2010 because it's far more action-oriented and character-driven than 2001, while others appreciate it for that very same difference.

Compared to mainstream Science Fiction, the film is still fairly realistic, although Hollywood Science is in evidence in a number of places — most notably Space Is Noisy and the inconsistent use of Artificial Gravity. The Cold War tension between the Russian and American astronauts is either a source of great dramatic tension or a completely extraneous element, depending on whether you read the book first. And the Outrun The Fireball elements of the climax seem similarly out of place when you compare them to the slow pace of 2001.

The most successful plot element, though, is HAL himself. Revived, the first question he asks is, "Was the mission successful?" His part is that of a childlike genius — a character both more and less human than the rest of the cast, whom they at turns respect and fear. The last third of the film is a brilliant morality play, pitting HAL's right to be told the truth and make his own decisions against the humans' right to survive. The poignancy of his final question, "Will I dream?" is capable of being a Tear Jerker even for someone who's seen the movie countless times.