2001: A Space Odyssey was released in 1968 from director Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick’s stated goal with the film was to create a science fiction story that wasn’t all bug-eyed monsters and laser swords. He wanted a film that would explore deeper ideas about humanity and our place in the galaxy.
To help him on this mission, he got writer Arthur C. Clarke, an author whose work up to that point was very much in this philosophical vein. Together, the two crafted a screenplay and a novel about a mysterious, black monolith that appears during key points in mankind’s history. The story begins in the days of pre-history and ends with a manned mission to Jupiter and beyond.
Not only was 2001 a huge financial success, bringing in $146 million against a $10 million budget, but it is often credited as being one of the best science fiction films of all time, if not one of the best films ever made, period. Kubrick’s manic attention to detail and fascination with the future of space travel make for a vision that is truly unmatched to this day. The story is also mind-bending and open to interpretation, giving audiences plenty to discuss after the credits roll.
In 1984, director Peter Hyams took on the unenviable task of directing a sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, based on Clarke’s sequel novel, 2001: Odyssey Two, from 1981. After Kubrick turned down the directing offer from MGM, Hyams was hesitant to accept, simply because he was following up a master filmmaker like Kubrick. However, Kubrick gave Hyams his blessing saying, “Don’t be afraid. Just go do your own movie.”
In 2010, scientists have determined that the Discovery ship from the failed mission to Jupiter in 2001 is being pulled by the gravitational forces and will soon crash into Jupiter’s moon, Io. In order to get to the ship on time to try to determine what happened to the mission, an American/Russian joint mission is launched. Once there, they encounter a giant, black monolith, and begin receiving haunting visits from the deceased Discovery crewman, David Bowman, who warns them they must leave in 48 hours.
I know that 2001 was a touchstone film for a lot of famous directors like Spielberg, Lucas, and Cameron when they were young, but it’s not the first thing one would think of when coming up with a kids’ movie. The film is cerebral, obtuse, and has long scenes that are very slow with minimal sound; I know plenty of adults who think it’s boring. 2010 has a little more grounded feel to it and a few fairly exciting scenes, but there still aren’t any aliens or space battles to keep kids engaged. So why Kid Stuff Records decided to put out read-along record books of both films in 1984 to coincide with the release of 2010, I have no idea.
However, I’m glad they did, because I think these are really cool to have as a 40-something man, but I can’t imagine I would have cared about either one when I was 9.