Review: The Andromeda Strain (1971)


Nothing beats futuristic technology as imagined in the 1970’s!

Screenplay By: Nelson Gidding
Directed By: Robert Wise

There are two types of science fiction fans, those who are willing to accept any and all science fiction and those who can only accept hard science fiction. The Andromeda Strain comes across to me like more of a hard science fiction story. I don’t know how hard it actually is, science isn’t my bag, but I do know that it presents its story in a clinical fashion that is reminiscent of so many hard science fiction tales that I have read over the years. I am a fan of all science fiction styles, but I do require that the story presented interest me. I could care less how soft Babylon 5 and Fringe are considered, because the stories they present draw me in. Along the same lines, the work of Robert Heinlein also draws me in, because even in his hardest stories he knows how to craft a compelling story. In his prose Michael Crichton understands how to compel his readers, and while The Andromeda Strain wasn’t the best book I ever read, at the very least it was interesting.

I’m not going to get into a book versus movie debate, my example of the novel The Andromeda Strain was intended to show how stories can be compelling even if they are clinical in nature. The movie version of The Andromeda Strain is compelling at times, but then they hit the lab and I tune out. When they are traveling through the dead town of Piedmont the movie is sufficiently eerie, creating the type of dead atmosphere that is hard to create but when done well is engaging. Unfortunately the only time when I was interested in The Andromeda Strain was when it was in Piedmont and moving amidst the dead city.

Technical jargon is a tricky thing to handle, even the best of sci-fi can go too heavy on the technical jargon front and lose their audience. There are whole chunks of The Andromeda Strain that I tuned out because the script went so deep into technical jargon that I didn’t care for what I was seeing. The biggest problem I had with The Andromeda Strain was my inability to connect to the emotionless and clinical approach that Robert Wise took to presenting the material. I never once felt a sense of danger because every second was presented so matter of fact that it felt like I was reading entries in the dictionary.

I couldn’t really get behind the picture in picture approach that Wise went with at times, nor did I enjoy the jumbled time line, especially when it became so jumbled that you didn’t know what person from what time was narrating the story. In the long list of Michael Crichton novels translated to the screen The Andromeda Strain is a miss and an easy one at that. Maybe others will like the technical jargon and the attempts at manufactured drama, but I needed just the little bit of emotion. An entire movie set in the dead town would have been interesting, but I already have George Romero for that…




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