DVD REVIEW: 2010: The Year We Make Contact

Welcome back to the Week of Rockin’ Movies.  Each movie we take a look at this week will have a significant connection to rock music.  Today’s installment may surprise you. 

MONDAY:  House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
TUESDAY: The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

Directed by Peter Hyams


Was there ever a film that needed a sequel less than 2001: A Space Odyssey? If any movie had ever defied sequel-making, it was the original 2001. It is impossible to talk about 2010 without mentioning Stanley Kubrick and the groundbreaking film that started it all. With that in mind, 2010 is still a great science fiction film, intelligent and exciting, while feeling light years away from the original.

Dr. Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider) has taken the fall for the disasters that occurred aboard the Discovery back in 2001. The infallible supercomputer H.A.L. 9000 (Douglas Rain) did fail, four astronauts were murdered, and Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) has disappeared (presumed dead). Nobody knows why, not even H.A.L.’s creator Dr. Chandra (Bob Balaban) . The Discovery is in a decaying orbit around Jupiter, and the Americans plan on sending a team there to find out just what happened. One problem:  the Russians will get there first. Floyd has been offered a ride on the Russian ship, the Alexei Leonov, to combine missions.


You can do that now?

The premise itself shows us that the cinematic universe has changed. Politics were all but inconsequential in the first film, but here they form major plot points in the whole story.  The Soviets are still deep into a cold war with United States, but recent flare-ups threaten to go nuclear at any time. The President’s finger is hovering over the button. Amid this chaos, the Americans don’t want the Soviets to get to Dicovery first.

Heywood Floyd needs  Discovery and H.A.L. to find out what went wrong last time, with five lost lives on his hands. Along for the ride are Dr. Chandra to reactivate H.A.L., and Dr. Walter Curnow (John Lithgow), the man who built Discovery. The Russian crew, portrayed excellently by mostly Russian actors for authenticity, are distrustful of the Americans. Their commander, played by Helen Mirren, is also an officer of the Russian air force and finds her loyalties tested when Dr. Floyd tells her that the phantom of Dave Bowman has warned that they must leave Jupiter in just two days.

Is it a phantom or has David Bowman really returned?  Or at least something that once was Dr. Bowman? Keir Dullea, not looking a day older even though nearly 20 real-world years have passed, is eerie in his portrayal of Bowman.  He is clear that Jupiter’s orbit will no longer be safe, but offers no explanation other than, “Something is going to happen. Something wonderful.”

2010 BOOK SCAN2010: The Year We Make Contact was based on the Arthur C. Clarke novel 2010: Odyssey Two.  Left to his own devices and without Stanley Kubrick’s collaboration, Clarke’s story featured much more dialogue.  (The book also included entire chapters about a rival Chinese mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, and David Bowman’s journey.)  Peter Hyams wisely chose not to try to copy Kubrick’s style for 2010, as that would have been pure folly.  The end result was a more accessible but less mind-altering film.  It is certainly less authentic (for example there is no sound in a vacuum) and less ground breaking.

In one of the more human scenes, look for the late Natasha Shneider of Queens Of The Stone Age and Eleven as the cosmonaut Irina.  Roy Scheider and Natasha Shneider have a memorable scene together that adds a lot of realism to the film.  Shneider was a sometimes-actress in the 1980’s while trying to get her music career off the ground.  When she formed Eleven with Jack Irons (ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers and future Pearl Jam drummer)  and her partner Alain Johannes, a little bit more recognition came her way.  Besides touring as a member of Queens of the Stone Age supporting Lullabies To Paralyze, she also featured heavily (writing and performing) on Chris Cornell’s solo debut album Euphoria Morning.  She died of cancer July 2, 2008 at age 52.  How sad that she never saw the year 2010 herself.


This film is a suitable sequel for this sci-fi fan. Such science as “aerobraking” is shown on screen, and the possibility of life on Europa is explored. And, finally, we get to see what life on Earth in 2010 actually looks like! (Not quite like the real thing turned out, sadly!)

