Fifty years after the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey comes 2036: Origin Unknown. Past the obvious nod in the film’s title, there is nothing - officially - to connect the two.
The former is rightly regarded as a classic, an exercise in the art of making film by Stanley Kubrick, from an original story by Arthur C. Clarke, the meat of which concerns a monolith of mysterious provenance, with elongated scenes of a scientist in conversation with a computer, HAL, and has been pored over for half a century for the deeper meaning behind its sometimes abstract scenes.
2036, on the other hand, directed by sophomore filmmaker Hasraf Dulull from his own story idea, is an interesting - if overreaching - tale, the meat of which concerns a monolith from an uncertain source, with elongated scenes of a scientist in conversation with a computer, ARTi. Whether future generations will seek the deeper meaning behind this latter-day outing remains to be seen.
Katee Sackhoff’s mission controller, Mac, is the affable protagonist, and her performance is assured, confident, and consistent, even during the final scenes which must have been a struggle to perform. Six years after the last manned mission to Mars crashed on arrival, resulting in the death of her father, Mac is brought back to guide an investigative mission down to the surface, although it seems for all the world that they didn’t need her to be there, save to be present when the cryptic object makes its presence felt.
Once you get around that, though, the performances draw you in - both those of Sackhoff and Steven Cree, who voices ARTi - as the relationship between the two entwines and grows before an abrupt tonal shift throws you right back out again as the film nears its confusing, over-ambitious conclusion. Along the way, a future where corporations control space exploration, some perilous international relations, and theoretical quantum existence are very lightly touched upon, and there’s more than an aftertaste of the hard science-fiction the director must have read before embarking upon making this film.
Aside from a slightly jarring clash between the almost-too-clinical space-bound model work and the interior shots of Sackhoff at work, there is little to dislike here, and a fair amount to enjoy. After its establishing scenes and before its slightly zen end, a tight and engaging thriller emerges, but it fizzles out under the weight of its own aspiration, leaving you slightly frustrated that you’ve spent ninety minutes with likeable characters that, in the end, were not the authors of their own destiny.
2036: ORIGIN UNKNOWN / CERT 12 / DIRECTOR: HASRAF DULULL / SCREENPLAY: GARY HALL / STARRING KATEE SACKHOFF, STEVEN CREE, JULIE COX, RAY FEARON / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 27TH