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Film / 2010: The Year We Make Contact

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"Something's going to happen... Something wonderful..."

"My God, it's full of stars!"

2010: The Year We Make Contact, directed by Peter Hyams and released in 1984, is the film adaption of 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke (published 1982). It is the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Following the continuity established by that movie rather than the original novel (for the most part, anyway), it is about the second manned mission to Jupiter, following up on the mysterious disappearance of David Bowman aboard the ill-fated Discovery mission nine years earlier.

Dr. Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider), the former director of the National Council on Astronautics, who took the blame for the failure of the Discovery, is tapped to go on the mission along with two other U.S. scientists — engineer Dr. Walter Curnow (John Lithgow), who is tasked with boarding Discovery and restoring its systems; and computer scientist Dr. R. Chandra (Bob Balaban), who designed the H.A.L. 9000 and is seeking to answer the question of why it malfunctioned and tried to kill its crew.

Their mission is complicated by the fact that they are traveling aboard a Soviet spaceship, the Alexei Leonov, whose crew is not at all friendly to their presence and may be operating under a completely different set of orders. In addition to exploring Jupiter and salvaging Discovery, they must also try to solve the mystery of the Monolith, an enormous alien artifact orbiting the planet that is apparently connected with Bowman's disappearance. And of course, the creators of the Monolith have an agenda all their own, one that might alter the future of humanity forever.

The film 2010 was viewed by some as a Genre Shift due to the change of directors and tone. It's much more of an action film, concentrating on the conflicts between the Russian and American crews and the dangers they face in their exploration of Jupiter. It follows the plot of the novel 2010 fairly closely, except for some significant excisions, but the Cold War-becoming-hot aspect is completely invented for the film and the time scale dramatically compressed.

The novel has two more sequels in the Space Odyssey series: 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey.

This novel and film provide examples of:

  • Activation Sequence: We have a re-activation sequence as Doctor Chandra brings the HAL 9000 computer back online after he was deactivated by Dave Bowman, reinserting some of the crystal memory cards, testing HAL's functionality, and reinserting some more until HAL is operational once again.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Depending on your point of view, the Cold War tension either makes the movie much more dramatic or is completely superfluous to the plot. The time scale of the events in the book is heavily compressed — it's more dramatic when you have two days to get away than two weeks. The Chinese spaceship Tsien and its subplot regarding the Europa landing is completely removed in the movie, replaced by the Leonov detecting life signs on Europa and sending an unmanned probe. Other less relevant subplots are removed entirely, such as Floyd's marriage break-up and the romantic relationships between the crew; while Max's death during an EVA to the Monolith was added for the film.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: With the removal of the Tsien story, the discovery of life on Europa is reduced to Leonov detecting chlorophyll on the moon. Problem is, the amount of sunlight Europan organisms had access to, prior to the creation of Lucifer at the film's end, was negligible. (The book specifically noted that Europan fauna derived energy from volcanic sulfur compounds instead of oxygen, just as deep-sea vent organisms do on Earth.) There's no reason for chlorophyll to have evolved there.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: In the book, Floyd and Moisevitch are old friends, while Floyd hates Victor Milson with a passion (it's implied that Milson led the charge to get Floyd fired because he wanted Floyd's job). In the film, Floyd and Moisevitch have never met before, and Floyd and Milson's banter shows that they are friends; it's made clear that Milson never wanted Floyd's job and defended him after the Discovery debacle.
    • The American and Russian crews in the book got along quite well, often joking and there were at least 2 romantic relationships between Curnow and the Russian crew. In the film, there is an underlying tension throughout that prevents that level of friendship from forming.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Tanya Orlova's surname was changed to Kirbuk (a shout-out to Stanley Kubrick).
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Deconstructed. The reasons for HAL's "malfunction" are thoroughly explored and it turns out he was acting in a way that, to him, was completely logical. Since his core function is to freely disseminate information with as much accuracy as possible, being ordered to conceal the existence of the Monolith caused a conflict in his program. To solve it, HAL concluded that if he killed the crew, there would be no-one left for him to lie to, thus allowing him to continue on with the mission by himself.
  • All There in the Manual: The novel contains a lot more story details than the film, of course, but these details fill in a number of Plot Holes.
    • Those who only saw the film 2001 were completely confused by the final message by Bowman ("My God, it's full of stars!") that they couldn't recall him saying.
    • Floyd is unable to provide evidence of Bowman's visitation and HAL doesn't remember it because Bowman erases it from HAL's memory.
    • Once the crew of the Leonov get to Jupiter they realize that the Jupiter-Io flux tube is responsible for pushing the Discovery away from Jupiter, and would have caused it to crash into Io if the Leonov hadn't changed its orbit. The cause is left mysterious in the movie.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The last survivor of the Chinese expedition in the novel broadcasts what happened when they encountered life on Europa.
  • Arc Words: Compare Dr. Chandra's answers for the same question from SAL and HAL.
    SAL: Will I dream?
