Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Go West

There's a lot of interest in HBO's new series Westworld, created by Jonathan Nolan (Christopher's brother) and Lisa Joy.  The ratings for the premiere were quite good.  But is it worth watching?

You may recall the original movie, written and directed by Michael Crichton.  It's about a theme park gone bad (not the only time Crichton used that plot).  There are three sections to the park--West World (as in cowboys), Medieval World and Roman World--where adults can frolic.  They're populated by androids and the human visitors can do with them what they will--shoot them, have sex with them, whatever.  Predictably, the androids start malfunctioning and turn on the humans.

It's a decent concept, if not a great movie.  The TV show follows along the same lines, though (as far as we can tell) the only attraction is Westworld--a large area (apparently) that includes an old western town and lots of surrounding land.  There are technicians who work underground making sure the park runs smoothly for the high-paying customers, or newcomers, as they're called.  The androids, or hosts, as they're called, are fairly advanced, but sure enough, seem to be having some problems with their programming.

You can see why.  They mostly exist to get shot or raped.  One of the main characters, Dolores (played by Evan Rachel Wood in the best performance of the pilot), wakes up every morning full of hope, but the scenario she lives through each day has her family killed, sometimes followed by her being dragged away by a captor.  Another character is Teddy Flood (James Marsden), a gunslinger who tries to help Dolores. (Spoiler: We're led to think he's a newcomer, but discover he's just another android.)

Meanwhile, there's a Man in Black (Ed Harris) who rides around causing mayhem.  He's a guest who wants to understand how things work.  Well, he seems to be a guest, though who knows what he really is.  He's the most mysterious and least interesting character on the show so far.

Then there are technicians, worried about the odd ways the hosts are acting.  The head man, who's been there for decades, is Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and the top programmer and head nerd is Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright).  They and their fellow workers try to diagnose what's going on, and what's best for the park.

HBO has spent a lot of time (they've been retooling the show for about a year) and money (reportedly $100 million) to get this on the air.  It looks pretty good, but that's what money can buy--the question is does the story work.

So far, it's hard to say.  The pilot wasn't boring, and the story that movie offers has a clear progression--here's the park, here are the signs of rebellion, here's the response.  But how do you keep that going over a number of seasons?  Okay, the androids may be approaching sentience, and may fight back over their plight, but is that it?  Are they just going to keep malfunctioning, while technicians and humans try to deal with it, over and over.  Seems pointless.  (But then, I still don't get how they can keep running from zombies each week on The Walking Dead.)

With the story just starting, there are plenty of questions to answer. One reason to keep watching is to see how successfully they answer them.  Certainly worth further study.


Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I've had the same question of how Westworld could work as a series. Unless we decide the android are not mere things, after one major accident, shouldn't they just all be shut off? Unless it goes down the Blade Runner path, where the androids are sentient, and organize, and can hide in plain sight.

By the way, is "Walking Dead" that different from "Lost"? I didn't watch Lost, but wasn't it pretty much a group of people facing a new immediate challenge every week, while trying to figure out the fundamental solution to their plight over a seasons spanning arc? Walking Dead remains interesting to me because I like to see them try different solutions and then get thwarted and then try something else. I hope evetually there will be a concerted effort to discover what happened, and to see if it can be reversed. It's more akin to the story in "Legend" or "Last Man on Earth" or "Omega Man". These could be turned into a TV series, I believe, pretty easily.

10:04 AM, October 06, 2016  
Blogger LAGuy said...

The Walking Dead is nothing like Lost.

10:28 AM, October 06, 2016  

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