Sci-fi isn’t about predicting the future, but what did 2010 (the movie) get wrong – and right! – about 2010 (the actual year)?

2010 is the 1984 sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. At the time 2001 fans complained (correctly) that Kubrick’s movie didn’t need a sequel, but taken on its own terms 2010 isn’t that bad and David Pirie of Time Out Film Guide was right when he called it “space fiction of a superior kind.”

What 2010 got wrong:

(1.) In 2010 the Cold War will heat up as the Soviet Union and the United States have a Cuban missile crisis-style standoff in South America.

This is of course the biggest thing 2010 got wrong about the future. Cold War politics play an intrinsic part in 2010’s plot and that sheer dread of impending nuclear destruction would be meaningless to anyone in their 20s or even 30s today.

To be fair to Clarke and the film-makers though: who could have thought back in 1984 that the Soviet Union would be dissolved by 1991 – a mere seven years later? It came as a big surprise to pretty much everybody on the whole planet at the time.

Back in 1984 nuclear war seemed pretty imminent. (Check out books, TV shows and movies from the era such as The Day After, Testimony, Watchmen and When the Wind Blows.)

This was partly because of Ronald Reagan’s heated “Evil Empire” rhetoric. In one speech he repeatedly kept on referring to “third world war” instead of simply “third world.” Talk about Freudian slips!

As he said, “the United Sates has much to offer the third world war.” And he had that right. It could be argued that the U.S.A. had brought about the dissolution of the Soviet Union by outspending it with its ever-growing nuclear arsenal.

By trying to keep up with America’s huge weapons spending, the Soviet Union neglected spending money on things such as consumer products, all of which resulted in the domestic unhappiness that ultimately brought about the collapse of communism in those countries.

(2.) In 1999 signs of alien intelligence – a black monolith - will be discovered on the moon.

Sadly, the space program may not be dead, but it sure smells funny. No more moon trips, no manned missions to Mars, and so on.

Eugene Cernan was the last man to have walked on the moon. That was back in December 1972. Back in 1968, when the first movie was released, no-one would probably have believed you if you told them that even though we could all go to the moon in the future, no-one would want to . . .

(3.) There was a manned mission to Jupiter in 2001 named Discovery One.

See above.

(4.) An onboard artificial intelligence (AI) named HAL 2000 piloting the Discovery One mission went on the rampage and killed most of the crew.

We know that your latest PC game supposedly uses “AI”, but let’s be honest here: it is a far cry from true machine sentience.

Despite Moore's law, which accurately says that the number of transistors can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit will double approximately every two years, “true” AI - as seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010 - is still a while off.

In fact, sentient robots may never completely imitate the workings of the human brain because - despite of what you think of the moron who cut you off in traffic this morning - the human brain is a pretty complex piece of machinery.

So, sorry. No AIs that go psychopathic and try to kill you off then – even though it may feel that Windows Vista does a close approximation doing just that . . .

(5.) ‘Eighties fashions and hairstyles will make a comeback in 2010.

Okay, the year isn’t over yet . . .

But we’re being unfair here. When it comes to fashions and hairstyles 2010 doesn’t scream “1980s” that much – that is, except for the hairstyle sported by actress Helen Mirren as a Russian spaceship commander . . .

(6.) We will all use Apple IIc’s with LCD screens one day.

This is the computer Roy Scheider is using on the beach in one scene. The Apple IIc was a state-of-the-art Apple computer back then. It boasted 128k of memory, two serial ports and a mouse in an 11 by 12 inch box small enough to fit in a briefcase. Impressive!

Then again, we’re being unfair here.

Back in 1984 an e-mail connection was provided for director Hyams (in Hollywood) and Arthur C. Clarke (in Colombo, Sri Lanka) so that Hyams could regularly consult with Clarke about how to adapt the novel to the big screen. As unbelievable as it may seem in today’s interconnected world such an e-mail correspondence was practically unheard of outside the academic community back then. It was certainly the first time that anyone in the film industry used the technology . . .

(7.) A U.S. Navy vessel called U.S.S. Cunningham participates in a deadly naval engagement with a Russian vessel.

Given the film was made less than 10 years following the end of the Vietnam War, it could be held, that a futuristic Navy ship named “Cunningham” may have been named after U.S. Navy Commander Randy “Duke” Cunningham, whom, at the time, was a notable, decorated Vietnam War hero.

By 2010, however, Cunningham will be best remembered by the public as a disgraced United States Congressman. (Source:

(8.) The President of the United States will bear an uncanny resemblance to Arthur C. Clarke while the Soviet premier looks a lot like Stanley Kubrick.

This is not the case. The President of the USA today is in fact black. (Who would have believed that back in 1984?)

(9.) Pan Am will have regular flights to the moon.

Pan Am was forced to declare bankruptcy on January 8, 1991. Also see point 2 above.

(10.) 2010 is “the year we make contact” with aliens when we send a manned mission to Jupiter. These alien intelligences then turn the gas giant into a second sun to “create” life on the enormous planet’s nearby moons.

The year isn’t over yet, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

What 2010 got right:

The 2008 Olympics will be hosted in Beijing. This is a scary piece of prescience when one considers that the Olympic Committee only picked Beijing for the Olympics in July 2001 – 17 years after the movie was made!

So which future is better? We prefer 2010’s future to our own present to be honest. Okay, there may be an impending world war, but the space program is pretty much alive and well, which means the global economy is quite healthy. Heck, even the Russians have enough money to spend on manned missions to distant planets! Besides, the aliens will come to rescue us from ourselves . . .

More about the movie:
Director Peter Hyams (Capricorn One, Outland) wisely chose not to imitate Kubrick’s clinical trademark directorial style and 2010 is the direct ideological opposite of 2001: talky and with all its chit chat of “something wonderful” about to happen 2010 is very much a product of its time, more “inspired” by Spielberg than anyone else. People who hated 2001’s pretentiousness will love it . . . and vice versa of course.

It is also a reasonably faithful adaptation of sci-fi grand master Arthur C. Clarke’s 1982 novel, 2010: Odyssey Two and hard SF fans will enjoy the movie – once they get past its more dated aspects . . .

(Incidentally, Canadian American stage magician and scientific skeptic James Randi recounted that upon seeing 2001 for the first time, Clarke left the movie theatre during the first break crying because he was so upset about how the movie had turned out.)



blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest Headlines

Most Popular

Copyright © 1997-forward James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page (unless where indicated otherwise).