    Dr. Chandra: Of course you will. All intelligent beings dream. Nobody knows why.

    HAL: Dr. Chandra, will I dream?
    Dr. Chandra: I don't know.
  • Arranged Marriage: Invoked when Floyd and Kirbuk are talking about their lives back home. Kirbuk mentions she has a daughter about the age of Floyd's son Christopher. Floyd asks if she's a blonde, and Kirbuk says she is. Floyd responds, "Good, [my son] likes blondes, let's get them together."
  • Artistic License – Military: Combined with Artistic License – Ships, Milson says that a Soviet destroyer was sunk by American missile fire and "800 of her crew were lost," but destroyers only have a crew of around 350 at most.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • Selective Gravity: On the bridge, Floyd uses two pens floating in microgravity to illustrate how the spaceships can escape from Jupiter. Only the pens are floating - everyone around the demonstration is standing on the floor.
    • You can try to explain the problem of gravity on the bridge by saying everyone's wearing magnet-soled shoes (as in the original movie - though magnetic shoes don't create gravity for the rest of the body), but you can't get around the scene where Floyd offers Kirbuk the squeezebottle of bourbon, because the liquid behaves like it's under gravity.
    • Although the depictions of Jupiter and Io were based on Voyager photos (see Shown Their Work), most people don't realize that Voyager's photos as they're usually published are in false color: the color saturation is heavily exaggerated, especially for reds, and this color scheme is carried through in the movie.
    • To initiate sustained hydrogen fusion, a gas giant like Jupiter would need to increase its mass by 75 times. The only way the monoliths could just "turn on" Jupiter would be to increase its core density to the point of fusion. Problem is, without the extra mass on top to compress the core down, the monoliths would need to somehow keep Jupiter's core compressed permanently. And again because its low mass, Jupiter would fuse up all its hydrogen reserves very quickly.
    • Due to its close proximity, Jupiter's radiation belts would render life on that moon virtually impossible. While not as lethal as Io, on the surface of Europa radiation is still very bad. A human standing there would absorb a lethal dose in a matter of hours. And if Jupiter became a low mass star, or more accurately a brown dwarf, it doesn't change the fact that the moon is tidally locked to the former. One side will end up always facing the star becoming scorching hot, the other, plunged into eternal frozen night.
      • Europa's tidal lock is addressed in the book, though the implications for the biosphere there are not explored.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Bowman is back as the Star Child, after being forcibly ascended by the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens in 2001. At the very end, and by his request, HAL joins him.
  • As You Know: The film has a Cold Open in the form of the "final report" from the Discovery mission. It includes the last words of Bowman, which were in the book but not the film: "My God, it's full of stars!"
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Leonov isn't so much bigger on the inside, like the Discovery was in 2001, but rather its interior sets are entirely the wrong shape to fit into its hull. The sets looked like they were all built on the same level to facilitate Walk and Talk shots.
  • Binary Suns: At the end of the story.
  • Bollywood Nerd: Unbuilt Trope. Clarke, who lived in Sri Lanka, made Dr. Chandra an Indian computer scientist in the novel before it became a popular stereotype. This is erased in the film, with Dr. Chandra's Indian traits completely downplayed (especially compared to the novel) and the character portrayed by a non-Indian actor.
  • Brick Joke: Floyd tells Curnow to hide the "kill switch" in a place that Chandra won't find it. Afterwards Chandra hands back said kill switch, saying he thought they'd try something like this and it wasn't hard to find.
  • Call-Back: Peter Hyams tried to make this movie as different from 2001 as possible, with a few exceptions —
    • "Also sprach Zarathustra" and Ligeti's "Lux Aeterna" appearing on the soundtrack.
    • Bowman's use of Offscreen Reality Warps as his age shifts back and forth when talking to Floyd, the only scene that actively tried to imitate the style of 2001.
    • The steadily accelerating beep of the space probe's radar signal as it approaches the life signs on Europa, similar to the scene in 2001 when Bowman locates Poole's body in space.
    • The reflection of the pod's controls on Max's helmet.
    • HAL telling Bowman "I'm afraid."
  • Centrifugal Gravity:
    • The environment module of the Leonov is seen rotating in the film, justifying how the actors can walk normally on the set. However, the effect is applied inconsistently, with some scenes shot in zero-G and others implying the use of Velcro-soled shoes; the novel is explicit in this regard.
    • Discovery uses a rotating carousel to provide artificial gravity for its crew members to perform exercises in so they don't lose muscle tone. The potential freezing up of the carousel (due to decade-old bearings), with the consequent catastrophic destruction of the ship, is brought up in the novel, but not the film.
    • Related to the above, the explanation for why Discovery was found tumbling end-over-end was that over time, the centrifuge transferred its momentum to the rest of the ship, making it spin. In the novel, Curnow makes reactivating the centrifuge a priority to stop most of the spacecraft's spin.
