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One Trip to 'Westworld' Was Enough
October 2, 2016  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments
 

Let me be the one writer apparently in the entire TV universe who isn’t blown away by HBO’s new adaptation of Westworld.

In fact, I don’t even like it very much.

Westworld, which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, can be loosely described as a futuristic sci-fi Western that began life in 1973 as the first film directed by the late Michael Crichton.

It’s set in the future’s idea of an action-adventure amusement park, where guests pay a lot of money to interact with the roughest elements of the Old West.

Among outlaws, saloon brawlers and general rowdy characters, the headliner is The Gunslinger, played by Ed Harris (right).

Guests clamor for a duel with The Gunslinger, because even though he’s as mean, tough and skilled as they come, he can’t win the duel. He’s a robot. His bullets can’t kill real people, and theirs can “kill” him.

Nor is The Gunslinger the only robot in Westworld. Besides the bad seeds, there are sultry women robots with whom guests can have sexual relations. Under the direction of madam Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton), these “frontier” women never even have a headache.

Anthony Hopkins plays the creative director of Westworld, Dr. Robert Ford. Ultra-sharp viewers will remember that in real life back in the 19th century, one Robert Ford shot the quintessential Western outlaw, Jesse James.

Jeffrey Wright plays Bernard Lowe, the head of Westworld programming and creator of the robots.

The acting is fine. The problem lies in the story.

As the premise indicates, Westworld operates on several levels, starting with its surface appearance as a lurid and decadent playground for bored rich citizens of the future.

The deeper suggestions start with the robots, which soon begin malfunctioning in troubling ways. As the story goes on, they seem to start developing minds of their own and no longer responding to human commands.

Needless to say, creatures that have spent their lives being shot and exploited may feel little loyalty to or compassion for their oppressors, which means Westworld threatens to become a very dangerous place.

You see the metaphor here.

In the movie, this could all unfold and be resolved, after a fashion, in two hours. The TV series must extend to at least 10, in the first season, which means it has to add characters and subplots and stretch out some of the action.

That’s where, sorry, it lost me. It probably won’t lose fans of the movie, or fans of sci-fi, but there was just too much going on, some of it almost surreal and some of it graphically ugly, including not just physical violence, but rape.

I accept the importance of a discussion on whether pursuing Artificial Intelligence carries inherent dangers that could have lethal consequences for the human creators.

I get the subtle portrait of human suppression and amorality.

But while the visuals underscore the story beautifully, I found myself thinking I didn’t care that much about what happened next to these characters – and in the TV series format, it could be weeks or years before we get a sense what that might be.

Meanwhile, we have a dozen or so stories to follow, many of them cryptic enough to keep the viewer in extended suspense.   

I’m sure Westworld will have plenty of visitors. I’m going to visit the gift shop and leave.

 
 
 
 
 
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2 Comments
 
 
Dan
Lol you really really jumped the gun here. Hilariously off base
Dec 6, 2016   |  Reply
 
 
Dan
Dave, it had me sleeping in about 35 minutes. Way too confusing and quite frankly, who cares about these characters?
Oct 3, 2016   |  Reply
 
 
 
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