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In "The Andromeda Strain," a U.S. military satellite crashes in a small town and unleashes a deadly plague killing all but two survivors. As the military quarantines the area, a team of highly specialized scientists is assembled to find a cure to the pathogen code-named "Andromeda," and a reporter investigates a government conspiracy only to discover what he is chasing wants him silenced. Written by
Save yourself a few tedious hours, skip this crap and see the 1971 original. This is another example of a movie that has nothing going for it but the good feelings a viewer might have about the original. (How appropriate that I first saw a commercial for it while waiting for the lousy "Indiana Jones 4" to begin.)
So, so, so much padding! (And even so, A&E managed to stuff in almost 80 minutes of commercials in the two night run.) Ridiculous plot lines that go nowhere (the Geraldo-style reporter, "vent-mining"), unnecessary time-waster shots of animals eating each other (all just to establish the infection vector of a rat dropped onto a group of National Guardsmen) family squabbles that go nowhere... all of these had the unmistakable feel of an effort to reach a predetermined running time. The problem is, when length is more important a goal than quality, nothing can be left on the cutting-room floor. Trimmed to two hours, this just might have been a watchable movie.
Even if decently edited to tighten up the pacing, there's then the problem of reeediculous plot devices that were added to this adaptation. For example:
Telepathic germs (you gotta be freaking kidding)
Messages from the future (I wish I was freaking kidding) --- Note to
you guys in the future: instead of the cryptic "739528", maybe "hey, look on the space station!" would get your point across a little better
Orbiting wormholes (still not kidding)
Blackbird attacks that kill soldiers in helmets and full combat gear
(shades of Alfred Hitchcock)
Endless blather about "vent mining", and even a terrorist attack on a
vent mining platform. ----- (Oops! did we forget to explain what that had to do with the story?)
"Pass the thumb"
Andromeda racing across the countryside turning everything yellow.
Dime-store CGI (we're talking "Sci-Fi Channel Original" quality) used
even in scenes where the real thing would have been easier and more effective: flame throwers, dried blood sifting from a cut, the inexplicable falling debris in the core.
Is the action dragging? Time for some Guardsmen to buy the farm!
Hollywood leftist paranoia: the evil team of General Mancheck and
Colonel Farris, military hit men, NSA stashing a final vial of the pathogen, and (my personal favorite) the company Enburton (Enron + Halliburton?) running the vent mining operation.
Michael Crichton wrote the original novel of "The Andromeda Strain", and the 1971 movie remembered so fondly by many was a quite faithful adaptation. You've heard of Michael Crichton because he has written lots of exciting and interesting science fiction, much of which has been turned into movies (of varying quality.)
This adaptation was written by Robert Schenkkan. You likely haven't heard of him, because he's been asked to write almost nothing else for the screen. Judging from this production, there would seem to be a reason for that. He has written a number of well-received plays, but apparently that talent does not translate well to television; what I recall of his 2004 "Spartacus" miniseries was on the level of "Andromeda". (Trekkie alert: as a C-list actor, Schenkkan is best remembered for eating an alien cockroach and then getting his head blown up, when he played Commander Remmick in the ST:TNG first-season episode "Conspiracy".)
If this is the best A&E can do, I hope that in the future they'll just stay out of the science fiction genre. At the very least they should produce original stories, instead of mucking up remakes of perfectly good predecessors.
I'll never get those four hours back, but you still have a chance to miss this movie. Consider yourself warned.
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