It's Michael Crichton I feel sorry for. He wrote a cracking good story, which was turned into a tense, tight technological drama by a master filmmaker back in 1971. But this here retelling (for that's what it is sold as, even though it is not) is what his story will be remembered for. Did he really need the money that bad? Or did this one just get away from him, handed to a hack writer and hack director, and he was helpless to stop it? Is it possible that his agent has been fired and imprisoned for besmirching a good writer's name? God, I hope so.
Where the original had serious characters doing serious work, this one has lightweights acting like lightweights. You can't take them seriously, so you can't take the threat they face seriously. Those that aren't lightweights are brainless, doing things they cannot explain, and make no sense. Bad writing requires unrealistic, unexplained, and rock-stupid behavior from minor characters to move things along, since the writer can't figure things out himself. He's written himself into a dead end (as happens repeatedly here), and so the bad-writing bible is consulted (which reads, "when in doubt, explosions"), the necessary explosion occurs, and we move on.
If Michael Crichton liked this telling of his story, he has seriously slipped as a story teller. This one is full of Hollywood's version of reality. Stupid (but pretty) figures act in ways that make no sense, saying things that are the same, while shadowy governmental (but pretty) figures who act with no rhyme or reason, have trouble at home, and obsess about polls, and all all characters generally have various lightweight obsessions that swamps any larger issues, until you can't see the larger issues except as explosions before commercials. Replacing serious, competent scientists wrestling with a terrifyingly opaque threat, this version has a bunch of doofuses standing around (in what looks like the old sets from "Level 9") talking about pretty much anything but what they should be, until the explosion express arrives to move things along.
Frivolous plot details (like all the endless 'backstory' stuff about Stone, his loser wife, his loser kid and his ex-girlfriend, the entirety of the reporter story, and the whole vent-mining thing, with a message-from-the-future in large part stolen from "Sphere") are brought in at the expense of important original plot details, which are handled by lengthy, voice-of-god exposition, since there isn't time to actually play them out like they should. (How many times did somebody announce that they were not an expert at something, give a ridiculous opinion, which was then taken as fact by all the other characters, and acted upon? I lost count.) This, apparently, passes for 'good' in Hollywood these days (or at least 'normal', because every miniseries I've seen of late looks and sounds exactly like this.) In the land of bad writing - that is, Hollywood - every story needs a bad guy, and to the unimaginative (like here), this requires literally a bad guy; some evil male doing evil things, who must be overcome and who must then die for his pains. In the land of good, imaginative writing, the thing to be overcome can be other things - for instance, the mystery of Andromeda, and that alone. Believe it or not, hollywoodfolk, such a simple, direct story can hold an audience.
The thing I can't figure out is that lots of people saw this script before it was made; they saw what was intended. The people at A and E (who originally broadcast it), at the least. They must have known what a load of drivel it was. They convinced themselves, somehow, despite evidence to the contrary, that this was good stuff - something suitable to be either "arts" or "entertainment". Alas, this is neither.
I am sure some dweeb at 'Scott Free Productions' actually said the phrase "updating a 40 year old story for a new century" in a meeting, and the people around the table nodded sagely and ponied up the money. Are they proud of their labors? Did they think they were really doing justice to the original? God, I hope not. Because if so, then they are gonna ruin more television, and probably give themselves emmies too... Somebody once said that although everybody in Hollywood (and in this case, Vancouver) does their absolute best, sometimes what we get out of it defines how little talent they had to work with to begin with. Nowhere has this been demonstrated better (except, perhaps, by the body of work of Ed Wood), than in this.
Anyway, do yourself a favor - skip this, or you'll wind up like me, shouting at the television "for god's sake, shut up and get on with it" over and over. Better still, see the original. Better than that, read the original.
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