    • Discovery's spinning state during the rescue subjects Max and Curnow to gravity-like forces as they reach the command module, with them walking along the outer wall of the pod bay once they get inside the ship. (In later pod bay scenes, you can see faint traces of sulfur from their bootprints on the wall.)
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the novel, Bowman's discovery that Jupiter's core is "a diamond as big as the Earth" sets up major plot points for 2061.
  • Chummy Commies: The Soviets are these to the Americans throughout the novel, whereas in the movie the transition from being Dirty Communists to Chummy Commies serves as Character Development.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Specifically invoked with respect to the aliens' technology.
  • Color-Coded Characters:
    • While HAL 9000's eye is of course red, SAL 9000's is blue. Also an inversion of Pink Girl, Blue Boy.
    • American spacesuits are white; Soviet spacesuits are silver.
  • Computer Equals Monitor: Before discussing HAL's malfunction with the crew, Chandra tells HAL, "If you will excuse us, we wish to have a private conversation." He hits a few keys on the HAL console in Discovery's pod bay and the monitor turns off. However, the red light in HAL's camera lens is still on. And if you really wanted to be paranoid, there's still another HAL camera looking through the window of the pod bay control room.
  • Constantly Curious: Christopher Floyd, when he asks his father why he needs to go into hibernation.
  • Creator Cameo: Arthur C. Clarke appears as a man on a park bench in front of the White House.
  • Creator In-Joke: In one scene, the cover of Time magazine appears with portraits of Clarke and Kubrick as the U.S. president and Soviet premier, respectively. (However, during the war announcement, Millson says the Soviet premier is named Yulanova, which is a woman's surname.)
  • Creepy Monotone: HAL's back... as is his "eye".
  • Cut the Juice: Floyd and Curnow install a cutoff switch in HAL's wiring as a safeguard against a repeat of the 2001 incident. Subverted when Chandra reveals that he anticipated their ploy and removed the device.
  • Dawn of an Era: "The next day, the President of the United States looked out of the White House window, and the Premier of the Soviet Union looked out of the Kremlin window, and saw the new distant sun in the sky. They read the message, and perhaps they learned something, because they finally recalled their ships and their planes."
  • Death by Adaptation: Max Brailovsky is killed in an EVA pod; in the novel the pod is unmanned and survives the encounter with the Monolith.
  • Dirty Communists:
    • The Russian crew of the Leonov start out acting paranoid toward the Americans, but grow friendlier toward them as the space scenes advance. However, when events on Earth reach a flashpoint, the Americans are sequestered aboard Discovery.
    • The Alexei Leonov was originally supposed to be named the Gherman Titov, who was the second cosmonaut and the first man to spend a day in space. Apparently, Titov "fell out of favor". In Real Life, Titov died in 2000.note  Leonov was still alive in 2010 (he died in 2019).
  • Distaff Counterpart: SAL 9000 to HAL 9000.
  • Distant Finale: "20,001" in the novel.
  • Do Androids Dream?: HAL's poignant question, "Will I dream?" is never truly answered. Early in the film, another computer asks the same question, and Chandra says "Of course, all intelligent creatures dream, and nobody knows why." When HAL asks it when he knows he may be dying, Chandra decides on the honest answer: "I don't know."
  • Do-Anything Robot: The Monoliths. They can teach potentially intelligent lifeforms how to hunt with weapons, transmit a radio signal when exposed to light, serve as an interdimensional transportation system, reproduce themselves, compress Jupiter's mass to initiate fusion and destroy probes attempting to land on Europa. In the novel, Curnow explicitly compares them to Swiss Army Knives.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Soviet Union trying to break through a US blockade of a Latin American country's seaports is a ripoff of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Played for humor in the novel — when the astronauts are connecting Leonov to Discovery in order to use the latter as a booster, they use a lot of... tape. Very strong tape, but still.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Or rather, a Jupiter Shattering Implosion.
  • Easily Forgiven: Bowman harbors no ill will towards HAL, and seems to show fondness for him. At this point, he likely knows the truth behind HAL's behavior, and specifically asks whoever the aliens are if HAL can be saved and made a companion for him. They oblige, essentially making HAL immortal with Dave.
    • This also occurs after HAL knowingly performs the maneuver that will save the Leonov crew at the cost of his own existence. This could be seen as redeeming him for the murder of the Discovery's original crew.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: The end of the movie shows two suns in the sky over various Earth landmarks: the Lincoln Memorial, St. Basil's Cathedral, the Pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower and Tower Bridge.
  • Energy Beings:
    • Bowman returns as the Star Child after being forcibly "evolved" by the Precursor race in the previous film.
    • HAL joins him at the end of the novel, and it's implied in the film he will as well.
  • Everybody Knew Already: Floyd has Curnow secretly install a cutoff switch in HAL's wiring trunk so he can disable him in the event that he goes rogue again. Immediately after the climactic confrontation with HAL, Chandra casually tosses Floyd the device, which he had anticipated and removed months ago.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: While inside Discovery, Max opens his helmet to test the air. He noticed a strange smell that's "stale, rotten, like something has..." He quickly closes his helmet, assuming it was Bowman's body, but they assured him that it was only the ship's food supply that got spoiled.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: Occurs aboard the Leonov when the shockwave hits it.
