The original Westworld was a pretty simple bit of business. We follow a couple of men as they go on vacation at the best theme park in the world and something goes wrong. There was very little depth, the last half of the film was one long chase scene. And a slow chase at that.
HBO and J.J. Abrams have taken Michael Crichton’s basic idea of an interactive Disneyland and expanded it to include subtle motivations for the characters, both human and machine. In a nice twist, we find a few characters in reverse roles. Instead of an evil robot, we have a few evil humans. If Crichton’s Westworld was like visiting Gunsmoke, HBO’s Westworld is like visiting Unforgiven. Or maybe the Hateful Eight.
There is a lot of nudity and violence, but both of them are presented in a casual and commonplace fashion. There isn’t much titillation in a bunch of naked old folks and extras standing around. The exploding blood packs also seem to be designed to be so over the top that they aren’t so much shocking as baffling. At one point our super villain has drained three buckets of blood from his hapless victim. Where did he get the buckets? There is a bit of sex here and there, and one rape scene that happens off camera.
The deeper question in Westworld is one of right and wrong. Should the robots have rights? Should people pay for the privilege of having sex and/or murdering robots. The twist in the tale is that the humans are the evil in the park, not the robots.
This is a question dealt with often and well in Star Trek The Next Generation, where Data was often confronted with people who didn’t want to admit that a machine could be a person. So when there’s a new software update and the machines start feeling and acting more human, then we have a problem.
There was a lot going on in the first episode of Westworld. A lot of setting things up and preparing us for what is to come. The show looks amazing. There were a few clunky scenes where the lifeless blanks transition into living things, but otherwise the effects were flawless. The acting was good with Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, and Evan Rachel Wood playing the most important characters of Park Creator, Gunslinger, and Robot With a Heart.
The music was pretty damned amazing. A very cool player piano version of Black Old Sun, a nice slow version of Paint It Black, and an sad song by Johnny Cash as the credits rolled.
Westworld is off to a good start.