Monday, June 15, 2009

Thoughts on "2010" (the movie)

I caught most of "2010" the movie on Friday night. The movie, released in 1984, is, of course, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Here's what I found fascinating about "2010" as I watched it again for the first time in many a year and only six months away from the actual 2010.

Back in 1968, the year 2001 really felt like the future. Not so any more. I think from 1968, the concept of a Hilton in space and a moon base probably seemed doable, what with the thrill of the Apollo missions and such. Besides, Arthur C. Clarke wrote the book so you know it was grounded in real science.

However, come 1984, things were quite different. While 2001 still seemed futuristic, I think most of us knew that there would not be orbiting Hiltons in space and a moon base wasn't going to get made. By 1984, we hadn't been back to the moon in a dozen years. And, yet, the filmmakers (and Clarke) had to create the sequel with the 1968 mindset. They had to maintain the world Clarke and Stanley Kubrick showed us in 1968.

Thus, you get Heywood Floyd talking about data on "cassettes." Odd that Clarke didn't see the new CDs then emerging as the next thing in data storage. You still have the clunky keyboards that were basically IBM Selectrics. You also have the computer screens which, for the most part, still hold up even though they look like Atari 2600 video games.

What I did like about the film, even more so now than in 1984 when I first saw the film, was the "normal" stuff. When the spirit of Dave Bowman returns to Earth to say a final farewell to his mom and wife, each woman lives in a hospital or apartment, respectively, that looks like something a person from 1984 (or 2009) would recognize. The domestic scenes in the movie "2001" seemed out there and cool. I think Clarke realized that the future he saw in 1968 wasn't going to come to pass by 2001 or 2010. So he and the filmmakers made good choices. It grounds the film in reality, a hallmark of Clarke's stories.

I visited Disneyworld's Epcot Center in 1984. I can't remember if I was reading the Clarke novel at the same time or not but I do remember feeling a connection between the book and the things on display at Epcot. Epcot really did feel futuristic even if what I read in "2010" was going to come to pass for awhile. There was a connection, a common destination point. Thing is now, that point seems farther away.

Anyway, just wanted to pass along a few thoughts on watching a show that supposedly takes place in a year less than six months away. Wow. We're really living in the future. Reminds me of the Springsteen lyric: "We're livin' in the future and none of this has happened yet"

What do y'all think of the concepts presented in 2001 and 2010, both the books and movies?


  1. I own 2001 (on a futuristic Laserdisc player) and have watched the second part of the film countless times. The first half maybe twice. And 2010 I couldn't even finish. The battle between Hal and Dave is the heart of the story. The rest I find rather tedious.

  2. SF writers, though thinking about the future, are still grounded in now(whenever they are writing). Though they try to imagine the future, they never seem to take human beings into account. And government budgets for research(let's face it, most significant advances in technology come because of any government's military involvement.
    And, if you look back to SF stories of the past, no one ever anticipated this thing I'm writing this post on. Computers were huge things that took up literally whole buildings.
    I was re-reading A. E. Van Vogt's Slan(written back in the 1930s) last year before I read Kevin Anderson's completion of Slan Hunter.
    It was quite amusing in this future world that they still used mechanical typewriters.

  3. I could never see the point of the book Ten past Eight, or the other sequels. And I've only tried to watch the film once, but didn't get even halfway through. It's a classic case to me of the utterly unneeded sequel that does slightly diminish the impact of the original. 2001 said eveything that needed to be said about Mankind's place in the universe and the ending perfectly captured the Ape, Man, Superman theme and where what happens next is very much in the minds of the viewers. We're left to wonder whether this is the new dawn for Mankind, but a sequel provides a dull answer.

    2001 also managed to transcend any dating through misinterpreting how technology would develop because like all the best sf it wasn't about predicting the specifics of the future but was about the human equation and how technology changes us.

    The main idea behind 2001 to me was charting how we moved beyond technology. The apes were contented but then one of them picks up a bone and so evolves, but then goes on to kill and so a love / hate relationship begins. By 2001 we've lost our humanity because we're surrounded by our creations to the extent that the only person with feelings in the film is Hal. Dave destroys Hal, regains his humanity, then he systematically destroys all his tools until he's left alone. And then he evolves. It's a nicely poetic idea brought down to the mundane by having a sequel.

  4. 2010 has always felt like the explanation of 2001 to me. It basically serves the purpose of articulating what happens in the first movie while telling a much less fulfilling story of it's own. And I think it's disappointing that Kubrick shot for greatness with 2001, while Peter Hyams just tried for average with 2010. What was the point of that? If you aren't going to at least try to make something on par, then don't bother at all.

    I've never read 2001. But I can still remember reading Clarke's short story that was the genesis. To this day, it's just such a rock solid hook for a story, I have a hard time imaging that the fully fleshed out payoff could live up to it. I should break out the old battered copy I was given years ago and finally read it.

  5. Loved 2001 -- Hated 2010 . . . Need I say more? Check out my first and recently released novel, Long Journey to Rneadal. This exciting tale is a romantic action adventure in space and is more about the characters than the technology.

  6. David - At the time (1984), I liked 2010 b/c it explains things that even Clarke, himself, in the 2001 book, didn't explain. For my younger self, I needed the extra help. "2010" isn't all bad. It's just a movie full of exposition. But I do like the Big Idea of the monolith.

    Randy - One of the collections I have is best SF from the 1930s-1950s. I enjoy reading the old technology that's projected into the future.

    I.J. - For me, the book "2010" was better than the movie. The two other sequels, 2063 and 3001, were just plain stupid. As you write, the ending is up to the viewer. That's both a good thing and a bad thing. We humans want Answers! You've inspired a new blog entry.

    Terrence - As for the movie "2010" being just exposition, I agree with you. What I really dig now (and did back in 1984 when I read both books) was the spirit of exploration out in space. The sub-plot of the book "2010" -- Chinese astronauts on Europa -- should have made the film.

  7. Sharon - Guess we were writing at the same time. Nope, you need not say anything more. I'm off to check out your novel. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. When I saw 2001 the first time I loved it, and loved it equally each of the several other times. I have not seen the movie 2010.

    Scott, there is a space station circling earth, just not a Hilton one; though there is a paying customer/tourist who has gone up three times.