TV Critic Hannah Brierley reviews HBO’s remake of Westworld
We’ve had cowboys and aliens, and it didn’t work out so well, but how about cowboys and robots? It shouldn’t work, but it really does. This week HBO premiered their new epic sci-fi series Westworld, a reboot of the original 1973 film. It’s produced by JJ Abrams, who’s already proved he can handle remodelling an original as most Star Wars fans will agree. The first episode is utterly thrilling and unsurprisingly the network’s biggest series debut in three years. If you’ve finished Stranger Things and are impatiently waiting for Game of Thrones, then this looks to be the perfect fantasy series to fill that TV void.
Westworld is essentially a playground for the obscenely wealthy, where they can live out their fantasies in the wild west, however sordid they may be. This often descends into grotesque indulgence in either violence or sex, and after the guests are done, the blood is cleaned up and the robot’s memories are wiped, it all begins again. For the ‘hosts’, as they are referred to, it’s a kind of grim groundhog day, for the guests it’s the chance to play the hero or the villain in whatever sick and twisted narrative they can conjure up. However, as an inevitable consequence of playing God, the robots begin to glitch after a recent update and start retaining memories, suggesting possible rebellion.
The first episode revealed just enough to form this futuristic world, introducing us to the doomed lovers Dolores and Teddy, as well as those that work behind the scenes and regular guests, whilst still leaving us many with unanswered questions. This is perhaps because every storyline is cut short, ending abruptly in an array of bullets and blood – like in a video game. This is much to Lee Sizemore the robot script writer’s dismay, an aggressive Englishman played brilliantly by Simon Quarterman who, in an encounter with corporate big shot Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), reveals there is perhaps a bigger picture beyond the theme park. Other characters working at Westworld include passionate inventors Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) and Dr Ford (Anthony Hopkins), the latter being the man who conceived Westworld, who is beginning to battle with his conscience as creator.
Although I am not familiar with the original film, I’m aware that Jonathon Nolan altered this new series so it focused more on the ‘host’ characters, with Dolores being the closest we come to a Protagonist. This alteration makes the big reveal, that her world is in fact just a theme park, far more shocking and causes the audience to be more invested in the hosts as their world is continually torn apart for the entertainment of the human guests. Although, as a young guest puts it, they’re ‘not real’ so does it really matter?
Cowboys and robots merge effortlessly in this futuristic dystopia, fuelled by greed and humanities’ perverse need to put invention and immortality above morals. Westworld allows the rich to get their kicks without harming humans. Malfunctions are blurring the line between human and host and a bigger, perhaps more sinister reason behind the robots is hinted at. I for one can’t wait to find out more.
Article By Hannah Brierley