When Walt Disney placed The Hall of Presidents and the Pirates of Caribbean in his parks he changed the way people saw amusement park attractions. Sure rollercoaster and Ferris wheels will always entertain crowds but as the years go by people want more from their entertainment, they want to be amazed and thrilled by new things, and as science and technology marches on the possibility of getting an actual park, like the one created by Michael Crichton in his movie Westworld, becomes a closer possibilities. And a dangerous one.
In my review of the 1973 Westworld I went into detail on the viability and functionality of such a park, even discounting murderous robots it seemed rather dangerous, so I went into this HBO update with a piqued interest to see how show creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy Nolan would tackle the problems of creating a park that would give guests a completely immersive experience. The artificial people for this updated version more resemble the replicants of Blade Runner than they do the robots of Crichton’s original, and seem to be constructed by a 3D printer mixed with a milk bath, but the real kicker here is that these “robots” don’t know they are artificial. We are first introduced to Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood), a Western girl being interrogated by Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) in what resembles a Voight-Kampff test from the aforementioned Blade Runner. It seems pretty critical to the functionality of the park that the “Hosts” (robots) are not aware that their world is not real.
Of course it turns out that something isn’t quite right, and that added code in the latest update is causing some of the Hosts to glitch. This new code was slipped into the update by the park’s creative director Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) in his ongoing attempt to make the Hosts more realistic and indistinguishable from a human. Certainly can’t see why that should cause a problem. Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), Westworld’s operations leader, wants all updated Hosts brought into have a full diagnostic check-up, but Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), Westworld’s narrative director argues against this because it will disrupt dozens of scripted storylines and effect they guest’s overpriced adventures.
Robots breaking down and refusing to fall down after being shot isn’t even the weirdest thing going on in the park, that would be The Gunslinger played by Ed Harris. In the original film The Gunslinger was the primary villain, the robot that mercilessly hunted down Richard Benjamin, but in an interesting twist Ed Harris’s Gunslinger is actually a guest, one who has some very sadistic fantasies involving murder and rape. He also seems to be on a journey of his own, which some times involves scalping Hosts, to figure out Westworld and its secrets. How this will all tie into the park’s programming failure is clearly one of the more interesting aspects of the show.
Being this is just the pilot we still have much to learn when it comes to how the park functions, but the things we do find out are as follows:
• Like the original guns do not work on guests.
• One side of the river is for more family friendly activities.
• The park is over 30 years old and is overdue for an incident.
• Management may have ulterior motives when it comes to the park.
• They have a SWAT time on standby in case of robot uprising.
• James Marsden gets shot a lot.
• Thandie Newton is a badass madame.
• Ed Harris gets scarier with age.
• If a corpse is warm enough no one will judge you for it.
Exploring the dangers of artificial intelligence, which I’m assuming will eventually lead to the Hosts becoming self-aware and no longer cool with being shot and raped, is great fodder for a television show, and being this is an HBO series it will all be nicely combined with a heaping helping of sex and violence. So this new Westworld shows a lot of promise, with a bunch of great people behind and in front of the camera it should be at least very interesting, and at $8 million dollars a pop each episode is probably going to look fantastic. I for one am excited to see where this show goes.
Westworld: Pilot (2016)
Show Rank - 8/10
With executive J.J. Abrams in the mix there is always the danger that it could become a bit of a convoluted mess, but hopefully the showrunners have properly mapped things out and we can have a nice science fiction show to fill the gap left behind by Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica.