A&E is remaking Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, which premieres on Monday, May 26th at 9pm as a TV mini-series. TV mini-series always worry me, but The Andromeda Strain is a cool enough story that I figured I’d better see it for myself. Thankfully, A&E sent me Part One of the series to review.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to review only half of a movie/mini-series, especially when the first half is the uninteresting part. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book or watched the original movie, but I’m pretty sure a lot of the stuff in the first part of A&E’s version is made up to serve as filler. The added material, which expands the search in the quarantined town and shows more of how the infection came to be, is not that bad in its own right. The expanded plot works naturally in terms of the story’s progression.
Unfortunately, by the time the first half of The Andromeda Strain comes to an end, the movie still hasn’t dived into the exciting part, which, needless to say, is the part based directly on the book. If you’re unaware of what The Andromeda Strain is about, the story follows a group of scientists in a high-tech, underground facility who are trying to discover a cure to an alien virus that kills quickly and mutates just as fast. The facility, designed to safeguard against contamination of the outside world, becomes a trap when the virus is unleashed. The scientists have to move from one floor to the next to save themselves and stop the facility’s nuclear core from self destructing, which, contrary to the intended purpose, would cause the virus to become even stronger.
When Part One ends, the scientists have yet to be put in danger. This is a major problem. Nothing particularly interesting occurs in the first half, even though it contains a lot of deaths, a possible nuclear strike and more. The power of The Andromeda Strain is its claustrophobic, breakneck suspense, and the A&E series doesn’t reveal any of that in its first half. What does this tell me? Either people will lose interest after the first half, or, as I would recommend, just watch the second half on Tuesday, May 27th. I’m sure they’ll have a nice little recap at the beginning.
Unfortunately, I can’t comment on the second half of the series. From a production point of view, the first half is good but not great. The mini-series stars Benjamin Bratt, and in general the acting is pretty good for a TV movie. Neither Bratt nor the rest of the cast will blow you away, but they pull things off well enough. The production seems to have a fairly decent budget, though it definitely feels like a TV movie at times. Oddly enough, with so many added minutes, the setup to the infection could have been done better. Some of the characters who die make some really weird decisions (if a satellite crashed right next to you, wouldn’t you call the police rather than load it into the back of your truck and then proceed to open up its shell?). TV movies always seem to focus on elements that shouldn’t be focused on, while neglecting normal storytelling techniques that could really enhance even the most basic of screenplays.
I do believe The Andromeda Strain could really become something in the second half if it sticks true to the novel, but the first half isn’t particularly memorable.
Also, don’t forget to enter my Andromeda Strain contest – I’m giving away a prize pack that contains the original 1971 DVD, the 2008 A&E DVD (not yet released), the Crichton novel and more.