Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Remakes, generally speaking, are pretty much a no-win situation for filmmakers since the majority of the time they are remaking a movie that was either revered or loved in the first place which invariably will cause it to be compared to the original work, and more times than not it will be deemed to come up short. Rarely do they remake a movie that sucked though I’m sure it has happened. Universal Pictures in conjunction with the Arts and Entertainment Network have opened the remake vault with their version of Michael Crichton’s first novel ‘The Andromeda Strain’, made originally back in 1971 by late director Robert Wise. Fortunately for the new film helmed by Mikael Solomon and presented in mini-series form, though I watched the DVD version, it doesn’t have the weight of the original weighing it down for this viewer since I’ve never seen it or read the Crichton novel and as such I found some entertainment value in it’s lengthy running time.

A meteor crashes somewhere in Utah while a young man and his girl are making out in his flatbed. Turns out it’s a crashed satellite of sorts and naturally this dude decides it’s a good idea to load the wreckage on his truck and take it to town. How in the hell he managed to lift the extremely heavy flaming sphere in his truck remains a mystery. Why in the hell he decided to take the flaming wreckage from space to town remains a mystery. Why in the HELL the alleged smart dude in the town chose to OPEN the flaming wreckage from space will forever remain a mystery because thanks to his wisdom everybody in the town is freaking dead.

It’s looking like we have what could be an Extinction Level Event on our hands so General Mancheck (Andre Braugher) who is charge of these type of things mobilizes his emergency Wildfire Response Team, a crew of incredibly culturally diverse geniuses who will be saddled with the task of stopping this rapidly spreading, instantly lethal virus codenamed Andromeda. Our team is led by Hispanic Man Dr. Jeremy Stone (Benjamin Bratt) and he is assisted by his former lover and M.D. White Woman

Dr. Angela Noyce (Christa Miller). Also along are Black Chick Dr. Charlene Barton (Viola Davis), Asian Dude Dr. Tsi Chou (Daniel Day Kim) and White Man / Gay Dude army Major Bill Keane M.D. (Rick Schroder). In addition to these five being sequestered in an underground facility, in the outside world we have drug addicted ace reporter Jack Nash (Eric McCormack) trying to get under the gub-ment cover-up about this mysterious disease. The situation is turning dire as the harder our scientist work the clearer it becomes that they don’t know jack and are quickly running out of options against this highly virulent, highly adaptable, incredibly intelligent bacterium that could very well be alien in nature. The answers are right there staring them in the face, but will they be able to get the answers in time to save the world.

To maintain the whole mini-series feel I made it point to watch each episode on consecutive nights which actually worked pretty well because the first night had really decent cliff hanger working for it and also at a running time of about 170 minutes, that’s a little too much movie watching at one time for me, thank you very much. From what I’ve heard there have been significant changes from the original film which folks who loved that movie were none too happy about, but some of it I’m sure was necessary to update the technology and the world events from 1971 to 2008. I’m also fairly certain that some additions were added to pad the running time to mini-series length and that was probably one of the problems I had with this version of ‘The Andromeda Strain’ in that there was a lot of superfluous stuff that really didn’t add to the story. Dr. Stone’s schizo wife and bratty son for instance or his romance with Dr. Noyce certainly did little to lift up the story, nor did Major Keane’s admission of homosexuality. Leaving those elements out, as well as some others would have left more time for a more substantive conclusion which seemed to end in a rush and left some fairly gaping unanswered questions, which seems unnecessary considering it took two days to tell the story.

What does work though is the fact that this a is nice looking movie and the filmmakers did an effective job in making the Andromeda virus into insidious character. The actors did a fine job of talking that techno-babble talk smoothly and convincingly and did it in a way to make it almost make sense to the viewing audience. The performances were generally solid as the actors weren’t asked to do too much heavy lifting, with the possible exceptions of Viola Davis and Eric McCormack, but were simply required to keep the story moving along and stay the hell out of the way, which they did a fine job of accomplishing. If you want to take a step back and go over the narrative with a fine tooth comb you would probably uncover enough inconsistencies and plot holes that will make your head spin and there are some trendy politics woven into the narrative as well which could also give one pause.

Ultimately, however, I found this new interpretation of ‘The Andromeda Strain’ as a very entertaining, very well made and quick moving bit of Sci-Fi escapist fare. From what I gather if you’ve seen the original I wouldn’t even waste my time, but if you haven’t, like I haven’t, it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of evenings.

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