In an effort to “explain” the mysteries of the original Odyssey, 2010 succeeds by leaving just enough to the imagination. The ancient monoliths and the beings behind them are never fully explained. There are questions left behind, thus far only explored in the pages of Clarke’s novels. (Tom Hanks once expressed interest in making a film version of 3001: Final Odyssey but that idea, thankfully, is dead.) This movie could have been a disaster in many ways, but fortunately was not. While nothing can ever equal or top 2001, or come even close to breaking the ground that it did, this film serves as a satisfying coda and it is good to watch them both together.

DVD contains a decent documentary called “2010: The Odyssey Continues”.

4/5 stars. If this were any other sci-fi film franchise, it would have been 5/5. But when comparing to the original, nothing could be equal to it.

1998 MG DVD release

1998 MGM DVD release

Roy Scheider as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd
John Lithgow as Dr. Walter Curnow
Helen Mirren as Tanya Kirbuk
Bob Balaban as Dr. R. Chandra
Keir Dullea as Dave Bowman
Douglas Rain as the voice of HAL 9000
Natasha Shneider as Irina Yakunina
Candice Bergen as the voice of SAL 9000 (credited as “Olga Mallsnerd”)



    1. I wish I could comment more on the books. It’s been 20 years since I’ve read them. I think I preferred the original book.

      I also have one called The Lost Worlds of 2001. It was a full length book, all stuff removed from the book at various stages. For example at one point the computer was called Athena.


  1. I hadn’t heard of the sequel – sounds like a good cast.

    I’ve been thinking about the ‘side one, track ones’ today from High Fidelity. My preliminary 5:
    Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
    Like a Rolling Stone – Highway 61 Revisited
    Gimme Shelter – Let it Bleed
    Poets- Phantom Power
    Wouldn’t it be nice – Pet Sounds


  2. Great review, rather neat rock connection too. Well played!

    Book wise, I’m more of a Rendezvous with Rama, guy myself; but I do love ’em all.


    1. When you say Rendezvous With Rama, are you referring to the original novel, or the 3 sequels as well?

      Not that it matters because I hold it in very high esteem as well.

      I still have the Rama video game athough it doesn’t work. It took me weeks to solve, and only after buying a “strategy guide”. The final puzzle was so damn convoluted, I never would have solved it without the book.


      1. The original, I did read two of the sequels but they just didn’t have the vision of the original for me; they’re all good though.

        That trailer’s great too!


        1. I did like 2061. Funny enough that’s the one that Clarke didn’t want to write, because the space shuttle explosion put a whole shit-ton of new discoveries on hold. But for some reason I really liked that one. It didn’t have a lot to do with the overall story, it was more an exploration of comets, but you can’t hit a home run every time.


  3. I saw this, ages ago. I remember liking it but the specifics apparently didn’t stick in my head. I’ll see if my library has it, I’d like to see it again. Thanks for the reminder!

    “Was there ever a film that needed a sequel less than 2001: A Space Odyssey?” Honestly, Dude, most films that get sequels didn’t need them. For every good series you can name, there’s 20 more that sucked total ass and shouldn’t have happened.


  4. Thanks for the great review, Mike! I’m a big fan of Kubrick and 2001, so I’ve been carefully avoiding this. But it seems like I’ve been missing out. Will have to fix that. :)


    1. Yeah, don’t avoid it by any means. It’s still a good movie and Peter Hyams is a great director in his own right. It’s just such a difficult thing to do, following Kubrick! But considering it’s impossible I think Hyams did a great job.

      Also, I think as time has gone by, critics are kinder to 2010.

      There are still moments that give me the chills, just like 2001 did. There’s a scene with David Bowman’s mother…man I’m getting chills just thinking about it.


  5. Heh. I actually did the DVD cover artwork and the original DVD booklet design and artwork for the 1998 DVD release you have shown here. Came across this thread while trying to run down any photo images of the original DVD clamshell packaging as produced.


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