A Note Before We Begin: I actually went a whole week without seeing a single movie. That may have not ever happened in my lifetime. I thought I’d break the Kubrickian run I’d been doing lately, but…
Title: 2010: The Year We Made Contact (1984)
Director: Peter Hyams
Cast: Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Keir Dullea
Have I Seen it Before: How else could one claim to “get” 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) without having large swaths of it explained.
Did I Like It: Yes, if I go any further, I’d probably start dipping into the main text of the review.
Peter Hyams’ 2010 is the best sequel to an absolute classic you could hope for. Better than Psycho II (1983), The Two Jakes (1990), or Citizen Kane 2: Still Rosebuddin’ After All These Years (not a real movie, but now that I think about it…) This is, of course, excluding those rare sequels that have become classics in their own right, like The Godfather Part II (1974), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), or Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)*.
It’s almost a shame that this movie exists in the context that it does. Had it existed in a world without Stanley Kubrick or his seminal classic (which I only fully “got” in <a recent 50th anniversary screening>), then it might have rightly gained a reputation in its own right. But then, we wouldn’t be living in a world without a movie like 2001.
The cast is dynamite. Keir Dullea brings an intriguing presence to the proceedings, all the more impressive given that his character rather notably is fresh out of elements of the human experience to explore. Douglas Rain accomplishes the feat of turning an unnerving murderous mechanism into a well-meaning bad guy before Arnold Schwarzenegger tried the same trick in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, and Bob Balaban bring suitably different personas to the Americans on the trip to uncover the mysteries of the monolith and HAL’s malfunction. And then there’s Helen Mirren. Sweet, miraculous Helen Mirren. Wait? You didn’t realize Helen Mirren is in this movie. You’re forgiven. She plays the captain of the Soviet Alexei Leonov. She does it so perfectly that you forget that Helen Mirren is even there. The performance is so good that you might forget that Helen Mirren ever existed, but that is impossible.
Peter Hyams deserves plenty of credit. He didn’t try to out-Kubrick Kubrick, because therein lies a fool’s errand. Just see Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) if you don’t believe. Hyams has made his own movie, and it’s a good movie, even if it didn’t somehow live up to the highest possibilities of its progenitor. It’s a virtuoso A herculean feat, and an accomplishment not tried by the current generation of filmmakers, or even reached for by Hyams contemporaries…
Unless, of course, you’re Stanley Kubrick. Ah, well. There are worse ambitions to reach for.
*Yes, I’m kidding about that last one. No, I do not need to get my head checked. About this, anyway.