Gratify your desires. Is the catch phrase that HBO uses to promote its new western/sci-fi series Westworld. With that one phrase they may indeed have a winner. Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to gratify desires. More than that who hasn’t ever wanted to visit another world or go back to a time that was simpler yet excitingly dangerous? This child like desire in all of us is precisely why Westworld is an instant crowd pleasing, genre-bending piece of pure gold.
This wasn’t really a risky move on the network’s part since their concept is somewhat proven. Ever since Hollywood’s revival of the western with Eastwood’s Unforgiven, audiences have been receptive to periodic offerings of the genre such as 3:10 to Yuma, Cowboys verses Aliens, and The Proposition (An Australian cult classic). There are still enough of us who watched old re-runs of Bonanza and Star Trek to make a fairly sizable marketable crowd to cater to. These previous favorites, don’t compare to the visual wonder that is Westworld, however. The show flawlessly uses C.G.I. to craft canyons, and to make people as well as animals turn before your very eyes into machines. This makes you wonder along with the show’s characters who and what is real?
It would seem that Michael Crichton was ahead of his time when he originally came up with the concept in 1973. His movie, by the same name, was the inspiration for the series, and it is well suited for such a high- tech time as this. The network has set the show up to be knocked out of the park with the winning combination of J.J. Abrams as a producer, Lisa Joy Nolan as a writer along with her husband Jonathan Nolan (yes, you guessed it, the brother of Dark Knight’s Christopher Nolan). Now Crichton, not unlike George Romero with his Mad Max franchise, will revel in the rebirth of his creation.
A huge contributing factor to it being widely well received are the actors the show has attracted. Anthony Hopkins plays Ford, the scientist who pioneered Westworld along Bernard his sidekick programmer played by Jeffrey Wright. Dolores is the longest standing Host, the name given the androids, and is played by Evan Rachel Wood. She is in love with James Marsden’s Teddy, and they are constantly pursued by The Man In Black, none other than Ed Harris. This role is his most menacing to date.
Though there has been some criticism of all the questions that Westworld creates for viewers, I felt that it followed one major tenant of sci-fi and that’s to establish the rules of the world. In the first episode, we learn that the humans who pay to enter the world, called the Newcomers, or Guests, are unable to be harmed while there rendering them bullet proof. We also learned that this is not true for the Hosts, and you often don’t know who is a Guest or Host until violence erupts. The scientists also divulged that there are updates that have not been perfected and this can create variations in Hosts behavior. Just by setting up these rules, the creators have allowed numerous avenues for a variety of adventures.
A true hit gives you just enough answers while still leaving you with important questions. With Westworld we are not left confused but intrigued. We wonder what will happen with The Man in Black, who is intent on finding out how to alter the world he’s paid to be in. We wonder how the storylines change, and what Newcomers will arrive. Most of all we secretly wonder whether or not we’ll actually live to see the day that Westworld is not just a show, but it is an option for us. On a behind the scenes interview, one of the producers described that the show was meant to make you think about just how many attributes a thing can have before it is considered alive. Perhaps the broader, more troubling question the show brings up is the one of how much technology can be used, and be relied on, before we are not truly living.