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Andromeda Strain, The

Entry updated 7 December 2020. Tagged: Film.

Film (1971). Universal. Directed by Robert Wise. Written by Nelson Gidding, based on The Andromeda Strain (1969) by Michael Crichton. Cast includes Arthur Hill, James Olson, Kate Reid and David Wayne. 130 minutes. Colour.

This film, whose director had in 1951 made the classic sf film The Day the Earth Stood Still, concerns a microscopic organism, inadvertently brought to Earth on a returning US army satellite, which had been knocked off-course by a meteorite; the organism causes the almost instant death of everyone in the vicinity of the probe's landing with the exception of a baby and the town drunk. Along with the probe, these two are isolated in the vast Wildfire Underground laboratory complex, which had been built in anticipation of the need to control contamination from space; here a group of scientists attempts to establish the nature of the Alien organism, and the secret of the two's immunity.

In the end, the real enemy seems to be not the Andromeda virus but, as usual in the kind of Technothriller Michael Crichton had mastered, Technology itself: it is mankind's technology that brings the virus to Earth, and the scientists in the laboratory sequences – most of the film – are made to seem puny and fallible compared to the gleaming electronic marvels that surround them; they have, in effect, become unwanted organisms within a superior body. (Wise deliberately avoided using famous actors, in order to get the muted performances he wished to juxtapose with the assertive machinery.) But any seeming celebration of technology is deceptive – the film, despite its implausible but exciting ending, is coldly ironic, and rather pessimistic, as the seemingly tamed virus, which had already mutated once (see Mutants), may Pandemic-style soon mutate again. [PN/JC]

see also: Seiun Award.


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