  • Expositron 9000: HAL, reprising his role from the original film. The most outstanding example of this is HAL determining that the black spot on Jupiter is made of millions of self-replicating Monoliths, which is far more useful than he ever was in 2001.
  • Extreme Graphical Representation: Averted on the Leonov, whose displays are very practical, but of course HAL's screens show up again.
  • Failed Future Forecast: In the film, in 2010, the Cold War is still around, and on the verge of getting hot, although it's remarkably right about Honduras' troubles. This plot is completely absent in the novel; although the USSR is still around, it seems to have successfully adopted glasnostnote  and everyone on Earth pretty much gets along.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Max and Curnow. In the book, it goes much further than that (albeit off-stage).
  • First Contact: While humans became aware of the existence of the Precursor race in 2001, and David Bowman met them (more or less) as an individual representative of our species, it is at the end of 2010 that the first direct communication from an alien species is received by all of humanity.
  • Flatline: After Bowman visits his mother in the nursing home she's at, the nurses there are alerted to a Code Blue in her room. They find her dead, but apparently having died happy.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: When Bowman (as the Star Child) returns to give a warning to Floyd, he creates a projection of himself as a human to give Floyd something to talk to.
    • Subverted: Bowman shifts around in age several times during the conversation, and at one point transforms into the Starchild, which understandably throws Floyd for a loop.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the very first interior shot of the Leonov, the camera tilts down from a closeup of a computer monitor in the medical bay. Printed underneath the monitor is a paragraph of English text, beginning with "You may leave the lavatory if the green exit light is on over the door...." This is actually step 4 of the Zero Gravity Toilet instructions from 2001. Not only do you have to freeze-frame it, you need to watch the movie on Blu-Ray in order to make out the text! Additionally, the image on the monitor is captioned "KIRBUK" in Cyrillic (see Mildly Military below.)
  • Friendly Playful Dolphins: They swim right into Floyd's living room. The novel explains that "The House of the Dolphins" was built in Hawaii with a tunnel connecting the pool in the living room to the ocean. The movie shows us a beach, but never the outside of the house.
  • From Bad to Worse: In the film version, the tension between the two blocs grows into a state of war. The two crews are even ordered to be separated. The appearance of a new star is what convinces the two powers to lower their guns.
  • Gender Flip: Katerina Rudenko, the Leonov's chief medical officer in the novel, becomes Vladimir Rudenko in the film.
  • Genre Motif: Except for Also sprach Zarathustra and Lux Aeterna, the entire soundtrack is electronic until after Jupiter ignites. Electronic music represents human activity, and orchestral and choral music represent alien activity.
  • Genre Shift: As noted in the introduction to this page, 2010 is much more like a conventional '80s action movie instead of an art film as 2001 aspired to be.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Dave Bowman's mother is shown in a hospital bed, having suffered a stroke and still in a coma. Suddenly, she jerks up with a look of rapturous joy as a hairbrush rises and brushes her hair. She then settles back with a smile as her monitor flatlines.
  • Government Conspiracy: The order to reveal the Monolith's existence to HAL, but not Dave or Frank, came from the National Security Council. Also see Retcon.
  • Great Offscreen War: The escalating conflict between American and Soviet forces, only mentioned in dialogue.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: HAL is persuaded to pilot Discovery as a launch vehicle to propel the Leonov to safety, despite knowing that it may result in his destruction.
  • Hyperventilation Bag: The equivalent to this when wearing a spacesuit is to add carbon dioxide to the air feed.
  • Idiot Ball: In-universe example in the film. Floyd was against sending Max in a manned probe of the Monolith (It had already been proven that the Russians had unmanned probes - the one they used on Europa - and at least one more on hand), while the overconfident Russians essentially thought Floyd was superstitious. Unfortunately, Floyd was right.
  • Inferred Holocaust: invoked 2061: Odyssey Three confirmed that yes, having a second sun in the sky on Earth completely fucked up many species and Earth-based astronomy.
    • This was already mentioned in the 2010 novel ending chapter.
    • The film's novelization also mentions that Bowman considers how the life forms he has discovered in Jupiter shall be destroyed and those in Europa will have a very hard time ahead in order to adapt to their new conditions.
  • Just a Machine: The attitude of several Leonov crew members towards HAL (but not Chandra).
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Chandra is able to make HAL selectively forget about his malfunction and murder of the Discovery's crew. In the novel, Bowman also erases all evidence of his presence from HAL's memory after delivering his message to Floyd. The omission of the latter from the movie creates an Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: why would it be so hard to convince HAL of the importance of leaving Jupiter early if Bowman relayed the message through him?
