Friday, May 22, 2009

Movie Review: The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain
Rated G
3 Slimes
Copyright Universal Pictures 1971

THE CHARACTERS

Dr. Jeremy Stone: Arthur Hill! He is in charge of the team in trying to find out what is going on with the strange virus that has hit a small town. He is a molecular biology specialist. He has an uncaring attitude and lets on that he seems to have a better understanding of things than the others.

Dr. Charles Dutton: David Wayne! He is an expert in infection vectors. He is a grandfather and he hopes to retire to Alaska when everything is done and said. Thankfully, the Andromeda strain doesn’t kill him so he still has a chance at that dream.

Dr. Mark Hall: He is a surgeon and medical doctor for the team. He is the most caring of all the people at the base and he is really only there because he is needed to shut down the nuclear device in the base if the countdown clock ever goes off.

Dr. Ruth Leavitt: She specializes in disease pathology. She is an elliptic and is extremely smart.

Karen Anson: One of the workers at the Wildfire base who serves as a nurse and assistant to Hall while he examines the baby and Jackson.

Peter Jackson: He’s not the person you are thinking of. He is a resident of the small town Piedmont and is one of two of the only people to survive when the virus hit his town.

Major Arthur Manchek: He doesn’t work inside of Wildfire, but he does have a close connection with the operations going on there.

LESSONS LEARNED
+ The government really doesn’t like unauthorized people reading classified documents.
+ Scientists steal dead people’s vans for their own personal use.
+ Government lands are a great place to grow pot.
+ Secret government bases’ walls are painted orange.
+ Paper can make great clothing material.
+ Certain viruses turn blood in powder.

STUFF TO WATCH FOR
0 min – I don’t care, start the movie.
7 min – Ok, I think we have a problem.
11 min – Cooperation? What cooperation!?
17 min – Someone doodled all over the paper.
22 min – We meet again Raggedy Ann!
23 min – Wait a minute! Wasn’t that just…
37 min – Pretty lights…
45 min – Whoa, didn’t want to see that!
52 min – Decontamination is a lot more complicated than I thought.
55 min – He is awake! SHUT UP!
61 min – That was quick!
77 min – What?! I don’t get it!
81 min – RANDOM FREAK OUT MOMENT!
84 min – We established that already, tell me something different.
108 min – I don’t care what they call it, all I know that this is bad news!
120 min – Aw, shut up! You’re not helping anyone!

NOTABLE QUOTES
Dr. Jeremy Stone: When the bomb goes off there'll be a thousand mutations! Andromeda will spread everywhere! They'll never be rid of it!

Dr. Jeremy Stone: Stick to established procedures. Dr. Ruth Leavitt: Establishment gonna fall down and go boom.

THE PLOT

Alright, I’ll start by saying this. I had no idea what this movie was going to be like. All I knew was this movie was about a virus strain that was very deadly, scientists had to stop it, and that the movie was based off a book. That’s all. However, I am quite curious about this film in general and I like the idea of a killer virus in a movie. So, I decided to venture into the movie…

The movie beings with us a getting a fair warning that what we are about to see was very classified and it is now getting released to the public for the first time. Was the film that bad that they had to stop it from being released for a while? Well I hope that isn’t the case.

Anyways, the words “First Day” pop up and we are treated two guys spying on a little town in Nevada with their spy van. They decide to go into the town when they spot like 20 or 30 vultures circling the town. We cut away to a military base in California where the two guys are radioing in their trip into the town. The military men listen in as the two guys tell them that they see bodies all over the town. They report that they are leaving, but they run into something strange and the last thing heard on the radio is their screams.

One of the officers at the base, Major Arthur Manchek, sends a message saying the “Scoop 6” has returned to Earth. I’m going to assume that means a virus has come back. The government then sends for doctors Jeremy Stone, Charles Dutton, Mark Hall, and Ruth Leavitt to help out on the situation. The “Second Day” rolls around and two of the scientists, Stone and Hall are dropped off in the little town that the virus has killed off. As they explore the town, they make the discovery that virus apparently kills people off very quickly, without the person even knowing what happened to them, or it takes time to kill them, driving them mad. It also happens to clot people’s blood and turn it into powder.

The two of them discover the van the military guys were using earlier and decide to use it for themselves. They use the radar equipment in it and it leads them to a place where they find a space capsule that had the dangerous virus in it. Some poor and idiot fool had decided to hope it earlier and release hell on the little town. Before they leave, they also make a shocking discovery, a baby and an older guy named Peter Jackson are still alive! They take the baby, Jackson, and the capsule back to a lab to see if they can gather any information off the survivors and pod.

