Why HBOs Westworld Will… Er, Should Be Awesome
There are no shortage of remakes and reboots in the movies these days. Every month it seems like another tired property is picked up, dusted off and repackaged without any real idea as to what made the property fun in the first place. And yet, for every unnecessary remake, there are two poorly executed films out there with fun, unique premises that actually could be updated and made better. I’ve been saying for years that one of these is the movie Westworld. Imagine my shock when the announcement came that we would not be getting a remake but an entire series. On HBO. If you’re not excited, you should be.
First of all, I should note that Westworld, the 1973 sci-fi/western featuring Yul Brynner as a malfunctioning android cowboy actually isn’t all that good. It’s meandering, slow-paced, and just really… 70s. However, the reason for this is actually reason #1 as to why this is a series to be excited for:
1. It’s from an original concept by Michael Crichton
Yes, that Michael Crichton. In fact, not only did he write the screenplay, he directed the film. While Crichton had directed a TV movie called Pursuit the year before, this was still his feature directorial debut and the end result makes it painfully obvious. The shots aren’t particularly interesting and it takes quite a while for the actual plot to get going. And when it does, there really isn’t much to it. However, despite all this, the story remains intriguing.
In the near future, an adult theme park has been constructed that contains three “worlds” that guests can visit. Each of the worlds (West World, Medieval World, and Roman World) recreate a fantasy environment where visitors can live out adventures such as winning a gunfight, besting the kingdom’s most fearsome knight, or seducing a Roman princess. What really sells this vacation is that these worlds are inhabited by lifelike androids, making the entire experience seem completely real. Everything goes off the rails though when the robots start to fight back and kill the guests. The theme park technicians have no idea how to stop it and soon enough the androids have overrun the entire park. The highlight of all of this though is the main character being stalked by the Gunslinger android played by Yul Brynner. 11 years before The Terminator would blow audiences away, Michael Crichton tried it first. Unfortunately, he was no James Cameron behind the camera.
2. It’s executive produced by J.J. Abrams
Look, I’m no J.J. loyalist. Aside from Alias, I don’t think any of his television shows have captured my attention except for LOST which doesn’t count because practically nothing that was set-up was paid off. HOWEVER, it’s difficult to deny that he does have an eye for certain things and seems to legitimately care about respecting the source material of projects he works on. Star Trek did an amazing job of creating an entire new franchise while simultaneously not invalidating the previous one and also included lots of fun things for fans of the original series. Also, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about the new Star Wars movie. While there isn’t exactly a canon here for fans of the original movie to be concerned about, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he will be an asset here.
3. Series creator, head writer, and director: Jonathon Nolan
That’s Christopher’s brother. And not only that, he also wrote the original short story Memento was based on and co-wrote the second and third Christian Bale Batman movies along with The Prestige. Plus, he has also been heading up Person of Interest for four seasons. I don’t watch it but I do know it’s pretty popular. All of this is just to say, hey… we can expect some good writing here.
4. Thumbs-Up Casting
The main lead seems to be James Marsden, who is pretty much delightful in anything whether it’s Cyclops in the X-Men movies or guest starring on an episode of Modern Family. Aside from that, we’ve got a series regular in Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins as the creative director of the theme park. Go on and add Ed Harris listed as playing The Man in Black, whoever that could be, and you’ve got some interesting names involved.
5. The Simpsons has already done a parody episode
And it was way back in Season 6, written by the perennial Simpsons scribe John Swartswelder, so it’s a good one. In this, the Simpsons clan visits Itchy & Scratchy Land where the android versions of the cat and mouse run amok through the park. Oh, and hilarity ensues.
You know if The Simpsons spoofs something, it’s got legs. And something tells me this series is going to be worth checking out. Not entirely sure where they’re going with it yet, but I’m willing to go along for the ride. It’s much safer on this side of the screen anyway!
[images from imdb.com]