The Andromeda Strain
starring Benjamin Bratt, Eric McCormack, Christa Miller and Daniel Dae Kim
teleplay by Robert Schenkkan
directed by Mikael Solomon
This is a re-make of the 1971 movie of the same title, directed by Robert Wise and based on the 1969 novel by Michael Crichton - it was one of his first novels, written when he was still a medical student. When I rented it I did not know that it was a made-for-TV movie. Thinking it was a proper film I looked forward to being able to rent it so excitedly that I didn’t properly inspect the DVD box - distracted by the thrill of the idea of a re-make of a great movie. And, I passed up the chance to rent other DVDs I wanted to watch in order to get this one while it was on the shelf. I need to make this point about it being a made-for-TV movie because that largely explains why it is so unimpressive as a re-make of a great film. Indeed, the 1971 film remains not only great - despite its awful jumpsuit costumes - but better than this attempt to upgrade it. This TV movie falls a little on the disgraceful side. Then, I was shocked to learn on the Internet that there is an Andromeda Strain TV series as well. I suppose this TV film is the pilot for that.
I thought the 1995 film by Wolfgang Petersen, Outbreak (starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman), was also an Andromeda Strainre-make. Maybe it was, or maybe it wasn’t, but it is certainly a better story about the military trying to contain a deadly contagion than this movie is. Maybe that’s because it takes place on the ground, in the light of day, and not in an underground bunker.
If you know the book and the original movie then you know the story: a small group of scientists is sequestered away by the U.S.government in a super, super top secret underground facility to solve the mystery of a deadly contagion from space that has fallen on a small Utah town and threatens the country and the world. It’s a thrilling precept. But the TV writer, Robert Schenkkan, could not resist throwing in some marginal environmental subplot, plus some science fiction fringe effects like worm holes and time travel. That’s a sign of our times. Everything has to have an environmental subplot. I say, Damn the environmental subplot! I’m reaching my environmentalism saturation point.