Westworld is, in a word, a feast. The overwhelming takeaway after episode 1.1 is there's a hell of a lot going on. The HBO series, which boasts big names behind and in front of the camera, seems to be worthy project for everyone involved. The pilot is immersive storytelling that feels cinematic. The dialogue tells us one thing, but visually, the show is telling us something else. Themes about human nature and the value of free will have already emerged. Westworld appears to be everything we hoped it'd be.
The show is based on the 1973 film of the same name, written and directed by the late novelist Michael Crichton (The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park). Executive Producer J.J. Abrams was always fascinated with the movie and he hired husband and wife showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy to update the story for HBO.
Watching the first episode, Abrams and Nolan's fingerprints are immediately recognizable. Nolan and his brother Christopher (Memento, The Dark Knight, Inception) have been two of Hollywood's premiere screenwriters over the past 15 years and their scripts are typically heady and ambitious. The world-building in Inception is an immediate reference point for Westworld. Likewise, Abrams is another world-builder. Westworld has many similarities to Abrams' biggest hit show, Lost.
While we're at it, we should also credit Crichton, who essentially reimagined the Westworld tale and switched out cowboys for dinosaurs in his 1990 novel Jurassic Park. Crichton's Westworld was way ahead of its time and we've seen its influence in everything from Blade Runner to the Jurassic films to The Truman Show to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where characters wonder if it's better to erase painful memories and compromise free will. This is also the base theme of A Clockwork Orange, which likely inspired Crichton's original thinking.
"The hosts are the ones who are free, here, under my control." Creative director Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) boasts in a preview.
However, the most striking current reference is to one of the best films of last year—Ex Machina. Westworld is almost a weird kind of sequel to Alex Garland's movie, as if Ava ran away and joined the HBO show. Both properties deal with the fallout of man playing God and whether humans can tell man from machine. Time will tell if Westworld achieves the same kind of terror as Ex Machina, but its ideas are just as ambitious.
(I should also mention the instrumental pop songs—"Black Hole Sun," "Paint it Black"—included in the show by composer Ramin Djawadi. They add a strangely dangerous mood to some scenes that enhance the feeling everything is under control, or is supposed to be.)
The point is all this stuff is present on some level in the new Westworld. Abrams, Nolan, and Joy have infused this series with things we love so it stands to reason the show will be a hit. Plus, just look at it. Visually, the series destroys most movies made these days. Shot in Los Angeles and Southern Utah (maybe the most beautiful part of the United States if you ask me) the western vistas are huge in scope and postcard-worthy. But then, the series shifts to the antiseptic laboratories of creative director Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and robot creator Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) which adds a sharp edge to the western dreamland.
Then there are the little things: the hosts spread out like Vitruvian Men during production and dipped in a white substance, the endless rows of naked hosts, lined up like a little girl's dolls, the intricate costumes—especially those of Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) and the Gunslinger (Ed Harris)... Everything equals effort and, usually, that typifies whether or not a show is worth your time.
In the series' first moments, and others throughout the pilot, a fly lands on the eyeball of Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood), the heroine of the story and the oldest "host" or robot in Westworld. She doesn't notice it, proving her artificiality. But, by the end, Dolores crushes the fly when it lands on her. Over the course of the first episode, we witness the artificial beings of this elaborate hoax starting to do things they should not be doing. Are they becoming sentient, or merely "remembering" past personality programs that were supposedly uninstalled, as Ford seems to believe?
This is where the show and the 1973 film converge. The movie cuts straight to the chase as two Westworld attendees discover the robots are doing things they "aren't supposed to do." On the show, the same thing happens but not all at once. It's obvious the writers are going to slowly deliver on this essential malfunction. The big difference is the series tells the tale from the robots' points of view. The humans of this world, the puppetmasters, are the villains.
Overall, however, the series is much bigger than the movie ever was. The sheer amount of characters is startling, giving HBO a fall drama that might be able to match Game of Thrones in terms of nuanced storytelling. A conversation between Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), the no-nonsense operations supervisor of the park, and Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), the narrative director, reveals that everyone involved sees Westworld their own way. Most importantly, she says, Management sees it as something very different. What that is may be the show's biggest mystery. Are the robots breaking free from human control or are they breaking free because of that control? Westworld isn't a simple luxury amusement as it purports to be. It's something much more.
Powered by allindonews.com