A satellite crashes down in Utah. With it comes a previously unknown virus which is dubbed “Andromeda” and, as the tagline for this updated version of Michael Crichton says: “It’s a bad day to be human”.
It’s a bad night to watch TV as well.
While it boasts an amusingly interesting assortment of television personalities (I don’t dare refer to some of them as actors), A&E’s mini-series begins with a scene ripped right out of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and grows weaker from there…relying on tried-but-tired cinematic clichés as well as a faithless adaptation Crichton’s novel that only a hack like Akiva Goldsman could appreciate. Ridley Scott and his brother Tony (who served as Executive Producers) should have known better (but of course, I lost all faith in Ridley when he recycled the Italian peplum genre and made a shitload of cash with his overrated Gladiator flick).
That isn’t to say that it isn’t wholly unwatchable. It isn’t. In fact, once you get over the bad writing, sub-par performances, crappy CGI-FX, and the many, many overwhelming references to the War on Terror, Homeland Security, Desert Storm, Guantanamo Bay, and U.S. Politics in general (which is more than a bit humorous when you realize that the mini-series premiers on Memorial Day), it’s easy to find yourself staring blankly at the screen in contentment - perhaps even enjoyment - as this ambitious series goes from being passable to pure camp in its second half.
Benjamin Bratt stars as Dr. Jeremy Stone, the unwilling ring-leader of a group of scientists that U.S. Army General George Mancheck (Andre Braugher, who always seems to get cast in the same role) has assembled and hidden underground in order to find a cure for the deadly agent that causes some people to up and die while others become both homicidal and suicidal (one guy cuts his own head off with a chainsaw during an inspired highlight). Other actors and actresses that stretch the believability-factor by portraying scientists include Christa Miller (“Scrubs”), Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost”), Viola Davis, and Ricky Schroder as a right wing military scientist. Rounding up the cast is Eric McCormack (“Will & Grace”) as a maverick reporter with a serious drug addiction.
As our scientist heroes learn that the government is involved in a cover-up (What?! Never! Who are these fiction writers?), reporter Nash (McCormack) faces a Hell on Earth as the infection begins to mutate and spread (gratuitous shots of animals eating other animals, dying, and then being eaten by more animals are shown every five seconds). The watered-down plot grows thinner as the writer (or “the guy that stole scenes from other movies and stitched them together” as I like to call him) somehow manages to make this made-for-TV wonder even more idiotic (fans of “The X Files” will probably feel the most gypped).
OK, so again: it isn’t award-winning television, kids, but I’d watch this in a heartbeat over “American Idol” any day. I recommend you drink a couple of beers before watching it (or snort some of Nash’s coke).
I give it a C- at best.
Luigi’s Useless Information: Enjoy the scene where the scientists say “It’s alien!” and then we cut to the side of a Mexican food catering van!
Mikael Salomon (director) / Michael Crichton (novel), Robert Schenkkan (screenplay)
CAST: Benjamin Bratt … Dr. Jeremy Stone
Christa Miller … Dr. Angela Noyce
Eric McCormack … Jack Nash
Daniel Dae Kim … Dr. Tsi Chou
Rick Schroder … Major Bill Keane MD
Andre Braugher … General George Mancheck
Magda Apanowicz … Suzie Travis
Viola Davis … Dr. Charlene Barton