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2010 - The Year We Make Contact

In 1984, the sequel to 2001 was released. While 2010 tried to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, it was more of "a movie that owes more to George Lucas than to Stanley Kubrick, more to Star Wars than to Also Sprach Zarathustra." 2010 completely abandoned many of the themes put forth in 2001, and it suffered from glaring technical inconsistencies that Stanley Kubrick had taken pains to avoid in the first film.

Kubrick's painstaking care to create a "realistic" environment was lost in 2010. Spaceships "whooshed" through outer space, in the same manner of the ships in Star Wars. The astronauts walked around in zero-G conditions as if they were back on Earth, despite the fact that at one point the star of the picture picked up a pen and let it float in mid-air (a homage to 2001, obviously). Director Peter Hyams' technique of using smoke and fog for "effect," especially during the scenes where the Russian and American scientists sat around a table talking to one another, negated the illusion of realism created in 2001. (In a sterilized environment such as a spaceship, it does not seem possible to create so much dust and smoke that the light is hazy.) And the most glaring scientific error of all may be this: When a new star is created and our solar system has two suns instead of one, wouldn't this have a disastrous effect on Earth's ecosystem? The enormous energies put out by a second sun would almost certainly lay waste to our planet, as it would raise the temperature of the atmosphere considerably, obliterate its fragile layers, and even affect the orbit of the Earth as its gravitational pull changes the course of the solar system.

Further analysis also casts doubt upon the "explanations" offered by the film. 2010 argues that the breakdown of HAL was the result of his being forced to hide information from the crew of the Discovery. This is spelled out for the audience by Dr. Chandra (interestingly, Dr. Chandra is the name of HAL's instructor in the novel of 2001, but in the movie his name is Mr. Langley), when he says: "HAL was told to lie by people who find it easy to lie." In response to this statement, Dr. Heywood Floyd (played in this movie by Roy Scheider) replies: "Those sons of bitches. I didn't know…I didn't know!" But if Dr. Floyd is to believed in 2001, then he DID know about HAL's deception. Not only did he lie to the Soviet scientists who questioned him about the "epidemic" at the Clavius moonbase, but he even stated openly that he was fully aware of the secrecy behind the true purpose of the Discovery mission. In his final message (played by HAL to Dave when Dave has disconnected HAL), he stated: "This is a pre-recorded briefing made prior to your departure, which for security reasons of the highest importance, has been known only by your H.A.L. 9000 computer. Now that you are in Jupiter space, and the entire crew is revived, it can be told to you." Dr. Floyd was not the innocent hero portrayed in 2010; he wasn't evil, but he was not pure lily-white either. The sequel reduces him to the level of an innocent "Hollywood Good Guy," when in the original film he is much closer to a "real-life" human being.

The theme of Man using his intelligence to move beyond the need for tools to survive was completely abandoned in 2010. The film even stooped to the level of requiring the Aliens Themselves to use tools: the Monolith is merely a crude gateway for Dave Bowman to return to Earth; Dave Bowman (the Star Child) communicates with Hal again, and asks him to relay a message to Earth for him; the Aliens change the planet Jupiter by creating millions of copies of the original Monolith there. Not only does this not make any sense, it reduces the Aliens to the level of a deus ex machina: In 2001, Man proved himself as an intelligent being, able to survive without any help from the tools granted to him by the Aliens. In 2010, Man was unable to survive without help. The Aliens had to intervene to save the human race and act as caretakers of the solar system.

It seems highly unlikely that the Aliens of 2001 would take the time and the effort to prevent a single planet (namely Earth) from destroying itself. If Earth had destroyed itself, then it is more likely the Aliens would simply have noted that in this particular case, Their experiment was a failure. Earth was certainly not the only world that the Aliens would visit; for Them to travel all the way to this galaxy and do nothing but drop a Monolith on a single planet for a day or two would be ridiculous.

Therefore, the Aliens must have been searching for other worlds as well.

Because there were so many different worlds for the Aliens to see, They would not bother taking the time and effort to interfere with the destiny of Earth. Since Their experiment was already in progress on Earth – the evolution of Man – then They could not interfere with Man's destiny. If They did intervene, it would no longer be Man's destiny. If the Aliens did indeed prevent a nuclear war, it could no longer be said that Man had overcome his tools by himself.

The novel 2001 notes the idea of Man's dependency on his tools: "Without those weapons [from the bone club to the nuclear missile], often though he had used them against himself, Man would never have conquered the world. Into them he had put his heart and soul, and for ages they had served him well. But now, as long as they existed, he was living on borrowed time."

The Alien interference of 2010 negates the entire point of 2001: the ability of Man to exist on his own, overcoming his reliance on tools for survival, by using his own intelligence.

Making the Aliens the saviours of Earth proves that Man cannot exist on his own.

This is blatantly obvious if we examine the climax of the movie, as the shockwave from the birth of the new star completely vaporises Discovery One and then strikes the escaping Leonov. Instead of destroying that ship as well, all we see are sparks thrown by some generic Hollywood-style exploding circuit boards, while the camera shakes around a bit, the lights dim, and one person's seat belt unbuckles and he is thrown across the room. After a few seconds, it’s over. The hull of the ship has not been ruptured; the atmosphere has not escaped; everyone is uninjured. What’s more, the short-circuited equipment damaged by the explosion is apparently worthless, because nobody worries about the return journey to Earth being at risk or delayed due to the damage. We can only assume they were saved by the Aliens, or even by the Star Child himself.

Still, 2010 did make an entertaining science fiction story on its own. It had good special effects, and its own theme of an impending conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union made for good suspense. It was well-acted, and the human characters were believable; there have been worse science fiction movies than 2010.

But what is the point of making a movie and calling it the successor to 2001, if the movie completely abandons the ideas of the first film, does not advance any new ideas of its own, and even fails to tackle the questions raised in the original work?

As a sequel to 2001, then, 2010 is a failure. It cannot approach 2001 in terms of vision and scope, and it does not advance the ideas of 2001 or even continue the themes begun there. To appreaciate 2010 as a movie, the best approach would be to treat at as an entirely separate film, with no relation to 2001 at all other than the name and the fact that several characters from 2001 appear in it. If the movie is watched on its own terms, it is an enjoyable experience.

But 2001: A Space Odyssey will always stand alone.