Let’s face it. The movies are usually pretty bad at predicting the future. If they weren’t we all be deciding whether to take the flying car or the jet pack to work every morning. And Peter Hyams’ 2010 (1984), an adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010: Odyssey Two, itself a sequel to the novel and film collaboration between Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick that was 2001: A Space Odyssey, definitely botches several of its prognostications- we don’t have moon bases, commercial space stations and Pan Am has been out of business since 1991. Of course, its biggest gaffe is the Cold War tensions that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union at the time would extend 26 years further when they barely lasted into the next decade. (Although the Cold War subplot was more an invention of the movie rather than the book, Clarke would make a similar mistake when his next book in the series 2061: Odyssey Three, published in 1987, would postulate apartheid lasting in South Africa until the mid-2030s, when it in fact was done away with in 1994.) Despite these flaws, I think that the film’s message of learning to live in peace and turning our attentions to exploring the wonders of the universe is as timely as ever.
The film also works as a pretty good science-fiction thriller as the combined crew of Soviet and American astronauts try to piece together what happened to the spaceship Discovery out in orbit around Jupiter and what part did the mysterious, two kilometer long black Monolith play in it?
And Bowman’s last words before he disappeared – “My god, it’s full of stars!” – may not exactly apply to the cast’s marquee value at the time, but there some is some nice talent on display here. You have Roy Scheider as the lead American astronaut, with John Lithgow and Bob Balaban as his fellow countrymen, while Helen Mirren does a believable Russian accent as the head of the Soviet crew. And look for author Clarke in not one but two cameos. First, he can be seen feeding pigeons from a park bench in front of the White House (above) and then later he is on the cover of Time magazine (below) as the Soviet Premier for a story about the growing political tensions. That’s 2001 director Kubrick as the United States president as well.
Oddly enough, the 2010 is currently out of print on DVD and the fact that there hasn’t been any noise about a new special editino being in the works makes me think that someone is asleep at the wheel at Warner Home Video. If you don’t have a cop, below is the short promotional film made at the time of 2010’s production, taking a peek at the whole process. I think the most interesting thing is the early form of email that Hyams and Clarke used to collaborate while being on opposite sides of the world from each other. Many of these emails from the films pre-production phase were published in book form as The Odyssey File: The Making Of 2010 at the time of the film’s release.