Westworld (Pilot) [SPOILERS]

Westworld is a science-fiction psuedo-Western mystery drama television series created by Jonathon Nolan and Lisa Joy for HBO. It is based upon the 1973 film of the same name by Michael Crichton. The series stars Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffery Wright, James Marsden, Luke Hemsworth, Simon Quarterman, Anthony Hopkins, and Ed Harris. Westworld premiered on October 2nd. I have been anticipating the series for quite some time, and it is finally time to see if my high expectations can be met.

Taking place some time in the future, Westworld is a hyper-realistic theme park populated by lifelike androids called hosts. Regular programming updates occur, managed by head of the Programming Division, Bernard, the successor to the brilliant and enigmatic Dr. Robert Ford, the creator of both the Host androids and Westworld itself.There are also updates to the main narrative of Westworld, managed by the arrogant but creative Lee Sizemore. Theresa Cullen is the Operations Director of Westworld, working closely with Bernard to deal with any malfunctioning Hosts or other developments. Hosts that are either outdated or begin to malfunction are sent to cold storage. Bernard is usually able to fix the bugs and send them back into rotation. Westworld Hosts begin to experience a number of bugs and glitches. Bernard discovers that these glitches are due to Dr. Ford’s “reveries.” These reveries are subtle gestures Hosts use that make them seem more human and lifelike to the guests. Hosts have their memories purged regularly, but Dr. Ford discovered a way to access them, creating a subconscious of sorts. The updated Hosts are all killed in a robbery orchestrated by the team and rolled back.

Meanwhile, we follow Delores, a Host in Westworld. She wakes up every morning and goes down to the station (where guests arrive) and normally, barring any interruptions by the guests, encounters Teddy, another Host and the love of her life, who arrives on the train with the guests every morning. A peaceful day with Teddy is interrupted by The Man in Black, a sadistic and mysterious guest with a hidden agenda, who spends the episode searching for answers to his unknown query. The Man in Black ruthlessly murders Delores’ father, mother, and Teddy, and presumably rapes and kills Delores. It is possible and probable that guests kill the Hosts, but Hosts cannot, due to their programming, bring harm to any living thing, even a fly. Hosts kill other Hosts all the time. One of the Hosts glitches out, killing several other Hosts in a psychotic rampage. Throughout the episode, Delores must deal with the turmoil in her life caused by the glitched out Hosts and the mysterious Man in Black. Of course, she has no memory of these events after being killed.

The film on which the series is based is a rather straightforward narrative about AI gone bad with hidden depths. Westworld as a series is so much more than that. Instead of AI gone bad, we are presented with an Asmovian tale of the android Hosts and their benevolent and omnipresent masters behind the scenes. Delores is the series’ de facto protagonist, as it seems. You end up caring more for the Hosts than you do about the humans, who are presented in a more antagonistic vibe, though you can understand and empathize with everyone’s perspective. as well. The Hosts have thoughts, beliefs, emotions, much like humans, but they are treated as tools. Peter, Delores’ father, discovers a picture of a guest from the real world, which causes the android to have nothing less than a complete and utter breakdown.

In the film, the robots go bad in a big way, but I don’t think that is what the series will focus on. We are one hour in, and there are already many questions, both philosophical and narrative ones, that need to be answered, questions about the nature of reality, the nature of artificial intelligence, ethics when it comes to technology, and humanity’s reach exceeding its grasp. Westworld is truly a work of narrative brilliance.

The acting in Westworld is flawless. Evan Rachel Wood, Anthony Hopkins, Jeffery Wright, James Marsden, Ed Harris, and Louis Herthum are all great. Westworld has a budget of $100 million. With this massive budget, series creator, writer, and director of the pilot episode, Jonathon Nolan, is able to create a believable Westworld, and a believable future, as well. Subtle visual effects were used to make the actors seem more robotic.

Westworld is as intense as it is philosophical. The events that occur in Westworld itself are brutal, violent, and vicious. The series is as much a straight western as it is a sci-fi. To me, the most important question isn’t what’s going on with the Hosts at large, but what is up with the Man in Black? What does he want, and why is he torturing and slaughtering Hosts to get it?

Speaking of black, Westworld showed off its musical stylings and cinematic flair in one very interesting and engrossing scene. Using an orchestral cover of Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones, the saloon robbery is possibly the most notable scene of the entire episode.

Featuring a score by Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi, the music of Westworld is as haunting as it is addicting; it is another wonderfully constructed piece of the wonderfully constructed puzzle that is this series.

Westworld’s premiere episode had the network’s highest viewer count since True Detective in 2014, drawing in 3.3 million viewers. It is already well on its way to being HBO’s flagship series following the soon-approaching end to Game of Thrones. This excellent revival of an excellent film is certainly a must watch for me, and it should be for you, as well. The pilot episode is free to stream right now. As for any further reviews, I will most likely wait until the season is over to share the entirety of my thoughts on it, I just felt it necessary to get the word out, because this show is awesome and it can only get better.

