Based on Einstein's theory of relativity, "2010" is running on schedule. That is, more time has passed down here than out there since "2001: A Space Odyssey" revolutionized special effects and sci-fi. It has been 16 years down here, but only nine years out there from Stanley Kubrick's classic to Peter Hyams' sequel.

"2010," unlike its metaphysical predecessor, is very different in tone and spirit, says actor Bob Balaban, who plays Dr. Chandra, the computer scientist who fathered HAL, the 9000 computer who got the crew of the Discovery into this mess anyhow.

When we left, Keir Dullea had become either a very old man or a gigantic fetus, and it all had something to do with some Eerie Beings from Jupiter. Dullea, who reprises his role as the missing astronaut, turned off HAL's higher functions after the computer tried to jettison his pod.

Canadian actor Douglas Rain returns as the voice of HAL, the first-generation computer villain. And Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren and Balaban play our side of a team of Soviet and American scientists who take a Russian craft to the moons of Jupiter to find out what happened in 2001.

Dr. Chandra must first confront HAL, who has been falsely vilified, hints Balaban. "HAL is a benign character. There was a reason for what he did. He was not neurotic," says Balaban, who becomes a Sigmund Freud to his computer pal. "People were paranoid in the '60s. They were in conflict with the machine. They've won now, so that's all over."

Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the book that director/producer Hyams adapted, is known for his positive, high-tech vision. And that comes through in the film. "It's a non-hostile universe," reports Balaban, who's been there. "It presents a less dismal view than usual. But there is a political message, since the film begins with Russia and the U.S. on the brink of a gigantic confrontation."

The space team does not encounter "little green men," says Balaban. "There are no actual furry hands. It's more cosmic." Balaban, who was Francois Truffaut's interpreter in "Close Encounters," and Bill Hurt's buddy in "Altered States," says the effects are "nuts and bolts." In fact, he says, the footage from "2010" looks much like the real transmissions from the space shuttle.

Since "2001," we have seen Jupiter via Voyager probes. And we have gone to hyper space via the Millenium Falcon. "2010" is the heir to all this, says Hyams, who calls his work "a quantum leap forward."