Flying thumbs down: Andromeda Strain implodes

Yesterday, I wrote that the first half of the remake of The Andromeda Strain provided a fun ride if one didn’t mind the story getting dumbed down into a Lifetime Channel set of characters and the addition of several hysterically paranoid subplots. It at least beat the pacing of the original, even if it lacked the tautness of the science and the first movie’s realism. I described it as a loss of 30 IQ points. Well, if that was the case, then the finale dropped the IQ level to barely sentient in an implosion not seen since Hollow Man.

Note: Spoiler alert. You may want to stop reading if you’ve recorded the show for later viewing — or you might thank me for explaining why you should burn your TiVo in case TAS’ stupidity might infect all of your recordings.

At the end of the first episode, the political correctness had pretty much run amuck, or so we thought. In the finale, we got even more than I thought could be crammed into a four-hour show. A crisis over “vent mining” on the ocean floor turns into a terrorist crisis, but that’s not the end of that subplot. Two of the doctors fall in love when they’re supposed to be saving the world. The one military doctor turns out to be gay, and since he’s the key man, it gives him an opportunity to say, “It’s ironic. The one person the military most fears turns out to be the one they trust to save the day.” Even those of us who think don’t-ask-don’t-tell is hypocritical rolled their eyes at that development, which had nothing to do with anything else in the movie.

But that’s just the beginning of the stupidity. It turns out that Andromeda is a messenger from the nearby wormhole. The message? “Don’t mess with vent mining”. The entire infection comes from our future, where vent mining apparently turned out worse than what the hysterics fantasize about pumping oil out of ANWR. Humanity send Andromeda and its packing material back to the past as a message, based in binary code hidden deep within the molecular structure, to tell us to leave Mother Earth alone.

Of course, no one bothers to ask why Future Earth does this in a way that would kill every living organism on Past Earth. No one in the script conference that created this bothered to ask why Future Earth wouldn’t just send a metal plate through the wormhole that said, “HEY! STOP VENT MINING! LOVE, YOUR GRANDCHILDREN”. Wouldn’t that have been more effective and a lot less likely to, say, kill all of Future Earth’s ancestors? Maybe we could send a message back that said, “HEY! WE’LL STOP VENT MINING WHEN YOU QUIT PLAYING WITH KILLER ORGANISMS! LOVE, GRANDMA AND GRANDPA”. We can send that with some influenza as payback.

The ending provides the biggest unintentional laughs. The military doctor has been designated the key man, the one who has to stop the self-destruct sequence of the laboratory that will provide unimaginable power to Andromeda for mutations. Unlike in the novel, he dies when he falls in the tunnel into a pool of water used by the nuclear reactor, just as he hands off the key that will stop the sequence to the project leader. Unfortunately, the key sequence requires the military doctor’s thumb for identification, which leads another doctor to do a Mr. Spock (Wrath of Khan) and go into the water to cut off the thumb. He then throws the thumb straight up for two stories to the project leader who’s hanging on the side of the wall, complete with a close-up, slo-mo sequence of the thumb tumbling towards the hero as the self-sacrificing doctor dies in a pool of water that wouldn’t be radioactive anyway.

It provides a perfect analogy to the entire movie. The only way this mess should get a thumbs-up is if a reviewer cut one off in protest and threw it in the air. The rest of the ending is fairly anticlimactic, with a few assorted assassinations as everyone starts covering up the government’s role in the affair. Everyone’s loved ones suddenly finds themselves free of the personal problems that plagued them. The President declares that he’ll continue vent mining despite the strongly-worded memo from the future, which makes sense; I’d try to kill Future Earth too, after a stunt like Andromeda.

What a shame. It could have been interesting; instead, it gives a peek into the mind of the politically-correct paranoids who produced this dreck.