Advertisements

Westworld: Full Trailer

Westworld is an upcoming HBO television series based upon the 1973 film of the same name written and directed by Michael Crichton. Crichton was an acclaimed writer, director, film producer, science-fiction novelist and physician best known for authoring the 1990 novel Jurassic Parkupon which the 1997 film was based. Crichton was also the creator of the hit medical drama ER, and served as the show’s executive producer. The works of the diversely talented and extremely intelligent Dr. Crichton usually dealt with humanity’s obsession with technology and tampering with the natural order, showing what happens when humanity’s potential with technology exceeds what it is able to firmly grasp.

Crichton’s 1973 film directorial debut, Westworld told the story of a theme park in the near future called Delos. Delos is populated by lifelike, high-tech androids. There are three worlds in this park, West World, styled as the American Old West, Medieval World, and Roman World. The lifelike environment and the countless androids that populate the parks exist to allow visitors to role-play as whatever they would like. James Brolin and Richard Benjamin starred as two visitors to West World. One of the attractions, The Gunslinger, is meant to instigate duels for the visitors to participate in. The weapons issued to the guests have temperature sensors to prevent them from shooting other humans, but permit them to “kill” the androids. The Gunfighter is programmed to let the humans win and kill him, and return back the next day for new guests.

The technicians at Delos begin to notice systemic failures and malfunctions in the androids accross all three parks, spreading like an infectious disease: a robotic snake bites Benjamin’s character, an android refuses sexual advances in Medieval World and a knight kills a guest in a swordfight. This goes against the androids’ programming The frantic tehnicians are told by the Chief Supervisor:

“We aren’t dealing with ordinary machines here. These are highly complicated pieces of equipment, almost as complicated as living organisms. In some cases, they’ve been designed by other computers. We don’t know exactly how they work.”

Eventually, the androids begin to run amok and the Gunslinger kills nearly every patron in West World and lock the engineers out of the system. The movie follows Brolin’s character’s desperate attempt to evade The Gunslinger and escape with his life.

The film recieved critical acclaim and is considered by many to be a cult classsic film; it was the first film in history to use digital image processing to pixilate film to show an android’s point of view. The film recieved praise for its storytelling, with Variety calling the film excellent, explaining that it “combines solid entertainment, chilling topicality, and superbly intelligent serio-comic story values.”

Westworld was followed by a failed sequel and a failed television series, neither of which had any involvement with Crichton, who passed away in 2008 at 66. In 2013, HBO announced plans to revive Westworld as a television series. Despite having yet to see the original 1973 film, Westworld immediately grabbed my attention due to the very interesting ideas presented.

Westworld is brimming with potential. The idea was pitched by none other than Jonathan Nolan. Jonathan is the younger brother of acclaimmed filmmaker Christopher Nolan. He has co-written several of the screenplays for his brother’s films, including The Prestige, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and Interstellar. Jonathan wrote a short story inspired by his general psychology class at Georgetown University entitled Momento Mori. Jonathan pitched the story to his older brother on a cross-country road trip. Though the final screenplay was drastically different than Johnathan’s original story, the basic premise served as inspiration for Christopher’s critically acclaimed debut, the mind-bending psychological thriller MomentoThe original story was published by Esquire Magazine in 2001. In addition to assisting his brother, Johnathon has also been noted for serving as the creator, executive producer, and head showrunner of the CBS technothriller series Person of InterestHe directed and co-wrote several individual episodes of the critically acclaimmed series. Though it started out as a crime procedural with a very interesting premise, the series eventually evolved into a more serialized show around its third season, and broadened it’s exploration of deeper themes and the nature of artifical intelligence, which is when audiences and critics truly began to take note. Nolan is serving as head showrunner alongside Lisa Joy, his wife and former head writer for USA Network’s critically acclaimmed and well-known spy series Burn Notice.  Also serving as showrunner is the Prince of Nerds himself, J.J. Abrams. I am very doubtful his name needs any sort of introduction.

The 88-minute film managed to pack in a lot of philosophical discussion about the nature of technology and servitude in a relatively short amount of time, but that will understandably pale in comparison to what the right crew can do with a 10-hour serial. Indeed, it already seems as though the Westworld series will go much deeper than the film ever could. Headed up by Nolan, who’s entire previous project revolved around the nature of A.I, self-sentience resulting from that A.I, and humanity’s responsibilities when it comes to use of technology, and J.J. Abrams, Westworld very much so has the potential to become one of the best, if not the best, science-fiction television series.

The one-hour drama series Westworld is a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin. Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, it explores a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, can be indulged.

The series will star an ensemble cast that includes Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Jeffery Wright, Thandie Newton, Jimmi Simpson, Ben Barnes, Luke Hemsworth, and Clifton Collins, Jr. With so much talent and star power evident on this project, I would be suprised and a little disappointed if Westworld doesn’t end up being another HBO staple that no one can shut up about.

The pilot episode of Westworld, which was written and directed by Jonathan Nolan, will premiere on HBO Sunday October 2nd at 9PM.