By Steve Vivona
Warner, $24.95, Widescreen
Everyone knows the place of "2001: A Space Odyssey" in science fiction history. Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke crafted an amazing journey from the dawn of man to beyond the infinite. It was Kubrick's vision of the future and like most of his other masterpieces, it was like nothing ever put to film before or since.
"2010" was written by Arthur C. Clarke in the hopes of clearing up some of the mystery surrounding the Monolith, what it was and the beings who left it. Any sequel to a masterwork is bound to leave people disappointed. Anyone who expected a sequel to "2001" to contain the majesty and the mystery of a Kubrick film just wasn't being fair.
As much as I love it "2001" is a slow-moving, tiresome exercise. There is very little dialogue and you really have to be in the right mood to watch it. I marvel at it but find myself hitting the fast forward button often. There's no denying the powerful imagery of the floating space stations rotating to the strains of the wonderful classical music, or the mesmerizing look at what lies beyond when Dave Bowman enters the Monolith.
"2010" is a straightforward film that has no pretensions about being on the level of its predecessor. Director Peter Hyams assembled a first-rate cast for a film that was much more about interpersonal relationships than the original. It's safe to say that Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood were pretty stiff in their "2001" roles, and I'm sure they were directed to act that way.
In "2010" we have Roy Scheider playing Dr. Heywood Floyd (he was played by William Sylvester in the original), John Lithgow, Helen Mirren and Bob Balaban. Keir Dullea returns as The Star Child, and the hauting voice of Douglas Rain is heard again as the HAL-9000 supercomputer.
The U.S. and Russia are on the brink of nuclear war (you can tell this was made in 1984). Clarke's original novel depicted a cozy relationship between us and the Russians. This was changed for the film to increase the dramatic tension, and I think it was a wise move.
It has been nine years since the ill-fated Discovery mission to Jupiter and Heywood Floyd has been torturing himself ever since. He learns from a Russian official that they're sending a ship to investigate that will arrive a year before the U.S. is ready. Despite the mounting tensions the Russians suggest a joint mission with American personnel to help prevent another disaster.
Floyd is allowed to accompany the Russians with two other Americans, Chandra (Balaban), who designed HAL, and Curnow (Lithgow), the man who built the original Discovery.
They reach Jupiter and Discovery 18 months later only to discover the vaguest signs of life on the barren moon of Io. They reactivate the Discovery and HAL, whose "nervous breakdown" caused the deaths of the Discovery crew.
As the Monolith looms Floyd is visited by the being who used to be David Bowman (Dullea) and given a stern warning to depart. All Bowman will tell him is that something wonderful will happen. Back on earth a nuclear conflict seems inevitable and all American personnel are ordered off the Russian vessel.
Floyd convinces the Russian commander they must work together to leave Jupiter orbit or be destroyed by whatever is coming. The two crews then race against time to escape the coming disaster, or is it a rebirth?
Taken on its own "2010" is a finely-crafted, intelligent science-fiction film. The acting is superb and the story is exciting and uplifting. Scheider delivers one of his best performances. He portrays a man wracked with guilt at having sent men to their deaths and is desperately seeking redemption.
All the supporting cast members do a fine job, especially the always-reliable Mirren. She provides a great counterpoint to Scheider and there is an undeniable tension between them that might have romantic undercurrents.
It's also nice to see Dullea and hear Rain's voice as a connection to the first film. It's amazing how much Rain is able to convey in his voice-only role as HAL, a machine who is almost too human.
Hyams keeps things moving at a brisk pace and there are a number of exciting well-executed sequences such as the Discovery docking sequence and the escape from Jupiter. Again this is not "2001" and shouldn't be compared to it. The proceedings here are meant to be straightforward and coherent, not lofty and symbolic.
Warner's DVD of "2010" is exactly the same master used for the previous MGM version, and it really shines. The widesreen image is crisp and enhances the still-great visual effects. The dolby digital sound also enhances the viewing experience. A short featurette has been included as well.