Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday Movie Miscellany - Andromeda Strain

Should start off by clarifying that I'm talking about the original 1971 version of Andromeda Strain, and this is definitely a great movie and well worth watching. It's got that beautiful '60s-'70s sci-fi aesthetic - clean lines, primary colors, the now passe but then super modern computers and digitalization. Plot's not too bad either, as far as sci-fi thrillers go.

The pacing's a whole lot slower than what we're used to these days, something I always find interesting whenever I watch older movies. I do think it's nice to see a movie that's completely unhurried in its presentation and denies the modern demand for immediate plot development and resolution. But if that's not for you, check out the remade version done a couple years ago. Haven't seen it, but from what I've read seems like it's got that rushed vibe so common to films nowadays.

In other tangential thoughts about the movie, I really dig the idea of a crystalline based organism. In the way that it's a new unfamiliar way of organizing cellular structures. The downside is that if this sort of thing really existed, it would do some serious damage. I mean, look at how much trouble prions give us (more examples are here), and you have to eat contaminated meat to get them. Imagine how much more trouble an airborne organism would cause.

The decontamination processes in Andromeda Strain are pretty interesting - I mean, it takes five floors of decontaminating to finally be considered clean. I don't know if they're extra cautious because they're dealing with unknown alien super bugs, or if they just thought that's what it took to decontaminate a person thoroughly. Should such a disaster befall us in real life, I hope by now decontamination processes would be way less extensive. I do like all the glowing during decontamination though - it's super pretty. However, I suspect that whatever radiation producing such a gorgeous glow would render subjects unable to have babies afterwards.

One final word on the decontamination processes, and yes, that picture should prompt you to ponder WTF?!? For those who haven't seen the movie, this is the xenon shower. That silver sparkle helmet would make you think that you'd have a awesome time. You might because you get that super pretty glow again, but you end up covered in a thick layer of powder that is your dead skin cells. Ew.

I also need to say that whoever designed the Wildfire lab should be fired. One of my biggest pet peeves in disaster films is poor design decisions that would (hopefully) never ever happen in real life. For example, you don't make a building that shuts down levels to prevent a spreading contamination and then not put stations to turn off the self-destruct mechanism in every place that could potentially be cut off from the rest of the facility. And if you've got lasers to shoot stray lab animals, make sure there's some way they can tell whether said mammal is a person or not.

And the ending spoiler and concluding thoughts: Andromeda Strain has a surprisingly happy ending for a disaster movie. In fact, the disaster itself is relatively minimal compared to the potential damage. For one thing, when the thing had spread to the general population, it had mutated so that it didn't kill everyone. God knows that if we actually had an outbreak of some such thing it would not do us the favor of mutating to something non-lethal. I think Kurt Vonnegut totally had the right idea when it comes to a proper disaster ending in Cat's Cradle.

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