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Inspired by the film of the same name from 1973, Westworld the TV series is a deeper dive into what is a fascinating story created by Michael Crichton.
The original film, and basis for the TV series, starred Yul Brynner and focused on two guys visiting this amusement park called Delos. In the original film the park actually has three worlds, Medievalworld, Romanworld and (you guessed it) Westworld that was inhabited by robots so lifelike you couldn’t really tell them apart from the humans. The lads go on a wild west adventure, the robots glitch, Yul Brynner’s cybernetic lone gunslinger kills one of them and then goes off after the other guy.
It was pretty influential in hindsight when you look at films like The Terminator, Jurassic Park (also written by Michael Crichton) and that episode of the Simpsons where they went to Itchy and Scratchy Land. It also had a sequel in 1976 called Futureworld and in 1980 an attempt at a TV series called ‘Beyond Westworld’.
Thus proving there is nothing new under the sun right? And I’m sure if you have yet to commit the fact that I’m making it sound like a rehash probably isn’t helping. I know, you’re weighing up your options, because let’s face it in this fast moving day and age committing to a new series is a huge investment of your time, and if it’s shit you don’t get those precious hours back.
It’s such a first world problem isn’t it?
You need not worry about that here, my comfortable and somewhat confused multimedia consumer…
This show is VERY good.
I think if you were into live action roleplay, if you were a LARPer, Westworld would be your wet dream. The ultimate theme park. A playground where those wealthy enough to pay the price of admission can indulge any and perhaps all of their fantasies, free of repercussion and the prying eyes of the outside world. What goes on in Westworld stays in Westworld because, aside from the paying guests, Westworld is inhabited entirely by robots, cyborgs, androids, human simulations, or as the show refers to them—“hosts”.
Like all good video game non-player characters (NPCs) the hosts have a level of artificial intelligence that enables them to play out storylines and react to all the different situations the human players may subject them to. Once your adventure is over, they’re taken back to the warehouse, reset and prepared for the next round of customers. It’s a it like groundhog day for cyborgs.
And that’s what is so completely intriguing about this take, it’s been given so much more room to elaborate on what would go into running an operation of this magnitude, 10 episodes in fact. You get to see the park from all aspects and you’re exposed to all the drama from different angles. From the maintenance guys, to the manufacturers (they have these big vats where they create the robots) to the writers who develop the storylines, to the programmers who integrate the robots with the characters they’ve developed for the storylines, to the passive aggressive politics between the hosts creator and the board of directors and ultimately the experience of the guests.
The story has so many layers, there are many twists, turns and intersections and it is so well crafted, there are some big moments you just genuinely don’t see coming. And it’s delivered by a stellar cast headed up by legends Sir Anthony Hopkins as the parks creator and Ed Harris as the mysterious man in black. They’re closely followed by Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Jeffery Right, Jimmi Simpson just to name but a few. My personal favourite though is Thandie Newton who plays Maeve Millay, one of the park hosts and madam of the local whorehouse. She is electric every time she is on the screen.
Without really spoiling the plot, on the surface Westworld is paradise to all who visit, like I said, they can indulge anything here and use and abuse the hosts as they please and they really do. The AI the hosts have been programmed with is such that their reactions to situations are incredibly human, they laugh, cry, they get scared, they seek revenge, they are equipped to run the full gammit of human emotions, all while under control of their creators and programmers, they can’t harm their human ‘guests’, they’re all tracked from the park control centre and they all have a killswitch.
As a viewer you connect with the hosts and their ultimate powerlessness as they are shuffled around by their human masters and treated like utter shit by the guests. The more you think the deeper it goes, the show raises questions a lot of questions about morality particularly human morality in virtual worlds and what perhaps your decisions in those worlds mean in real life. Is the whole experience of commiting atrocities on fake humans, in itself incredibly de-humanising? There’s also the question around artificial intelligence, as in if a creation is suddenly self-aware at what are they considered an idividual? Where is the line between consciousness and humanity? Where is the line between man and god?
You have to catch up before Season Two starts next year. I found myself hanging for the next episode every week and I think having the option to binge watch Westworld is so damn appealing I think I’m going to quit while I’m ahead and go and do just that.
It really is the best science fiction show I have seen in many years, just wen you think it’s about to slow down it takes a turn that will have you picking your jaw up off the floor, and before you can recover it will sneak in another… Four and a half out of five.
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