Robert Wise’s The Andromeda Strain was the first adaptation of a Michael Crichton bestseller to film. That was in 1971, and the 2001-like elegance of its design, and the computer-like efficiency of the members of the Wildfire team, gave us an entertainment was scary on so many levels that it was almost an improvement on the novel. The same can’t be said for the A&E mini-series which airs tonight and tomorrow at 9/8C.
When a satellite crashes to Earth, a couple of kids find and haul it into town, where a well-meaning firefighter cracks it open. A very short time later, the town is found to be dead – bodies lying everywhere – except for one person, who’s to blitzed to be much help. So, the Wildfire Team is called into action – and set up with the satellite and its contents in a lab five miles blow the surface.
The team includes Dr. Jeremy Stone [Benjamin Bratt], Dr. Charlene Barton [Viola Davis], Dr. Tsi Chou [Daniel Dae Kim], Dr. Angela Noyce [Christa Miller] and Major Bill Keane MD [Ricky Schroeder]. Other major players include General George Mancheck [Andre Braugher], reporter Jack Nash [Eric McCormack], U.S. President Scott [Ted Whittall]. The plot remains the same – the Wildfire Team is to figure out what caused all those deaths before the thing mutates too far and breaks out. They are hampered by communications problems [deliberately imposed by Mancheck]; not having a lot of time, and by racial problems between two team members, among other things.
The movie was 130 minutes long. The mini-series goes for 180-plus. The difference? Lotsa cool new tech toys to play with – lotsa pretty flashing lights and a much younger and prettier cast. Also, a much less imaginative script, plodding direction and less than excellent acting. To put it plainly, the A&E Andromeda Strain mini-series looks good – and that’s all it does well. None of the cast distinguishes themselves and some [Bratt and Braugher in particular] are painful to watch.
Here’s a better idea: tonight rent the movie, and tomorrow night rent The Terminal Man. Both are based on Crichton’s novels, and both are vastly superior to this particular waste of time.
Final Grade: D