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'The Andromeda Strain' is based on a 1969 novel. This miniseries is heavily adapted from that book - it is updated to the 21st century and makes lots and lots of plot and character changes. But the nub of the story remains the same. A returning satellite crashes in America bringing a deadly disease with it.
The novel itself is a very handy tool for filmmakers looking to squeeze message-laden metaphors out of it. In the sixties it would have spoken to Cold War fears and in the 80's it would have served nicely as an AIDS/Ebola yarn. In this 21st century miniseries format it addresses corporate environmental clumsiness, the military's sexual policies, its unethical detention practices, the inhibition of free speech, dodgy campaign-finance law, bio-terrorism baddies and the North Korean nuclear threat. There is more, but you get the drift. And although the story gets about, it is also weighed down by boring stuff about bureaucracy and detailed, tedious lab work.
In the final analysis, for me, it doesn't quite live up to the promise of its pedigree - novel by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, Disclosure, Timeline) and Executive Produced by Ridley Scott and Tony Scott - but is still a thought provoking four stars.
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Not a bad effort but suffers from usual hollywood stereotyping and stretches credibility beyond breaking point at times. The group of scientists called in to tackle the evil bug are not believeable at all and their pseudo scientific methodology seems to consist of sitting around a table and miraculously coming up with bug killer solutions in seconds. The bug itself has supposedly arrived via a worm hole from an unknown other place but miraculously used ASCII code inside its DNA equivalent to give our heroes the solution they are looking for. Mediocre acting doesn't help. I've awarded 4 stars because there are far worse sci-fi plots out there, better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick but not by much.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
128 of 149 people found the following review helpful
Good Concept. Bad Movie.29 May 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
I don't blame the actors, I believe they did what they could with the script they had.
I think the special effects were adequate, some of the tech stuff was a bit overdone and detracted from the story. For example, a lab technician running the tests would have been more realistic to me than a computer that can run any imaginable test immediately by voice command.
The subplots were waaaaaay out of control. By having so many side stories, the main story was diluted and couldn't build a sense of urgency.
The preachy environmentalist message changed what might have been an enjoyable sci-fi drama into yet another in a long line of 'save the Earth' movies. Don't get me wrong. I like the Earth. I really do. It's one of my favorite planets. I just don't need to be clubbed over the head with yet another environmentalist lecture. I think the movie as a whole would have been much better off without it.
If those were all the failings, I probably would have given this 3 or 4 stars. I could have suspended disbelief and enjoyed the show. But...
The wormhole/time travel element was so incredibly bad that it killed the movie for me. The story would have been so much better if they had just left the origin of Andromeda as an unknown. Simply say 'It came from somewhere in space.' and be done with it. But, if you're determined to use time travel as a story element, at least don't cause a paradox.
Minor Things that Irritated Me:
It appears that to be an effective doctor or scientist, one must be young and attractive. I suppose that anyone who is old, fat or just plain ugly could not possibly be of any help finding a cure to an infectious disease.
The 'cure' confused me. The progress of Andromeda was shown by the water and vegitation turning brown as Andromeda killed it. When the benevolent virus was released and consumed Andromeda, everything turned green again... did all the plants suddenly come back to life? Will the animals? Will the people?
I have a little problem with the idea that the sterno drinker who takes a bottle of aspirin a day and vomits huge amounts of blood was casually invited over to the fire station for a poker game. In my experience, the destitute and chronically ill are either a) hospitalized or b) shunned. I don't know, maybe it's a Utah thing.
This movie had a lot of things going for it. Unfortunately, it could not overcome a horribly ill-conceived script.
48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
What they adapted was poorly done, what they invented was worse13 Jun. 2008
David C. Hill
- Published on Amazon.com
If you're looking for a taut, tense story about the outbreak of an alien plague and the desperate efforts of a band of scientists to isolate and defeat it ... then I suggest reading the original The Andromeda Strain novel, by Michael Crichton. Or, if you're video-centric, check out the 1971 movie adaptation. In either case, skip this A&E two-night miniseries.
I'll start with the caveat that I am quite fond of both the book and the 1971 movie (one of the first movies I remember going to -- we were not a big movie-going family). I was looking forward to this miniseries to refresh and expand on Crichton's story, updating it for a new generation. Instead, the core novel has been turned into soap opera mush, and the added time available (180 minutes, minus commercials) is wasted on a parallel conspiracy theory story that not only adds nothing, but never really gets resolved.
