Posted: 05/26/2008


The Andromeda Strain


by Jef Burnham

The two-part mini-series event comes to DVD June 3, 2008, from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

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Well, it’s been 37 years since audiences saw an adaptation of Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, and directors Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) and Tony Scott (Top Gun, Numb3rs) decided it was about time they refresh our memories. Was this necessary? Probably not. Is it any good? Frankly… yes. It’s very enjoyable, if a little heavy on gratuitous explanations of the laboratory’s decontamination procedures and containment and security measures. At a total running time of about three hours, The Andromeda Strain miniseries is surprisingly suspenseful and action-packed.

It revolves around a group of scientists attempting to determine the cure for and the origin of a virus known as Andromeda. The virus itself is impressively fatal, causing people’s blood to turn almost instantly to dust. Those who don’t die turn violent or suicidal, and from that we get some of the more memorable images in the series. One scene involves a suicidal man and a chainsaw, and I’ll leave it at that. The virus mutates and does a whole bunch of wacky unexplainable things as the Wildfire Team (a group of five of the greatest scientific minds in the world) attempts to stop the outbreak.

I found the majority of the all-star cast to be pretty mediocre except for Eric McCormack from Will & Grace. McCormack is great, but unfortunately, his character doesn’t serve much of a purpose, unless you count providing a role for Eric McCormack as sufficient purpose. I suppose his character allows us to learn about a lot of the outside factors in the Andromeda mystery, but it has more to do with dumb luck than his investigative skills, really.

There were two major things that bugged me about the series. First of all, I thought they laid the family drama on a little think in the opening, as if the deadly virus didn’t provide enough human interest. This was only made worse by the fact that they never returned to the family stuff, making the opening material seem all the more avoidable. The second thing might seem very trivial, but it bugged me nonetheless for a long list of reasons I won’t even get into. When the scientists stroll into the first city struck by Andromeda (Piedmont, Utah), they are met by the horrifying sight of a city street filled with the dead bodies of an entire population… and a tumbleweed rolls by. Whose idea was that?

The two-disc DVD comes with over four hours of special features, including audio commentary with director Mikael Salomon, executive producers David W. Zucker and Tom Thayer and editor Scott Vickrey; a comprehensive making-of documentary including comparisons to the novel and the original adaptation; and visual effects breakdown featurette.

Jef Burnham is a writer and film critic living in Chicago.

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