Saturday, April 12, 2008

Review - 2010

1985 Hugo Winner for Best Dramatic Presentation

Nearly twenty years after 2001, a film that many argue as the greatest science fiction film of all time, Arthur C. Clarke returned to the well for a cash-in sequel to the book. He'd return to it twice more with the quality dropping further with each iteration. The first of the sequels made it to the movie screen in a film that isn't terrible but just cannot stand against the reputation of the original.

Nine years after Dave Borman vanished after his encounter with the alien monolith in orbit around Jupiter a join Soviet and US team return to try to determine what happened. Unfortunately while they're up there international relations break down and the world goes to the brink of war. At the same time something is changing Jupiter and its moons.

2001 was a masterpiece of cinematography by one of the greatest directors who ever lived. 2010, to put it mildly, is not. Which doesn't mean that it stinks, it's just average. There are good ideas in it but they're wrapped in a layer of disinterest.

One of the things it does well is that while most of the characters could be replaced by mannequins without significantly changing the story there were a handful that really came alive. In particular the sequence where two of them cross to the space craft abandoned nearly a decade ago is well done.

In addition the special effects, some of the earliest uses of CGI in film, for the astronomical effects are well done. Okay, our view of Io and Europa has changed since the film was made but the astronomical details are for the most part correct. Okay, except the part where they say no one has done aerobraking before.

The film has a bad case of "Don't tell anyone so it's more dramatic!" syndrome. H.A.L., the murderous computer from 2001, is kept out of the loop on things which impact him so there will be a dramatic sequence where he discovers what is occurring at the last possible second but if the characters had told H.A.L. immediately they could have worked around him. The crew receives warnings that "something wonderful" is about to happen but being direct would have simplified the plot.

On the other had it has a straightforward plot so while characters may not communicate vital data between each other until the last minute the story can be followed by the average viewer. This stands in direct contrast to 2001 whose ending has sparked more than its share of arguments.

I found 2010 to not be really that important, an appendix stuck to a great movie. It didn't stink is the nicest thing I can say but thanks to its cold war storyline it feels more dated than the original. If you catch it on television I don't think you'd mind seeing it but it's not worth the effort to seek out.

Finally, as promised here is Arthur C. Clarke's cameo from the film. He's the one on the left.