This is a "hard" SF novel, focused on the science involved in diagnosing and dealing with Andromeda. Secondarily, it's about the pressure upon the four scientists (expanded to five in the miniseries, and all but the main one renamed), faced with multiple ticking clocks and a pathogenic horror that could, if unchecked, kill the world as efficiently as it's killed the town of Piedmont (Arizona in the book, New Mexico in the 1971 movie, Utah in 2008).
The miniseries turns the science into random and unfocused gobbledigook, including a talking computer that, evidently, does pretty much all the work for the research team. That leaves everyone time to chit-chat, mull over romances past and present, and hint at past events that are never explained (or that really aren't all that germane to the story). Meanwhile ...
The original novel and movie did include a bit of "conspiracy" about them. While Wildfire was originally set up by Congress at Dr Stone's recommendation, it was to decontaminate space probes and astronauts and deal with any infections they might bring back. The government looked upon it, and Project Scoop, as a way to gather and develop potential bioweapons; this comes out over the course of the original tale, but is really a sidelight to it, an addition to the caution that we Need To Be Careful Out There.
That's the part, though, that gets all the padding in the new miniseries. We get multiple government factions -- the DoD bioweapons head, his army gunsel, Homeland Security, a hapless president, a general whose motivations are mysterious -- and, of course, a doughty (and drug-addicted) journalist who's trying to track down this story and stay one step ahead of both the virus and the assassins sent to do him in.
It's layering cheap icing on the cake. It never really adds much -- except to distract from both the core story (which is bad) and the melodrama back at Wildfire (which, I guess, is good). You could excise the entire mess from the miniseries, and it wouldn't make a bit of difference to its resolution, but it would ratchet up the tension at Wildfire, rather than deflating it every time we cut to another scene.
There's so much more to criticize -- scientists too young (and pretty) for the long and distinguished careers they're supposed to have; the world's most incompetent governmental conspiracy; the laugh-out-loud climactic race against the Wildfire auto-destruct; the baby and old man who vanish after the first half; a telepathic, self-aware, highly-adaptive uber-virus that came from the future through a wormhole; egregious firing-squad breaches of security at a highly classified installation ... the list goes on.
When I saw ads in the movie theater for the miniseries, my thought was, "Wow, it looks like The Andromeda Strain, only with car crashes." I was at least partly correct: there were car crashes. But despite being able to be summed up with the same short paragraph in TV guide, I don't see much of the book, or original movie in here -- and that's a shame. In short, where this miniseries parallels the original, it does so in a muddled, mediocre fashion. Where it doesn't, it's even weaker. It adds nothing new to the original's vision, and the new stuff it does add feels more like it's one of those awful SciFi original movies than something from A&E.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This Andromeda A 'Strain' To Sit Through....25 Jun. 2008
Your Role Model
- Published on Amazon.com
Man, you hate to say it, but watching this modern Andromeda Strain remake is a bit like watching Wayne Newton in concert-- not much raw talent, but he's trying so gosh darn HARD to entertain you. If enthusiasm was ability, this remake would be 5 stars. Unfortunately, it's not, and it's not.
Instead of being the taught, direct, minimalist thriller the original was, this one takes a 'kitchen sink' approach. We've got space wormholes (yes, you read that right), terrorism and 9/11 references, inter-military intrigue, a crack investigative reporter with a drug problem (of course), gratuitous assassinations, radical environmentalism, common-sense environmentalism, divorce, parenting issues, nationalistic tensions within the scientific team, romantic tensions within the scientific team, rampant politics, and *gasp* the President's wife in peril!!!
It's kind of like going camping with absolutely everything you own... seemed like a good idea on paper, but seldomly works out that way in practice. Especially when everything is as Hollywooded-up as it is here.
Sadly, the one thing this Andromeda Strain does NOT have is a legitimate sense of tension. The focus is just too diluted, too many things are going on, many of them not too consequential. As a result, even with the long running time, many of the goings on have to communicated purely verbally, in tossed-off one-liners, said with little or no emotion backing them. The characters don't seem to much care, so neither do we.
There's also a big fat strain of the ridiculous and random in some of the sideplots... such as when an eagle uber-conveniently drops an Andromeda-diseased mouse at the feet of some National Guard troops. Or how about the ridiculousness of the whole 'space wormhole from the future' explanation for Andromeda? Sometimes it's better when things go UN-explained, especially when you want the audience to suspend disbelief, but I guess that particular note never made it to the powers-that-be on this one.
