The Andromeda Strain - Miniseries
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Based on the best-selling novel by Michael Crichton, the A&E mini-series event The Andromeda Strain arrives on DVD in this special 2-disc collection! Two-time Academy Award nominee Mikael Salomon (Band of Brothers) directs a powerhouse cast, including Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order), Christa Miller (Scrubs), Eric McCormack (Will & Grace), Ricky Schroder (NYPD Blue), Andre Braugher (City of Angels), Viola Davis (Disturbia), and Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) in this thrilling sci-fi adventure. When a mysterious virus is brought to earth by a returning satellite, an elite and dedicated squad of scientists assembles to search for the truth and stop the mutating killer before it ends life on earth. Presented by three-time Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott (American Gangster) and Primetime Emmy Award winner Tony Scott (Numb3rs), The Andromeda Strain includes all 4 televised hours, contains exclusive bonus materials and features Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. Own the action-packed epic today!
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The only reason I made the order was to get the products in time before I departed. I was actually delayed in going and still did not get some of the overall shipment, and what did arrive was a nightmare to actually get.
So ... Prime was a waste and I hate, Hate, HATE ... I LLOOOOOOOAAAATHHHHeeeeee UPS.
Otherwise, the products were as advertised.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
Don't waste your money on this one, go buy the Original 1971 version.
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.
1971's original big-screen outing (directed by Robert Wise) was a weirdly compulsive tale of a group of predominantly white, predominately middle-aged and elderly research virologists doing battle with a mysterious extra-terrestrial virus inadvertently unleashed on a small Californian town by a downed Satellite. Set predominantly in a sealed underground research bunker which could be cauterized by a Nuclear blast should the threat of contamination become too great, the film boast a cast of virtual unknowns, a weirdly atonal electronic score by Gil Mellé, an uncomfortably claustrophobic, tense atmosphere and some splendid use of abstract shot-framing and split-screen. There was very little in the way of action, big explosions and histrionics and it remains a faithful adaptation of Crichton's book (which, if you've never read it, is one of his best and one of the most splendidly ominous and worryingly authentic first-contact novels ever written.)
This made for TV remake was apparently co-produced by Tony and Ridley Scott, but given it's tone and timbre, it might just as well have been produced by Michael Bay.
And I don't mean that as a compliment.
From the outset, the audience is beaten over the head with CGI and bombast; the research virologists are now all forty and under, impossibly good-looking and fit and of a racial mix hardly seen outside of Benetton commercials; Humvees seem to cram the frame every two minutes; gunfire and explosions break out with sporadic abandon and we are treated to more impassioned histrionics that one would generally expect to see in an episode of "The Bold And The Beautiful" - seriously, I kept waiting for Ridge to stagger through the bunker (which seems to be perpetually lit like the chill-out room of a nightclub) and demand to see Stephanie and Taylor.
Oh yeah, then there's the virus itself. It's no longer just an extra-terrestrial virus - now its also sentient, telepathic and has come through a wormhole from the future. Nanotechnology, which is fast acquiring the irritancy and, one assumes, will acquire the obsolescence factor that Virtual Reality helmets did in the nineties, also crops up *yawn*
There's also, wouldn't you know it, a big army conspiracy behind the whole thing which is hunting your obligatory drug-addled, wise-guy journalist (played by Eric McCormack from "Will And Grace" - who looks so out of place that I kept wishing that Jack McFarland would turn up and comfort him at his 'mannary'), a character that is completely extraneous in terms of the story.
There's also the worrying hint at the end that the producers may be contemplating a sequel.
In every way bigger, louder and brasher than it's predecessor, this film is also vastly dumber and more irritating. One day, maybe producers will realize that in the case of source material which is this good, you don't need extraneous trappings; just good actors, a decent script and a director who knows where to point a camera.