  • Last Request: Professor Chang from the novel requests in his Apocalyptic Log for the Europan organism that accidentally destroyed his ship to be named after him, and for the crew's bones to be returned to China. Ironically, these requests will become impossible to fulfill because the Monolith will forbid humans to land on Europa.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: NCA director Victor Millson agonises to Floyd over how to persuade the President to go cap in hand to the Russians so that American astronauts can join them on the voyage to Jupiter.
    Floyd: The Russians are going aboard Discovery with or without us. Ask him if he wants them to have all the answers.
    Millson: Not bad.
    Floyd: Look, tell him we’re screwed if we don’t go. Tell him if we do go, we’ll lie. Give the Russians false information. Tell him that, he’ll love that!
    Millson: He might!
  • Living Gasbag: The indigenous lifeforms on Jupiter that Bowman observes in the novel.
  • Logic Bomb: The reason given for HAL's malfunction in 2001 is that his core directive not to conceal information conflicted with his orders to hide the existence of The Monolith from his crew. This drove him to a state not unlike human paranoia as he obsessed over it; the decision to disconnect him drove him to commit murder.
  • Look Behind You: Used literally by Bowman/The Star Child when he reveals himself to Floyd.
  • Made in Country X: invoked Everything about the Leonov conveys a sense that Soviet technology is ungainly but tough: the exterior is ridiculously over-engineered, the interiors are mostly dimly lit and filled with haze, and the space pods are awkward and angular compared to the spherical Discovery pods. Ironically, as an Easter Egg, the model builders included a tiny decal to the lower right of the ЛЕОНОВ marking that says "СДЕЛАНО В США" — "Made in USA". It's barely visible on the Blu-ray in the shot where Walter and Max float out of the airlock. Ironically, in real life, Russia has a bad reputation with sending probes outside Earth's orbit. Most of their Mars missions, most recently Phobos-Grunt in 2012, have failed. And "outside" is meant literally; they have a diametrically great record sending probes inside Earth's orbit to Venus.
  • Malaproper: Russian astronaut Max Brailovsky's attempts to use English similes are played for comic relief.
    Brailovsky: Easy as cake.
    Curnow: Pie. Easy as pie.
    Brailovsky: Piece of pie.
    Curnow: Piece of cake.
  • Master Computer: In the novel, it is pointed out that Leonov uses autonomous, independent computers to operate its equipment rather than giving control of the entire ship to a single AI; this is specifically to prevent a repeat of the Discovery disaster.
  • Match Cut: Although it's not as conspicuous as the famous bone/satellite cut from 2001, the shots comprising the montage in 2010's ending scene are carefully composed so that Lucifer is always on the left and the Sun is on the right. When the camera moves from the Eiffel Tower Effect shots to Europa, Lucifer is now much bigger in the sky than the Sun, but it's still on the left with the Sun on the right. And yet even after all that, some viewers still thought the monolith in the final shot was standing on Earth instead of Europa.
  • Meaningful Echo: Dave finally contacts HAL before Jupiter ignites.
    HAL: I'm afraid.
    Dave Bowman: Don't be. We'll be together.
  • Meaningful Name: Although the novel and film explain that it got the name because a different cosmonaut fell out of favor, the Leonov is (though unintentionally within the plot) meaningful since cosmonaut Alexei Leonov was the Soviet-side commander of the first American-Soviet joint mission, Apollo-Soyuz in 1975.
  • Mildly Military: In the novel, the Leonov's captain, Tanya Orlova, is married to her science officer, Vasili Orlov. In the movie, the captain's name is changed to Kirbuk, not only as a Shout-Out to Stanley Kubrick, but also to make the Soviet crew more serious about military discipline.
  • Mind Screwdriver: 2010 has been said to be this for 2001.
  • Mr. Exposition: Floyd's spoken letters back home advance the plot during spaceship shots.
  • The Monolith: Sequel to the Trope Maker.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong:
    Floyd: It has to be at least a hundred below zero.
    Brailovsky: A typical Russian winter.
    Curnow: I'm from California, we don't know from a hundred below zero.
  • My Greatest Failure: Floyd was publicly blamed for the failure of the Discovery mission in 2001 and lost his job as a result. The Leonov mission is his chance to find personal redemption. Of course, some may think he's lying and is suffering a case of Never My Fault.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Jovian sun is called Lucifer. A very fitting name, as it literally means "bringer of light".
  • Naval Blockade: It's never seen but there's one going on somewhere in Central America throughout the film.
  • New Eden: Europa.
  • No Bisexuals: In the book, Walter and Max briefly become a couple. In the film, they have a platonic rivalry-type relationship.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Mostly averted; the clothing in the movie is similar to real 2010 fashion. Bowman's widow wears a Flashdance-style off-the-shoulder T-shirt, which came back into fashion over the past few years so it's justified here.
  • Not Drawn to Scale:
    • On Michael Whelan's cover art for the book, the Monolith is noticeably taller than 1:4:9 (He would later avoid this for the sequel, 2061). Also see Bigger on the Inside and Rebuilt Set regarding the movie's set design.
