From the mind of the late Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, Andromena Strain) and based on the 1973 film of the same name comes Westworld. Westworld is about a futuristic theme park populated by artificial beings to make the guests feel as if they are back in the Wild West and it’s HBO’s latest entry to add to their string of first class television. Just as the original movie, this new series is way ahead of its time.
Androids and robots are now words of a bygone era. So let us call what we witness here Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). The concepts of the original are all here, but the underlying themes of A.I. becoming sentient and aware are a much deeper and more psychological factor here than in the original film or even the book. Mr Crichton would be proud because Westworld is ambitious, dark and exciting on so many levels.
I’ve been lucky enough to see the first few episodes, and I won’t be spoiling anything for you here – but what I will say is that there are quite a few damn good twists and turns, and fans will not be disappointed. So, with all that in mind, let’s talk through the seven reasons you need to be excited for Westworld!
The Creators of the Westworld TV series
Christopher Nolan’s brother Jonathan Nolan pieced this together with the help of his wife Lisa Joy. This alone should excite any avid movie, TV, or Science Fiction buff. Jonathan Nolan co-wrote the scripts for The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Prestige, Interstellar and Memento. He worked on writing for the TV series Person Of Interest and here, he directs the first and final episode of Westworld. Lisa Joy wrote and co-produced for the TV show Burn Notice and that show kicked ass.
The Executive Producers
Do I even need to mention what J.J. Abrams has done over the last ten years? Bringing Star Trek to a whole new generation and then showing us he can play with Star Wars just as good, if not better? From creating Alias and Lost on TV, to directing Mission Impossible 3 – he even wrote Armageddon – the man knows how to craft the perfect blockbuster, be it on the big or the small screen.
Bryan Burk is the genius Producer that stands by most of J.J. Abrams films and also in his own right with TV shows such as Fringe, Revolution and more recently, the Steven King series 11.22.63.
Jerry Weintraub has come a long way from producing films such as the original The Karate Kid in 1984 all the way to more recent films such as the Oceans Eleven, Twelve & Thirteen movie series and HBO’s Emmy award winning drama Behind the Candelabra.
You cannot argue that talent! This show is a seriously fun watch, and we have them to thank for it.
Ed Harris plays the enigmatic “Man in Black”. Bringing along his creepy Harris grin. I can’t help but think he may very well be the character that was portrayed by Yul Brynner in 1973’s Westworld film.
Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen, TV’s True Blood) plays one of the show’s sentient characters, Dolores, who finds out her entire life may be a lie. Evan has always had a broad range of acting skills, and they work wonders here. Her role in Thirteen still haunts me to this day.
James Marsden (X-Men, Anchorman 2, 30 Rock) is a newly arrived gunslinger to the fictional Westworld. Who can forget James and his portrayal of the lovable jock Cyclops in the X-Men films? Jeffrey Wright, plays one of the creators of the A.I. for Westworld. Most will remember him as Beetee in The Hunger Games movies and Dr Rutledge in Source Code. Here he serves as one of the many mysterious minds behind the park – what is his endgame?
I want to highlight Rodrigo Santoro in the episodes I saw him in. He plays the outlaw Hector Escaton and brings a breath of fresh air to the screen when he arrives with his fast shooting sidekick Armistace (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal). I hope we see a lot more of him in the show and in the future.
I can go on with stars like Sir Anthony Hopkins, who is certainly the show’s biggest name and is cast perfectly as Westworld’s co-founder. Plus there’s Thandie Newton, Ben Barnes, Shannon Woodward (Raising Hope) and Aussie actor Luke Hemsworth, but I think I would end up being here a lot longer than I am welcome. Needless to say, it’s one of the strongest casts ever put onto television.
Rogue A.I. / Robots
We all love the conflict of Man vs A.I. It’s a real worry for some too; you could say it runs along the same fears as a global viral epidemic. One day I’m sure A.I. will reach the lengths we see in this series, it is only a matter of time. The show plays on that fear marvelously – but it also keeps you guessing. Are they really evolving? Are they truly rogue? Or is this just part of their programming?
Wild West & Cowboys
Who doesn’t love the old Wild West? It was raw and gritty and it took place in a world much less evolved than the one we are now in. Riders on horseback, saloons and dirty brothel houses. It was the time of gunslingers, without laws against shooting someone in the street if they looked at you the wrong way. Even the local merchant could get away with selling illegal Apothecary – basically coloured water sold as a cure for the common cold. Such an amazingly different world that is so hard to believe did actually exist.
Westworld allows us to engage with this world, and also keeps viewers positing the question: What would I do in this “theme park”? What would I do in a world without rules, in a place where I get to play cowboy for a day (for a very substantial fee)? It’s in creating this ambitious world that keeps you asking these questions that will make this show TV’s next big addiction.
This is the thinking man’s modern day Western… on TV!
Large moral and ethical questions struggle to be fully realised in in film, but in a TV series they can truly have the chance to flourish. Questions such as “If we make A.I. to be just like us, is it barbaric to treat them like animals?” are ongoing as you watch the series. “If you give something consciousness and real emotions, is it fair to constantly wipe their memories and use them as a money making tool?” I don’t know about you, but I love these questions being asked, and it will be fascinating to see where they take it as the series progresses. I’m sure they have answers of their own.
This isn’t TV… it’s HBO
Need i say more? This first class pay TV company has given us fantastic entertainment for years now. Big things are ahead for viewers in Westworld and I can’t wait to talk about it with everyone, and see how the rest of the series develops.
Westworld has the potential to sit alongside the giants of HBO like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos and the recent The Night Of. And based on what I’ve seen so far, it is – at the very least – going to be as addictive and compelling as the best of them. So, until you are able to join me and find out for yourself… ‘may you rest in a deep and dreamless slumber’.
Westworld premieres on Showcase in Australia from Monday, October 3rd, express from HBO in the US.
Contributions to this article by Larry Heath.