Friday, May 30, 2008

The Andromeda Strain

Going a little old school today with the 1971 sci-fi classic The Andromeda Strain. Curiously enough it was written in book form by a young medical student named Michael Crichton and brought to the big screen by 4 time Oscar winner Robert Wise (The Sand Pebbles, The Sound of Music). Of course, even a big budget thriller looks dated thirty years down the road no matter who the director of the film... but you have to look at those things objectively.

So the basics... a satellite crashes to Earth in a small New Mexico town. Locals decide to recover it and try to open it. This unleashes a deadly strain of virus this world has never seen that causes the blood to clot rapidly causing quick death. Members of the Army's project SCOOP call in the Wildfire team to contain and investigate the dangers of the virus. The team (Kate Reid, Arthur Hill, James Olsen, David Wayne) is made up all all solid actors, but names you'd never recognize right away. Wise said he did that as to not distract you from the film and it's message. He wanted you to believe that this was a real situation that could happen.

While those four actors are more than capable, the real star is the sets. Wildfire is based a elaborate facility that has been made to look like a cross between the biolabs we have nowadays and something more Kubrickian. A scene toward the end shows just how far the set design people had to go to get a shot of James Olson racing through the core.

I have no doubts that when The Andromeda Strain came out that this film was about as perfect as you can get it. However, with pacing, special effects, and just advances in science in the last 30 years you do feel as this story is diminished some. Although actors of today would do well to take a note on not trying to oversell a role. Not a bad watch... unlike the new miniseries that changed a good deal around to add more of a military thriller aspect to it.

The new miniseries adds too many faces you'll recognize. Only Benjamin Bratt and Andre Braugher have the chops to bring the goods in. Christa Miller (Scrubs), in particular, is awful in her role as part of the Wildfire team. The military aspect is played up more to create the government conspiracy plot. All of it takes a timeless story and reduces it to Sci-Fi original movie territory. I didn't make it through the second half of the new Andromeda Strain, the first half left me with the distince feeling of a turd sandwich with garnishes.

Old Andromeda Strain 80/100

New Andromeda Strain 10/100 (10 for Braugher)

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