Movie Review: 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

Editor’s Note:  Early in this blog I decided it would be fun to go through my DVD collection and watch and review every movie I owned. This idea didn’t last long, but you’ll find me talking about it in this (and other) reviews.

Like several movies in my DVD collection, I did not purchase 2010: The Year We Make Contact. It was a movie my folks owned and decided to get rid of. Never being one to turn down a movie, I took it.

I watched 2001 for the first time in college. I had no intention of seeing the sequel because I knew it was not made by Kubrick and felt it would probably be very inferior. Even though my parents gave it to me a couple of years ago, I have had no desire to actually watch it. But since I have vowed to review all the movies in my collection I did my duty this evening. I was mildly surprised, but not at all impressed.

In watching this movie I did my best to remove the idea that this is a sequel out of my head and just tried to enjoy it as a science fiction film. This was increasingly difficult since a great deal of time in this film is spent going back and explaining all of the events in 2001. This is probably my greatest complaint about the film. Where 2001 works not by not giving any answer, 2010 works too hard to give meaning not only to itself but also 2001. Where 2001 is silent, allowing images to tell the story, 2010 fills nearly every moment with noise.

The visuals of 2010 were very well done. I felt the images of the spaceships, planets, and space travel were quite nice. The special effects, in general, were also very nice. The film does get severely dated with its cold war subplot. Americans and Russians working together in space while their political counterparts wage war on the Earth below may have been effective at the time, but today it only seems cheesy.

I have not read the books to 2001 or 2010 so I do not know if their explanation of HAL’s “malfunction” are the same as the movies. I can’t help but feel disappointed with the explanation either way. I have always felt that part of the power of 2001 was how it didn’t answer many of the questions it asked. How there was no explanation of where the monoliths came from, no explanation of what went wrong with HAL, no explanation of what the long sequence at the end meant. It’s as if by not giving us explanations, the viewer has to fill in the gaps. In 2010 we get more answers than we need. Any real explanation of why HAL went bad, no matter how logical, seems to dull the experience of watching 2001. Now again, I haven’t read the books, where I believe those very things are explained. So those who have read the books may not feel the same way, but this is my experience.

In the end, that is the better way, to sum up my feelings about this movie. If you have never read the books, but find 2001 to be an immensely satisfying film experience then 2010 is most likely to be disappointing. However, if you have read the books and have already had much of the meaning behind 2001 explained to you, then you may find more enjoyment in the sequel. Likewise, if you have never seen the art that is 2001, or found it too heady to understand, then 2010 may be an enjoyable piece of science fiction.