Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Andromeda Strain

I watched the 2008 remake of the movie adaptation of Michael Crichton's 1969 bestseller of the same title, The Andromeda Strain, a couple of weeks ago. Unlike the original 1970 screenplay, the 2008 version is a 2-part made-for-TV adaptation. Part 1 was pretty interesting and kept me glued on to my seat and couldn't wait how things unfold in Part 2. Part 2 was ok although there were lots of things that did not make sense (why did the Chinese doctor die after cutting Hall's finger and throwing it to Stone?).

Since I couldn't figure out some parts of the movie, I googled the web for some comments or explanations. I came up with some pretty bad reviews of the 2008 version from people who have watched the "classic" 1970 version. I'm not much of a classic movie person (no, I don't watch Turner Classic Movie channel). But the reviewers were ranting how the 2008 version failed to live up to the suspense and drama of the original. So this got me curious enough to try and download a copy of the 1970 version from BitTorrent.

Well, I finally watched the 1970 version tonight and ... well, it was pretty darn boring! 1970's acting is pretty lame. Understandably, the effects and props are very corny by today's standards. But I did not find the story-telling portion any more compelling than the 2008. In fact, I almost fell asleep watching it.

Given that the novel was originally written in 1969, the 2008 version had to do with a lot of improvisation to make it in tune more with current events -- like having a Department of Homeland Security, references to the 21st century war on terrorism by the US, etc. Whereas the original 1970 movie (and probably the 1969 book) never really explained where the virus came from other than it was just snagged off by a satellite in outer space, the 2008 version tried to explain it as -- get this: a virus sent from the future through a wormhole, as some sort of warning to the past from destroying a deep sea species called Bacillus Infernus (very Star Trek-ish). The habitat of this bacteria is apparently at risk with the US President's backing of a private company that is doing some sort of deep sea mining.

The 2008 version also made references to the structure of the object brought home by the satellite as being that of a buckyball. Buckyballs were not discovered until 1985, so its definitely a new addition to the story line.

This is not to say that I'm arguing the 2008 version is great. It has too many subplots which ended nowhere -- like the psychologically troubled wife of Dr. Stone (in the 1971 movie, Dr. Stone was married to a senator's daughter); the rebellious son; the takeover of the drilling platform by the "Greenpeace"-like group. The cast of characters led by Benjamin Bratt as Dr. Jeremy Stone mirrors that of the original. But aside from Stone and Hall, the rest of the characters seem totally different. The 2008 version is definitely more "politically correct" -- having a black, more women, an Asian, and a gay man (playing Hall).

Former child actor Ricky Schroder played the character of Hall, which the novel kept mentioning as fulfililng the Odd Man Theory. The theory basically states that single men are most likely to make the best decision in a dire (nuclear) situation, as opposed to, women or married men. The 2008 version mentions it and gives a quick definition to get it out of the way. The 1970 version kept mentioning it so many times, until it was finally explained by one of the characters after like half a dozen times later. Very dragging. The 2008 twist of the "odd man" being gay was also new.

The way the virus got "defeated" was also different in both movies. I don't want to provide a spoiler here so for those of you interested in how either or both ended, you can watch both versions. :)

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