It also doesn't help that the cast seems mostly just as Hollywooded-up as the proceedings. Sure, a few of the actors in the cast, notably Ricky Schroeder, McCormack, Andre Braugher, and the unknown-but-quite-good Viola Davis, attempt to inject some sense of humanity (or at least style, in Braugher's case) and urgency into their characters and the goings-on, but they're largely defeated by the stilted and occasionally just plain weird dialogue. For example, just LISTEN to Benjamin Bratt's estranged wife speak early on... you will say over and over again to yourself, "No one talks like this... NO ONE..."
Oh, and speaking of Ben Bratt as the focal character, he's fairly inert, in the way that many hunky heroes tend to be inert in any kind of complex drama. The fact that he's ethnic doesn't really make it any more interesting.
Also, a big shudder goes out to the normally cute and interesting Christa Miller (of 'Drew Carey' and 'Scrubs' fame). In this miniseries, she appears to be either savagely over-botoxed, or the victim of an unfortunate plastic surgery accident... her face looks distractingly odd, a bit frozen and sandblasted... something's just off. A shame, as she's got real talent, and was quite the beauty on Drew Carey. Perhaps aging gracefully isn't such a bad thing after all?
But, this remake has far bigger problems than that, obviously. It's just an exercise in "throw everything against the wall and see what sticks" filmmaking, and it strings you along for a very long time on its noise and energy, until you finally figure out that it really ISN'T going to get any better, and that all of the (few) good moments are the ones where it most closely hewed to the original.
So, in other words, there was no point to this remake, unless one thinks unchecked melodrama is an improvement.
I'm not anti-remake in general... 'Battlestar Galactica', for example, is an example of a fine remake that surpasses the original. And I suppose in the environment of our current fears of terrorism and biological weapons, it was only a matter of time before someone took a crack at re-doing the original, grand-daddy-of-'em-all bioterror story. But, god, couldn't they have done a better job? The filmmakers here out-clever themselves out of giving us a taught, gripping story, and the slick 'Hollywooded up' production values/look actually make the events less authentic and scary, not more.
But they DON'T get that, as you'll see when you watch the DVD extras... a great deal of self-congratulation on how much better the special effects are these days, how it's great that they doubled the length and added so much junk to the proceedings, etc. etc. Like I said, the Wayne Newton effect. This story deserved better.
Scariest of all? The ending sets us up for a sequel or even a series. Try going to sleep knowing THAT.
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Buy the Original - Not this pile of garbage3 Jun. 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
My main problem with this re-make was that the main plot got buried under a bunch of sub-plots that really didn't give anything to the movie. Then there was the techno-babble (Bucky Balls, Wormholes, Messenger Theory, Thermal Vent Mining) that brought nothing but confusion to the story.
Don't waste your money on this one, go buy the Original 1971 version.
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Real Epidemilogy is Never This Boring1 Jun. 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Only a few minutes into this mess I was disgusted to find that it was just one more awful portrayal of emotionally stunted scientists. The writing and direction convey not an ounce of urgency. No one on the Wildfire A-team rounded up by the government seems even remotely shocked or disturbed by the 99% mortality rate of a mysterious new disease! When a top surgeon is first told about this microbial juggernaut she smirks and says, "Gee, you always have such good news for me." Then the two go on to chit chat about petty family problems.
The cynicism of these characters is truly stupefying. If you have ever watched a few science documentaries, particularly those dealing with public health, you will know that real scientists are often driven by deep emotions and passions. Dullards like those found in "The Andromeda Strain (2008)" exist only in the lazy minds of subliterate hack writers.
Please note that the recent SARS outbreak six years ago had a mortality rate of about 10%! Our CDC and health agencies all over the world went into high gear to understand the disease and to check its progress. In this crummy flick - which so earnestly throws around scientific lingo to establish credibility - the field of epidemiology is reduced to a cheap soap opera.
Good science fiction must be grounded in reality. The only way to put science-based heroism up on the screen is to first understand the heroism of real scientists. The disease warriors who literally risk their lives every day are a thousand times more interesting than the autistic bores found here. If real scientists dragged their feet this way, we still wouldn't have a cure for polio.