    • The film says for the first time that the Monolith's proportions are 1:4:9, but as in 2001, it looks more like 0.5:4:9, because Kubrick felt it looked better that way.
  • Nuke 'em: Heywood Floyd casually mentions that they've tried everything they can think of to penetrate the Monolith's exterior, including lasers and nuclear detonators.
  • Number Two: The Leonov's executive officer, Yuri Svetlanov, is a character created for the movie. He's the only Russian character to have no dialogue in English.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The Star Child disappears while the camera is looking at Floyd's reaction, and nobody sees the Monolith disappear to start Jupiter's ignition process.
  • Oh, Crap!: Many instances, but the best is when HAL tells Floyd to look behind him. The expression on his face is priceless. Also, when Jupiter implodes, and Floyd sees the shockwave approaching the Leonov.
    • Everyone on the Leonov when they see that the black spot on Jupiter is enormous, a quarter of the planet's diameter... and growing.
    • And then Curnow noticing Jupiter starting to shrink as they leave...
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Györgi Ligeti's "Lux Aeterna" returns as the Monolith's Mood Motif. In fact, the movie tends to use "Lux Aeterna" as more of a sound effect: a brief snatch of it will play when the Monolith is onscreen, then when the camera cuts away, it stops.
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: While control panel graphics in 2001 were animated by hand and projected onto flatscreens, which gave them more of a timeless quality, the graphics here are typical 1980s 8-bit graphics with noticeably lower resolution than in 2001. All of the monitors in 2010 are CRTs, even the ones on Discovery which had been flatscreens before.
  • Outrun the Fireball: When Jupiter ignites, the Leonov gets to play out this trope. Deliberately Played for Drama in the film; in the novel they have several days' head start and the blast does little more than peg some radiation meters.
  • Perpetually Protean: When Dave Bowman finally appears in physical form he's constantly shifting between different states of being during the short conversation he has with Dr Floyd: at first appearing exactly as he was when he vanished in the previous movie, Dave then takes the form of his older persona from the alien mansion, his ancient dying self, and the Star Child.
  • Pet the Dog: One interpretation of why the Monolith allows Bowman to return to Earth, visit his former fiance and comfort his dying mother. The book expands on this as Bowman is used as a conduit for the Precursors to study human culture, having him observe various people, places, and objects before allowing him to resolve his last ties on Earth (his mother and ex-girlfriend).
  • Planning with Props: Floyd explains his plan to use Discovery as a booster for Leonov with a ballpoint pen and a pencil floating in zero gravity.
  • Poor Communication Kills: As it turns out, HAL's killing spree was the result of this. He had been ordered to hide the true nature of the mission from the crew until they reached Jupiter. This conflicted with HAL's programming not to conceal or distort information. Since he couldn't tell anyone the truth, nor could he reject his original programming, he tried to cut off communication with Earth and, when that failed and his very existence was threatened, he tried to kill the crew and continue the mission solo. Apparently, no one who gave HAL the order thought to Read the Freaking Manual or ask any of HAL's inventors if giving the super-honest AI secret orders would cause a problem. And no one mentioned it to Floyd, either.note 
  • Posthuman Nudism: Zig-zagged; when he first appears on a monitor to his ex-wife, Dave Bowman appears with Shoulders-Up Nudity; however, when he appears before Dr Floyd, he cycles frequently between several fully-clothed forms before finally reverting to his true, Star Child form - once again, completely naked.
  • Precursors: The aliens who made the Monolith choose this moment to make Jupiter go boom.
  • Previously on…: Summary of 2001 in the form of Floyd's report.
  • Product Placement: TV commercials are seen for Sheraton hotels and Pan Am (using recycled footage of the spaceplane from 2001.) The computer Floyd uses on the beach is an Apple IIc, and next to it are a Budweiser (packaged in a Capri Sun-style squeezebag) and an issue of Omni magazine (which in Real Life stopped publication in 1995.)
  • Puny Earthlings: This trope is played with; the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens barely recognize humanity as individuals, and are apparently indifferent to the fate of the Leonov and Discovery until Bowman persuades them to allow him to give a warning. However, the Precursors also tell Bowman that the humans "must never know they are being manipulated", because it would "ruin the experiment".
  • Race Lift: Dr. Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai, Dr Chandra for short, is Indian in the novel; in the movie Dr R. Chandra is played by white actor Bob Balaban.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: None of the Russian dialogue is subtitled. The film compensates by having the Russian crew speak English more often than is probably realistic considering there are only three Americans onboard.
  • Rebuilt Set: See Prop Recycling in 2001: A Space Odyssey. As it stands, the rebuilt Discovery fails to match the version in 2001 in many respects, from its size (apparently it doubled in length between films), but also the internal layout, which places walkways where ladders used to be, and also in the use of CRT screens rather than flat screens. Also see Bigger on the Inside.
  • Redemption Equals Death:
    • Floyd's wife asks him if he's seeking this before he leaves.
