Monday, October 3, 2016

Westworld - HBO

The original film, Westworld, opened in 1973 taken from work by Michael Crichton, known in those days for his books such as The Andromeda Strain.

After months of advertising and teaser clips, HBO premiered their new much-anticipated limited series. The first episode of the series Westworld aired last night in the coveted time slot True Blood once occupied.

It starts out with background staff of the amusement park known as Westworld investigating some unanticipated malfunctions in the robotic units, known as hosts to the visitors at the park. The action switches to a scene between Ed Harris, playing The Man in Black, Evan Rachel Wood, playing Dolores Abernathy, and James Marsden, playing Teddy Flood.

The scene is a tease. Marsden has been followed by the camera from the beginning, giving the impression he is a visiting guest. The hosts are not able to kill the guests, their guns do not function when pointed at a human being. However in a confrontation with the Man in Black over Dolores Abernathy, Teddy Flood, whose shots were ineffective against his adversary is "murdered." The unaffected Man in Black drags a screaming Dolores into a barn where he shuts the door as the screaming intensifies. Then it's the next morning, Dolores is walking around the town with a smile on her face as she greets Teddy who is all hale, hearty, and also smiling. They have no memory of the night before.

Get the picture? Westworld is an amusement park for the very rich and salacious segment of the human population. When humans come to Westworld, they are free to do whatever they wish to the hosts. The hosts on the other hand may never harm a human. Even the horses, dogs, cows, etc are robotic doubles of biologicals.

Uh huh.  The advertising slogan for the 1970s movie, was "Westworld, where nothing can go worrngg."

In the original, the androids revolted and massacred the guests not only in Westworld, but in two other adjoining parks with similar themes. Two guests, played by Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner, managed to outwit The Man in Black, played by Yul Brynner as a gunfighter in the same all black outfit he'd worn in The Magnificent Seven thirteen years before. He was one of the androids determined to kill the pair. He followed them until he was finally incapacitated and could no longer move, thus allowing their escape. (I fell in love with him when I was six years old and some neighbors took me to see The King and I, the big movie that year. Bless him that man had GRAVITAS...)

From the first episode of the HBO series, I sense this one is going to be much darker, more malevolent than the original.

It's eerie and evocative with lots and lots of completely naked hosts, all shapes, all sizes, all ages. Lots of shots in one scene of unclothed hosts sitting on stools taken from behind, their derrieres unflatteringly displayed. (Just imaging mine displayed that way made me put away the sugar free chocolate!) In the first episode, very little was not shown, particularly on the men. So this probably isn't something for young impressionable children to watch.

There was the usual statement about nudity and sexual situations so trust the disclaimers on this one.

There is also some graphic violence depicted with the "guests" cheering and guffawing as they shoot down the hosts one by one in horrendous, blood spurting gore.

After one particularly brutal scene, I thought "yep, I know where this is going..."

Anthony Hopkins plays Dr. Robert Ford the creator of the citizens of Westworld.  He is seen, an amiable Geppetto, examining one of his creations while he and Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) examine a malfunctioning unit. The host has developed "reveries" or gestures which he was not programmed to do. They decide the gestures may be a precursor to more unlearned behavior, or in other words, trouble.

I have my thoughts on what will happen, but I'll save them for the end of the series. Let's see if I'm correct. Knowing HBO, they'll have some twists in this one, no one expects.

Filmed on location in Utah, the scenery is breathtaking, a true picture of the old west. The wooden town is surrounded on all sides with sand, scrub vegetation and majestic mesas.

Just remember this is the place where nothing can go "worrngg."


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