The Andromeda Strain Movie and Mini-Series

Please be warned if you have not read The Andromeda Strain, or watched the movie or mini-series, there will be spoilers ahead.

I finally watched The Andromeda Strain mini-series this weekend with the wife, finishing up my first leg of the Michael Crichton Experience.  We watched the movie that was made back in the early 70’s a while ago, but we have taken a while to get to the mini-series.  Mainly because of new seasons of How I Met Your Mother and Haven came out and we got distracted.

So I will start with the movie first.  The movie was fantastic, it seems very rare for a movie to follow the book almost exactly, but that is precisely what this film did.  There was only slight changes made, such as there was a woman scientist on the wildfire team now, and the automated nuclear blast was 10 minutes instead of 5 and there were lasers guarding the maintenance shaft instead of poisonous darts.  Other than these things, and I’m sure a few others because it has been several weeks since I watched it, the movie stayed extremely true to the book.  That was actually one of my main complaints about the movie, it followed the book so closely that certain things that I disliked about the book, made their way into the movie.  The disembodied voice that was in the book that would occasionally interject and talk from a future hearing on what exactly happened made its way into the film and it was just as confusing and strange as it was in the book.  At certain points the movie was very slow, just like in the book, and I felt they could have taken a little creative license to spice things up a bit, but it still worked very well.  The CGI for the 1970’s I thought was amazing and they did a really good job of showing the technology on the screen as it was described in the book.  Overall I really liked the movie and if you have read the book and haven’t seen the movie, I would recommend it.

The mini-series was made in the 2000’s and was set in modern times, so I expected it to be drastically different, but I have to honestly say it was just straight up ridiculous.  The people who made the mini-series seemed to think that taking various other things that MC has written about, like worm-holes and time travel, and adding them into the mini-series would be a great idea.  All of the basic ideas from the novel were still there.  There is a satellite that falls to earth in a tiny little town, Piedmont Utah, not Arizona this time.  Some kids, who are making out under the stars find it, take it to the local fire station and they decide to open it up and of course release Andromeda and start the Wildfire Project activation.  Things started to get really strange when they got into details about Project Scoop.  In the novel and movie Project Scoop was a scientific mission up in the atmosphere designed to find particles that are not from Earth.  In the mini-series it turns out project scoop is investigating worm-holes that are manifesting themselves in the atmosphere and this is how it picks up Andromeda.  Andromeda turns out not to be an alien particle, but a particle that was sent FROM THE FUTURE THROUGH THE WORM-HOLES.  Future Earthlings got wiped out by it or something so they send an encoded version of it back, encrypted with a binary code, that the scientists figure out at the last minute using Ascii computer language, that gives them the secret to stopping the virus.  There apparently is some bacterium near these deep sea vents that will pwn Andromeda and stop it from spreading.  Of course the President of the U.S., who surprisingly plays a big role in the mini-series, is pushing a big plan to mine these deep sea vents for resources, which would ultimately kill these bacterium and doom our future selves.  Confused and flabbergasted yet?  There were so many ridiculous sub-plots added to the mini-series by the end of it I was yelling at the TV screen because of its ridiculousness.  There is a shadow government conspiracy happening the whole time on keeping a sample of Andromeda, which they ultimately do, the end of the mini-series is an astronaut putting a sample from the Wildfire lab into a satellite orbiting earth.  At one point they kidnap one of the lady scientists family members to bribe her to not destroy all the samples, she tries to do this, which ultimately leads the contamination happening in the wildfire lab.  I thought the sample was destroyed but as evident from the end of the show, they somehow got a hold of some.  There was a rogue, drug addict, reporter sub plot and more military conspiracy sub plots than you can shake a stick at.  The overarching theme of the mini-series to me was being wary of science, technology, over using our available resources, oh also watch out the government is out to get you and is plotting to destroy humanity.  Some of the more ridiculous points and areas when they strayed way too far from the book were when they made the nuclear bomb go off, to make the virus spread faster.  It turns out though that the virus is super-duper smart and can communicate with itself, so anything that they do to try and stop it, the virus instantly communicates with itself and mutates and survives.  The virus was actually blamed for making the nuclear bomb detonate so it could reproduce faster, killing and destroying anything it its path.  The virus could think and plot and instantly change to adapt to anything we could throw at it.  Until that is they created massive amounts of the deep sea vent bacterium, that was figured out once they decoded the structure of the future virus itself, and then sprayed it over the horde of fast moving disease with airplanes.

I could probably rant longer and go into more of the ridiculousness of the mini-series but I will leave you with this.  The movie and book were fantastic, but the mini-series was just too ridiculous for me to stomach.  If you haven’t read the book and have no knowledge of what The Andromeda Strain is, and then you might like the mini-series, it has some good actors in it and a high production value.  But it just tried too hard to bring other Michael Crichton novel ideas into the mix and ended up being ridiculous for me.  The Terminal Man is up next, I am heading to the Oregon Coast this weekend with the wife and our dogs so I should be able to bust through it while staring at the ocean.