with “Westworld” goes way back. I watched it, or at least some of it in my
early childhood and it scared or disturbed me so badly that I never went back.
Even in adult life I have had the idea that this was an uncomfortable movie and
so I have not even watched the HBO reboot of it.
is the first of my off-List movies of 1973 and I am very happy that I faced my
demons because, lo and behold, this is an excellent movie and truly one I
should have been watching several times over the years.
takes place in a not-too-distant future where a company called Delos has
created the ultimate theme park. They have recreated three historical settings,
the Roman world, the medieval world and the old West, and submerge the guests
into them as if they were living in that setting. Sort of time travel as a
holiday resort or ultimate roleplaying. To bring these worlds alive Delos has
populated them with very lifelike robots. They are almost indistinguishable from
humans and are so complicated that they needed computers to create them
(meaning that no human fully understand how they work).
park has become incredibly popular with affluent adults and we are following
two of these guests on their visit to Westworld: Peter Martin (Richard
Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin). Everything is awesome as they suspend
themselves into this reconstructed historic world. They get to experience all
the Western tropes: lusty barmaids, saloon fights, escape from prison with
dynamite and gunfights. The gunfight in particular is convincing. A particular
robot, labelled Gunslinger (Yul Brynner) is specialized in provoking duels and
Peter Martin gets to shoot him twice. It is perfectly safe, the robots are
programmed not to harm humans.
something is happening to them. They are starting to deviate from their
programming and become more… human. A concern is slowly becoming a worry, but
before the operating staff can do anything about it the robots are in open
rebellion. We see how in both the Roman and Medieval world the guests are being
butchered and now the Gunslinger means business and duels become deadly. Will
any guest get out of this alive?
was a very well-known author, most famously the writer of “Jurassic Park”. What
I did not know is that he also directed a number of his stories and “Westworld”
was his directorial debut. There are in fact a lot of parallels to “Jurrasic Park”,
but also “Bladerunner” and “The Terminator” reference back to Westworld and
they are not Crichton stories.
was interested in technology getting out of control. In “Westworld” Delos
thought they could control robots, in “Jurassic Park” it was dinosaurs. The
creatures evolve and what was supposed to be safe becomes very dangerous. As in
“Bladerunner” (or “Does Androids Dream of Electrical Sheep?”) the boundary
between robots and humans get blurry and the robots start challenging their
makers. There is a very philosophical angle to this movie and I got the
impression that the HBO reboot spends a lot of energy on this question.
But this is
also an action movie. Once the robots take control of their own “lives”,
Westworld becomes a very dangerous place to be. There is a chase with the gunslinger
that was definitely the inspiration for The Terminator chase in the movie of
that name. The end scene is almost a clone.
It is a
movie that keeps a good pace and it never grows boring, but the most amazing
thing is how modern it all looks. There is nothing clunky about these robots. There
are even very early computer graphics (the pixelated vision of the Gunslinger).
Sure, the computers running the theme park are big industrial things, but not
distractingly so. But most of all the ending feels very modern. Our hero may
have gotten a respite, but he is not out of the woods and it is a very
uncertain future he is looking into.
I very much
enjoyed watching “Westworld”, it is one of the best movies I have watched
lately and the production value is top notch. In an age where the discussion of
AI’s has returned, this is a movie that is surprisingly relevant even today.