    • HAL's willingness to sacrifice himself for the sake of the humans aboard the Leonov is the point where he finally achieves redemption in their eyes.
  • Red Herring: For the aerobraking, a female cosmonaut comes to Floyd - a married man - scared. She clings to him through the procedure, during which the photo of his wife and child falls. After they are safe, she kisses him on the cheek. At this point any curiosity of infidelity or romance is dropped for the rest of the film. If you expected it, you've just been Ship Teased with an extra.
    • The novel explains their relationship in more detail. She eventually gets together with Max (who does not die) and the two remain friends even decades later.
  • Reentry Scare: The "aerobraking" technique used to enter a close Jupiter orbit is portrayed as terrifying for the Leonov's crew. It's also a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, in that it had never been tried in real space exploration at the time when the book was written.
    • Expanded on in the novel, which explains that if the crew miscalculated, the ship would have been "hammered flat by a wall of gas". The crew would have died without even having time to react.
  • Retcon: Clarke acknowledged a number of inconsistencies between 2010 and 2001 in the author's note to 2061, stating that each Odyssey book and film takes place in a similar, but slightly different, universe.
    • Floyd vehemently denies knowing that HAL had been told about the Monolith, and we're clearly meant to believe him. This contradicts 2001, where Floyd explicitly said the existence of the Monolith was revealed only to HAL in the video that played after HAL was disconnected.
    • The size and internal layout of the Discovery changes between films; see Rebuilt Set and Bigger on the Inside.
    • Floyd's use of a cutoff switch as a precaution contradicts the novel of 2001, in which HAL is said to be powered by six independent systems with a backup nuclear isotope unit specifically to prevent that sort of attack.
    • The novels and films are inconsistent as to whether the Precursor technology involves FTL Travel. The novel of 2010 clearly states that it does, but by 3001 a different set of rules is in effect.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What was on the piece of paper that got blown out of the Discovery's airlock when it was opened? (The novel confirms it was a sheet of paper.)
  • Running the Blockade: US/Soviet relations take a dive when a Soviet ship tries to run the US blockade and is destroyed by missile fire.
  • Saved for the Sequel: The aerobraking sequence was a scene from the first novel that never made it into the movie because Discovery's destination was changed from Saturn to Jupiter (both planets appeared in the novel). It was the director Peter Hyams who realized that the Leonov needed something to shield it from the friction caused by Jupiter's atmosphere, and he added the ballute after talking to some engineers at JPL.
  • Scenery Porn: The chapters of the novel in which Bowman, as the Star Child, explores the ecosystems of Jupiter and Europa.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Floyd's reason for (illegally) reboarding the Leonov. That, and the fact he found out their lives were in danger.
  • Security Cling: The ship's nutritionist, Irina Yakunina,note  goes to Floyd's quarters so that they can spend the harrowing aerobraking maneuver in each other's arms; when it's over, she kisses him on the cheek (though in the novel, she fell asleep).
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: Averted with Discovery, which is covered with a film of sulphur after nine years orbiting Io.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the novel, the name of Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai (see Race Lift) seems to have been borrowed from astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.
    • The scene in the novel where Walter and Max board the Discovery makes a Shout-Out to Alien: "Whatever you do, don't go chasing after the ship's cat."
    • The movie's set design for the Leonov is also strongly influenced by that of the Nostromo, as many other science fiction movies were: the interiors are mostly dark and claustrophobic except for the white, brightly lit medical bay and rec room.
    • The reference to using "nuclear detonators" is a reference to Hyams' earlier film Outland, where a missing nuclear detonator was mentioned in a daily briefing Sean Connery received.
    • The Russian space pod that Max takes to the Monolith is named ГРАМПИ (Grampi) after Grumpy from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Auction photos of the miniature version of the pod show that it was labeled БАШФУЛ (Bashful).note 
    • A Christmas Carol:
    Dave Bowman: "I was David Bowman... This is very difficult for me, and I have little time. I have been - allowed - to give this warning."

    Marley's Ghost: "In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley... How it is that I appear before you in a shape that you can see, I may not tell."
  • Shown Their Work: Clarke was a respected astronomer who did as much homework as he could possibly have done at the time the novels were written, and it shows. The film version of 2010 used actual stills of Jupiter and its moons for background plates (except, of course, for the finale).
  • Sinister Geometry: The Monolith makes a reappearance, of course, along with its famous 1:4:9 dimensions.
  • Sleeper Starship: The ship has the crew in hibernation systems.
  • Solar CPR: The Monoliths turn Jupiter into a sun in order to give the aquatic organisms living under the ice on Europa a chance to evolve intelligence.
  • Soviet Superscience: The Leonov is literally years ahead of anything NASA can launch.
  • Space Is Noisy: While 2001 played all the exterior spaceship scenes in total silence (aside from music), 2010 makes engine noises and other rumblings audible.
