Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Andromeda Strain Miniseries – Deadly Bad

Remakes always worry me, especially when someone tries to remake a classic. The original 1971 movie “The Andromeda Strain,’ based on Michael Crichton’s novel – was a classic sci-fi thriller. It was understated, it focused on the science, but it was a believable story that drew you in.

I wish I could say the same for the remake miniseries that aired on A&E this week. The previews looked interesting, and as it was produced by Ridley and Tony Scott one would hope it would pack a powerful punch. Sadly, the remake was a total bore and threw in so many unbelievable things above and beyond the original movie that it was laughable.

The story opens, with a completely wasted family scene with Dr. Jeremy Stone (Benjamin Bratt) and his nutty wife and his kid. This whole scenario should have been avoided because it really played no part in the overall story. Then, following a similar pattern to the premise of the original film, a satellite crashes and is discovered by people in a small town, who are promptly killed when the Andromeda virus is unleashed. The Wildfire team of super brainy scientists is then assembled. Way too much time was spent on the introduction of the team, and the related military and political supporting players.

The one thing about the original movie is that they went through a very extreme, yet completely believable scenario of obtaining the satellite, recovering the survivors, and gaining entry into the depths of the Wildfire facility. In the remake, it was as if they were trying very hard to rush through this portion of the story, the most laughable being a simple dousing with liquids while in uniform, and then with foamy soap and water on their bodies. It was like they thought a simple car wash would clean off any trace of not only the virus but any other bacteria of microbes they may have on them that could contaminate their research.

As they race through the discovery of Andromeda – and they did race through it – we are getting an insight into reporter Jack Nash (Eric McCormack), a person with a chemical dependency problem, who stumbles onto the Andromeda story and gets pulled into it. Again, this whole story line was another waste, as it really didn’t add much to the drama of the story and really meant zilch as far as the big picture and the virus itself.

Where the story gets wacky is when they start throwing in every new little thing they can think of, like the nanotech shield of carbon "Bucky Balls” which hide a secret code and the virus being able to communicate with itself. Then there is the wormhole (?!) angle – maybe the virus came from the future! - and the whole story with the vent drilling. It seemed like they took a very simple, yet intense storyline from the original and just complicated it for no reason. Don’t forget during all this drama (?!) that Jeremy Stone talks about his regrets with his love for fellow scientist Dr. Angela Noyce, played unconvincingly by Christa Miller.

They try to weave a complex story of politics, conspiracy, and cover up, and in the process, they lose what made the original successful – which was a completely believable story. This remake had no trace of credibility.

What I found ludicrous is after Andromeda mutates to begin to kill other wildlife such as fish, and then to kill plant life, when the Wildfire finds the magic bullet to kill Andromeda, it seems that they show all the dead water and plant life coming back again. Tell me, how do brown, DEAD trees come back to life and become green and alive again?

The entire cast is flat and one-dimensional. It is hard to care for any of them, and when two of them meet their deaths, it’s almost a relief.

So this remake of the Andromeda Strain gets low marks from me. Don’t waste the four hours to watch it – and if you must, record it and watch it later like I did. A&E was really heavy on the commercial breaks. But, you’d be much better off renting the original 1971 movie. It still stands the test of time.

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