1493. Here on Station we don't "do" pay TV. Lots of reasons. So when I heard that A&E were "remaking" the classic The Andromeda Strain, without a doubt rather one of the best SF movies to come out of the 1970s, I was actually quite excited, and had at least thought I might want to rent the inevitable DVD.
Well, I've been to the A&E site. I've seen the cast and some of the pictures, and you know, some things are better left alone ... and this looks like one of them.
The reason TAS remains a favorite with me are many: the "ordinaryish" stars; the trippy and otherworldly envrionment of the underground Wildfire bio lab; the combination of the technocratic hubristic attitude of Dr. Jeremy Stone (who, early on, showed off all the bells and whistles of Wildfire as though he were a kid that got to share his toy with his playmates), the curmudgeonliness of Dr Dutton, the irascibleness of Dr Leavitt, and the frat-boy/smooth operator/"dude, what?" attitude of Young Dr. Hall; the snottiness of the communications man in Delta 5; the scenes in the White House Situation Room (which had this air of LBJ about it)...
The original movie has a whole lot of "neato" to it, and a lot of spunk; this was done back when Crichton was still a Young Turk, and has a punch to it that none of his work does now, now that he's resting on his laurels with his brain obviously gone to puddin'.
But this one? Modern, slick, and more 'splodey than the original. All the stars are young, action-hero types; the men are cut and ripped, and the women look like it they haven't posed for FHM and Stuff, they will soon. The fellow playing the Major Manchek looks like he does more gym work than the rest of the crew combined. Dr Dutton and Dr Leavitt wouldn't have been allowed within 15 miles of these characters. With hard looks, hard bodies, and hard attitudes, they seem plug-in and strictly stock.
The lab backgrounds – what I've seen – lack the style of the original Wildfire, which was actually more important than it might otherwise seem. The 1971 film's lab was all curves, calming colors, and austere – it looked more like a spaceship than an underground lab. The raised the set to the level of almost-a-character, as it seemed to stand it for a certain impression that Humanity could always solve a problem with enough technology, given the will and the time (a very 70s attitude) it was also gorgeous to look at, which gave the eye something to do during the movie's tedious parts (the 1971 flick was also straight ahead about how tedious doing science can sometimes be. Not so much asplosion). Instead, we have half-lit backgrounds of unremarkable windows, ordinary rooms, lab equipment backlit just enough. Meh.
Of course, I could be wrong. It might turn out that this new version is really punchy and interesting and has something to say. But in this era of reimagining the classics, both successful ones and failures, it would seem that the trend of reimagining might just have found its shark-jumping moment. As of now, I remain unimpressed.
The 1970s weren't the proudest popcult decade ever, but in this case, I'll take the 70s any day.
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