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.