Here’s Hoping – HBO’s New Take On WESTWORLD Looks, for Lack of a Better Word, Great…

Who doesn’t like thinking and talking about sentience? Don’t answer that. It’s a rhetorical flourish that I’ve just deployed and, now, we are all where we’re supposed to be. On the same page. Now we’re all considering what it means to be alive. What it means to have agency and what that agency means and so on and so forth. The business of being “alive” is the stickiest/ickiest of business’.

I’ve never seen the original Westworld(1973). I don’t know why, honestly. By all accounts, and everything I’ve ever seen/heard about the film, it should be right up my alley or saloon, I suppose. Right up in there, pouring shots of well-whiskey and sucking them back with James Brolin and a killer cowboy, robot Yul Brenner. What can I say, I like silly things. Hell, adding insult to my personal, movie watching injury, it was directed by science fiction author Michael Crichton. You may have heard of him. He wrote a little novel called Congo. Yeah, he’s a pretty big deal and an author I quite enjoy. So, the more I think about it, I’m becoming even more incredulous, even more shocked that I haven’t seen it.

Listen, I watch a lot of stuff and Westworld(1973) is a weird blind spot given the film’s subject matter. It’s about a theme park of sorts, made for adults who want to experience what life was like in the days of the cowboy. The faux western world has been populated with incredibly life-like animatronics, that move about the world, fulfilling stereotypical western tropes, so customers can fully immerse themselves in the experience. Somewhere down the line, the robots start to malfunction and start fighting back against the humans. That’s basically all I know about it, but I always found the general outline to be compelling, even though I always heard the film was kind of middling.

There’re a lot of movies and TV shows from that era with great ideas and mediocre execution, and I’ve always thought that those are the types of things that should get remakes. It’s worked out pretty well a few times, Battlestar Galactica comes to mind, and it seems like Westworld  will be following in that tradition. So there…

I’ve always had a thing for “robots turn on their ‘masters'” stories. It probably has to do with my Catholic upbringing, as I’d always felt I was in conflict with my creator and I wanted to prove my existence by tearing the concept of God down. Now, that’s a lofty way to describe natural teenage rebellion, but it is what it is. At some point in the lives of children, a sort of existential crisis manifests itself. How can I be, what am I, if I’m only a type of automaton? Am I only made to obey my parents/authority figures? It’s one of the dilemmas inherent to the perceived omnipotence of a God.

The only thing that I thought seemed a little odd,which just might just be a marketing tactic, was the focus on sex. I’m not a prude or anything, but if they posit Westworld as a place where the primary function is dudes fucking robots then I’ll probably get bored pretty fast. It has been the go to angle for these types of stories as of late. Ex Machina was pretty good, if not a little reductive, but it would be nice if we broadened that perspective a bit. It’s a show, though, so I’m assuming that that is just part of it. I really hope so. I’m not saying that it’s not a potentially interesting topic that’s worthy of exploration, but it sometimes feels like it’s the only one ever presented. Surely, the concept of A.I’s coming into awareness of their own existence and what that might mean has more to offer than “sexism.” Like I said, it’s not that that’s not an interesting angle, but I’m hoping we delve into some broader “what it means to be alive” stuff.

The cast looks great! I bet Anthony Hopkins’ role is pretty short lived, but his presence is definitely adding a bit of menace and weight to the creators. I don’t know if that is just how he’s been edited in the trailer, or if that’s how his actual character will play itself out, but I’m intrigued, none the less. Also, Ed Harris taking over for Yul Brenner as the man in black, the leader of the robot rebellion, he looks to be bringing his super serious, brow furrowed chops to the show. I’m curious how they’re going to handle these two older actors. Like I intimated in regards to Hopkins, I can’t imagine that they’ll be around for the full run of the series. I’m curious if their presence will be more than just stunt casting, in a way. Will their arcs come to an end by the time the credits roll on the first season?

Over the past few years, I’ve been really into limited series style shows. I find the results of long-form storytelling fare far better when there is clarity of vision; when the powers that be have it all worked out down to the hour. Maybe it’s just me getting older and having less free time to watch endless amounts of programming, but I like to know beforehand how much of a commitment I’m going to have to make and, in general, I find that the story being told feels a lot stronger. It’s all utility and no waste these days, and it’s a trend I hope continues.

Anyways, I’m totally on board with Westworld. I assume you could have guessed that on your own, but, hey, now you’ve been told explicitly. I’m hoping that it will be able live up to the promise of this trailer and send me down a science fiction rabbit hole. Honestly, it’s been years since a good Sci-Fi show has gotten its’ hooks into me, probably Battlestar Galactica, so I’m definitely looking forward to getting into something new!





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