The original Westworld film was one of my spine chilling favorites as a child. Who could forget the relentless Yul Brenner chasing down Richard Benjamin through the wild west straight back to medieval world than roman world. It was such a low, trashy, grind house,sci-fi sploitation funhouse that James Cameron decided to remake the last half hour and call it Terminator. So when I heard that it was being remade as a TV series I was disappointed. They were going to take something that never took itself seriously and turn it into a high concept SERIOUS project.
Yes, they have BUT they kept to the origin spirit. So it is a series that looks good, looks fancy but underneath it is still a trashy, eerie, grind-house sci-fi splotation. In fact they have expanded on the story even acknowledge the previous film but not top it.
Now, the series doesn't jump into the main story line that consists of Richard Benjamin's original character. Instead it spends some time introducing the viewer to the Westworld "Hosts" or androids and the Westworld employees. Right away we see that management are opposed to one another. The head manager just wants a glorified DisneyWorld, the narrative manager wants something as sleazy as possible, the technicians behind the magic are just fascinated with their creations. None more so than Anthony Hopkins' Dr. Ford. Ford keeps adding odd bits of programming, pushing the self-awareness factor. Maybe he has pushed it too far. Because the hosts are starting to exhibit little ticks and ignore their narratives. We also see the main techs starting to favor some of the hosts; Ford mourns for decommissioned androids, Jeffrey Wright's Bernard Lowe has taken a fatherly interest in genesis robot, Dolores (played by Evan Rachel Wood).
Of course, the series is part of the whole Alchemical, Singularity, MKultra story themes that are so popular in culture today. The robots are controlled by key phrases. They each have their own handler. There are motifs of mirrors and memories. The show goes crazy referencing all the most popular robot films from the 70s such as The Stepford Wives and Demon Seed.
What seems to be the theme in this iteration of Westworld is love against violence. The first robot to rebel or come into awareness is Dolores' Father. We eventually discover some chilling background information about him. But it also adds weight to his words that everything he is at the moment, the reason for his changed personality, the reason for his whole being is Dolores. It seems that the story about his "love" for his daughter has become all too true and his foremost thought is to save his daughter from "Westworld". It seems that the father may have discovered a key phrase that will save his child.
Dolores is a very engaging character, ever friendly and optimistic even when the worst horrors are visited upon her due to story lines or guest crimes. As each day drags out (about 6 in the first episode), we the viewers begin to get worn down from bad ends that Dolores meets even though she can't remember. It makes you wonder how the Westworld employees deal with all the havoc the guests enact upon their characters. How do you deal with the rape, murder and other violence? We get hints from past stories/worlds that stories included cannibalism, sexual abuse, genocide and more. Even more horrific, children androids are also present in Westworld. In a world where human guests get to enact their most violent fantasies....well it is enough to make you sick that this world doesn't even turn away those crimes. Because it is always real, my friends. The human brain does not differentiate. And allowing your most violent impulses out makes it that much easier to seek out the same in "regular' life.
During the second episode we get further information about Westworld. It seems to consist of above and below ground levels. The guests take trains to the park. The timeline seems to be in an indeterminate future but definitely at least 100 years from now considering the advanced technology. We are not aware yet of how much of Westworld is real and how much is virtual reality. When the original Richard Benjamin character arrives we just get a quick glimpse of how guests enter the park.
On the whole, I like the series. It is a creepy delight, a perfect pastime for the Halloween season.
Labels: commentary, culture, horror, reviews, science fiction, television