As this is going on, government officials want to neutralize the area with an atomic bomb, but have the National Guard block off the small town for now. Anyways, everyone now meets at the official HQ, known as Wildfire, a special base designed underneath a pre existing base. Wildfire is where space viruses and similar things are studied. The place even has a self-destruct button that blows the place sky high with a nuclear blast in case a virus gets loose. I don’t know about you, but it seems like a dumb idea to me. Wouldn’t the virus just be shot up in the atmosphere by the blast and it would end up falling back down on the Earth? Do they think the virus will be completely destroyed by the radiation of the nuclear blast? This is a space virus after all.

The only one who can stop the bomb is Mark Hall, because of the Odd Man Hypotheses. I’ll spare you the details and say he is the only one who can do the job because he is single. Back to the story, everybody gets briefed on the situation and they begin the process of decontamination. It sure is complicated and I really do get tired of watching it after a while. They don’t have to show it, we can take their word for it if they just say that they are decontaminated.

They reach their final level and finally begin their research into this strange strain of virus on now the “Third Day.” The three scientists examine the capsule, while doing a couple of tests with animals. All of the tests prove the virus is still there and it still kills quickly, with all of the animals dying in a matter of seconds. They also determine that virus spreads through the air (Could’ve told them that) and that they have found out its size, which is about the size of a cell.

Continuing their examination, they discover a grain of sand in the capsule. Directly on it are small green patches that are growing! The virus is alive! That’s not all either! In another scene, jet pilot crashes a mile or so from Piedmont after flying over it for about 2 minutes. Apparently, the virus is mutating and it can degrade through polymer plastic and skin! That’s definitely not good!

Our scientist friends find out about this and also come up with an official name for the virus on the “Fourth Day” rolls around. They refer to it as the “Andromeda Strain”. They continue their work on the Andromeda, and then they find an actual cell of the virus. Then they make a discovery that this thing grows with almost any kind of energy. It is also discovered that it will grow into a super colony of virus if the atomic bomb in the place goes off! I so knew that the self destruct system was a bad idea!

They luckily manage to contact the outside world to have them stop the nuclear bomb drop on the small town so that virus doesn’t grow. The big problem is that they are stuck inside of the base with an unpredictable virus that keeps mutating and is hard to understand. Heck, when the computer tries to analyze it, it overloads from too much data being thrust at it by Andromeda. Scientists never catch a break in these kinds of movies.

If this hasn’t gotten worse for them, the virus has broken free after it degrades through its plastic case, I think. It didn’t seem that very clear to me. Charles Dutton is trapped inside the lab with the virus and Dutton suffered a seizure! With only Hall and Stone left, they make a discovery; the pH level of blood in a person actually makes a difference of whether or not the virus grows! It can only exist within a narrow limit and if it doesn’t be in that limit, it dies out. Amazing, too bad this is going over my head!

They also find out that Andromeda has mutated into a nonlethal form as well. That’s good and all, but the movie still throws a curveball at the scientists. The final crazy mutation of this causes the atomic bomb countdown to start! Now the scientist has 5 minutes to turn off the countdown before the whole place goes up and causes Andromeda to mutate once again!

Thankfully, after a crazy run and dodging a bunch of lasers, Hall manages to shut down the reactor on the last 8 seconds. With disaster avoided inside the base, the scientists manage to send a bunch of cloud seeding to the remaining Andromeda still outside as it moves over the ocean. This causes the rain to pour, dropping the virus into the sea where it’ll die out. With this, the Andromeda problem is finally over and everything is ok!

Yeah, I know that this wasn’t the best summary of the movie, but it was really hard to follow. The scientific babble and things they do really go over my head, but I did manage to get the sense of everything, so I did know what is happening, it is just hard to explain. It was also boring and I felt the characters weren’t really fleshed out that well, so you couldn’t get a good understanding of what they are like.

On the positive side, the movie was good with some great performances and an intelligent script. From what I heard, it really followed the book well, so that is another thing that it has going for it. The atmosphere was good and you get a sense of mysterious presence of the virus. You don’t know much about it, but you do know it is dangerous and no one seems to know how to deal with it. Anyways, I recommend it if you liked the book, if you don’t mind being stumped at some points, and if really want to see a good sci-fi film without the aliens and space travel.



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