The Andromeda Strain Review

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Taking the Michael Crichton


Made in 1971, The Andromeda Strain was a marvellously lean sci-fi thriller. Imbued with the anti-establishment twitchiness of the day, it remains an unsung cracker of a movie, arguably the best adaptation of Michael Crichton’s science-as-fiction grumblings. The set-up is whipcrack dramatic: what happens when an alien invasion is microbe- sized? After a dead satellite plunges into a Utah town, and the population’s blood turns to powder, a crack team of specialists hunker down in an underground lab to find salvation.

A TV mini-series, loading the taut story with below-par CGI and a tiresome sprawl of ‘current issues’, wasn’t exactly in demand. Still, as it is exec-produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, it has our attention. Showing little faith in the novel’s strength (its tightness), workmanlike director Mikael Salomon jettisons the claustrophobia to stomp about on the surface.

Salomon and co. have also added the time-travel knottiness of Sphere, the environmental panic of State Of Fear, and the nanotechnological goings-on of Prey as if it were Michael Crichton karaoke. What was a study of the fragility of man and the perils of his scientific hubris is now a bumper-car ride of competing subplots.

The central thrust remains in the super-lab, where the quintet of super-scientists (noticeably younger and better-looking) chew out incomprehensible dialogue and look stressed. They’re a PC-appeasing, C-list mix of sexes and ethnic groups, under the command of a wooden Benjamin Bratt. But even when the lab begins to self-destruct and people start dangling in ventilation shafts, audience pulse rates remain static.