Peter Hyams directs Roy Scheider, Helen Mirren and Bob Balaban in this space adventure sequel where American and Russian crews journey to the moons of Jupiter to recover HAL and the Discovery One only for the Cold War on Earth to reach an apocalyptic escalation.
Kubrick had no interest in making a sequel to his 1968 classic, so Outland director Hyams found himself in the catbird seat. He sought Kubrick’s blessing, over a lengthy phone call he was quizzed by the master on his use of lenses in previous movies. At the end of the conversation Hyams asked if he had permission to continue the story. “Sure. Go do it. I don’t care.” Stanley must have on some levels though as all set and props and space vehicle miniatures were destroyed on wrap. Kubrick didn’t want to see them turn up in a Planet Of the Apes sequel or a Star Trek rip-off.
Arthur C Clarke was more enthused about the project. He and Hyams set up an email link to each other so they could correspond daily without distance and time zones impeding themselves. That may not seem radical now but back then such communication only existed between science academics at their universities. The high profile correspondence between Los Angeles and Sri Lanka possibly nudged the future a little closer to how we live in it. This was probably the first time email was mentioned in the mainstream media, a curious string to the PR buzz created in the build up to release. One that might have triggered the commercial application of such a global communication tool into various corporate executives and computer developers thoughts.
The blockbuster itself is a strange beast. Often slavishly faithful to the original. The speed is quicker but we aren’t talking Star Wars’ litany of cliffhangers, stately and prestigious are the order of the day. Whereas Kubrick’s original was often dialogue free, this is a talky piece. Everything is made explicit. The set-pieces are bombastic. Scheider and Mirren are full blooded personalities, rather than the blank non-entities that we were stuck with the first trip out. It ends on a message of hope, the nihilism is sucked out through every airlock. In many ways the film undoes everything Stanley achieved, yet it never feels disrespectful to its source. Did I watch this as a kid? I’m sure I would have found it boring. As an adult it entertains far more than 2001, yet you can’t exactly get excited about the something that is such a sturdy, accessible tribute. Maybe I’m not the best person to judge it, given my contrary relationship with 2001.
Perfect Double Bill: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
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