Will HBO’s Westworld series get the same treatment as Game Of Thrones, with lots of T&A, and graphic violence? I suspect it will, but what about the science fiction aspects of the story?
Westworld was one of several science fiction movies that came out in 1973, a year that also saw the release of films like Soylent Green, the animated Fantastic Planet, aptly titled sexploitation flick Invasion Of The Bee Girls, and the silly, poor attempt at science fiction comedy represented by Woody Allen’s Sleeper. Its hard to say if Westworld or Soylent Green was the best of the live action films out of that year’s crop of genre movies.
The film was written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton and produced by Paul Lazarus III, and was about an adult high-tech amusement park called Delos divided into three parts: Rome World, Middle Ages World and the eponymous Westworld, this park was populated by robots that malfunction and begin killing visitors.
It stars Yul Brynner in the iconic role as the Gunslinger, and Richard Benjamin and James Brolin as guests of the park. The film also features Majel Barrett in a bit part as Miss Carrie, the robot madam of the Westworld town bordello. Using the time honored science fiction trope of technology going out of control as its basis, the film was a predecessor of 1984’s The Terminator in its depiction of Yul Brynner as the Gunslinger, a relentless android bent on killing Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin), because of a malfunction in the technology that created it. Nearly a third of the film is dedicated to Brynner’s relentless hunt after his quarry.
The film, widely considered a genre classic, is a simple bare-bones movie that touches on some good ideas that it barely develops as it gallops towards it conclusion. I suspect it gets its classic status based on the primal nature of the story it tells. The story depicts Martin put in the role of hunted prey, hunted by a relentless predator. This is a scenario that triggers our instinct for survival, and stuff that’s still buried deep in our collective subconscious, as a species, and basic to the human condition.
Westworld relies heavily on repeated shots of Yul Brynner’s steely robotic glare, and the menace it represents, to create the suspense and drama it tries to create. Unfortunately, this is not enough to carry the movie or make it a good one.
The film is the basis of a series that will appear on HBO being produced by none other that than the sometimes infamous JJ Abrams, he who reinvents ideas created by others, of Bad Robot productions. His efforts have proven to be a hit or miss proposition in the past, but i am encouraged by the presence of his co-producer on the project Johnathan Nolan, (The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar, Memento) who has a much more stellar record for being creative and a part of productions that show more original thinking and, in some cases, true genius.
There’s plenty to work with here, that the film failed to flesh out, the technology that these parks are based on was barely represented in the film by walls of 70’s style computer banks, old-fashioned computer screens, and a few electronics parts. The robots themselves are never shown as anything beyond being realistic automatons that function like emotionless animated dolls, whose robotic nature is portrayed by a few sparks when their electronic parts get shorted out. I suspect the series will have more sophisticated ways of depicting the robotic nature of these androids, and may even delve into the areas of artificial intelligence to flesh these characters out and make them more interesting.
In the movie there are female robots that function as sex-bots but beyond one scene, carefully angled to not reveal any lady parts of her anatomy, it depicts one removing her clothes. Beyond that, the subject is barely touched upon. I suspect HBO’s version will explore this area a great deal more.
The movie isn’t great, but i am hoping the series will be a lot more engaging with the science fiction concepts the movie mostly ignored, more fully developed. They would have to be to make it into a series that lasts. The series is scheduled to premiere some time in 2016.
The premier date has been announced as Sunday October 2, 2016 9pm. Can’t wait.