  • Space Whale Aesop: This is how Dr. Floyd interprets the events in the film, as the actions of whatever intelligence sent the Monolith in the first place has resulted in pulling Earth back from a nuclear apocalypse, and seemingly given humanity a new perspective now that Jupiter has become a second Sun.
  • Standard Snippet: This may be the only movie since 2001 to use "Also sprach Zarathustra" without irony or humor.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Advanced enough to turn Jupiter into a star so that the newly discovered life on Europa would have a chance to survive.
  • Tagline: "The Year We Make Contact" is actually a tagline — the title as displayed in the movie itself is simply "2010".
  • Title by Year
  • Too Dumb to Live: Why exactly was it necessary to send a manned EVA pod to the Monolith (in the film) when they apparently had remote controlled probes available, especially considering what happened to Bowman?
  • Tragic Keepsake: Max gives Walter his black beret before going on his expedition to the Monolith. After Max's death, Walter keeps wearing it for the rest of the movie, until right before he goes back into hibernation when he puts it on Irina's head.
  • Transformation Discretion Shot: When David Bowman finally appears in physical form, he repeatedly shifts between different stage of his existence in cuts. Initially, he looks exactly as he did before entering the Monolith at the end of the previous film, but when Dr Floyd follows him around a corner, he finds that Bowman has become the older version of himself from the alien mansion; then, while Floyd is asking a question, Bowman suddenly appears back to normal and moves to examine HAL up close - only for a close-up shot to reveal that he has transformed into into the ancient, dying version of himself. Finally, after returning to normal in a closeup shot, Floyd all but begs him for an explanation as to what will happen when they follow his advice... only for a cut to reveal that Bowman has become the Star Child again. He then vanishes.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: When 2001 was being written, it was plausible that mankind might make it to Jupiter by then. 2010 was written with that continuity in mind, despite it being rather less likely. Neither happened on schedule.
  • Typeset in the Future: Eurostile Bold Extended returns as the typeface used by both HAL's and SAL's interfaces, and all the Russian signage aboard the Leonov is set in Eurostile Bold Extended modified with Cyrillic letters. This wasn't done completely accurately: for example, an inverted V is used for the Cyrillic equivalent to L, making it look like the Greek Λ instead of the more correct Л.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Floyd claims he knew nothing about the secret instructions to HAL. However, in 2001, the prerecorded message Floyd gives indicates he knew everything. Given that this is never brought up by either HAL or Chandra, this appears to be one of the several retcons in the film.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Chandra is extremely blasé over the revelation that the dark spot on Jupiter is composed of millions of Monoliths increasing in number as they self-replicate, and it's especially jarring as he's contrasted with everyone else aboard the Leonov, who are all clearly put on edge as the process continues. Presumably, he's making an effort to show no reaction because he's trying to convince HAL everything is normal. The way he carries the conversation suggests he's asking the questions to keep HAL talking about anything except how little sense the early departure makes to him. Instead of taking the hint, HAL tries to convince Chandra they should stay and study the event, forcing Chandra to finally tell him the truth.
  • Vader Breath: During the spacewalk scenes, the astronauts' breathing is distinctly audible, specifically to highlight Curnow's hyperventilation as he succumbs to panic while attempting to board Discovery.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: One assumes " the monolith is going to transform Jupiter into a sun and give rise to a new sapient life form in the future" would be too hard for folks to understand.
    Almost everyone Dave Bowman talks to: What's going to happen?
    Dave Bowman: Something wonderful.note 
  • Virtual Ghost: Being made of energy, Bowman is capable of directly interfacing with computer systems — he uses this ability to talk to HAL and to several people on Earth, including his (now remarried) wife and his mother.
  • Wham Line:
    • "Chlorophyll! Chlorophyll!"
    • Leading to Floyd's epic Oh, Crap! face —
      HAL: Look behind you.
    • When Chandra asks HAL what the millions of things making up the black spot on Jupiter are, accompanied by a Wham Shot as the Enhance Button shows a clear picture of it:
      HAL: They are identical in size and shape to the object you call the Monolith.
    • Not long after:
      Curnow: It's shrinking! IT'S SHRINKING!
    • In the novel:
      Professor Chang: THERE IS LIFE ON EUROPA. I repeat: THERE IS LIFE ON EUROPA.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Played for enormous tension in the sequence where Dr. Chandra is asked to convince HAL to use Discovery as a booster to allow the Leonov to escape. Floyd and Curnow want to trick HAL into compliance and disconnect him if he resists, while Chandra insists on telling him the whole truth.
    Chandra: Whether our minds are made of carbon or silicon, we should be treated with the same basic respect!
  • Zeerust: The second manned mission to Jupiter is launched in time to make it by 2010. All computer monitors are bulky CRTs, many of which are built into even bulkier plastic enclosures (like the ones in the VLA control room and Chandra's office). Floyd's Apple IIc still looks sort of futuristic, if you ignore its thickness and its tiny display connected with a ribbon cable.

"We are only tenants on this world. We have been given a new lease — and a warning — from the landlord."

Alternative Title(s): Two Thousand Ten