Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden
Mood: If you’re frustrated at constantly being surrounded by stupidity and can’t wait for the robot uprising but in the meantime need a smart and genre-bending show to binge.
Everyone kept telling me to watch Westworld when it first came out.
- Fun fact: nothing makes me LESS interested in seeing/hearing/reading something than being told how much I’ll like it.
If a movie wins a bunch of awards, I’m probably not into it. If Oprah likes a book, I assume I’ll hate it. It’s partly because no one shares my unique blend of tastes… and mostly because I really don’t like being told what to do.
But I legit shouldn’t have been a giant butt about Westworld, because HOLY SHIT. I’m infatuated with this sci-fi/Western hybrid.
- Fun fact #2: paranormal or sci-fi Westerns are my favourite genre, of both movies and graphic novels. I was once told by a useless dickwad working at a comic shop that this genre is “too niche-y”. Yet I continue to find awesome new shows and reading material in said genre, and that guy is still roaming the world as a useless dickwad.
The thing about Westworld is that it was gifted with the writing talent, the acting talent, AND the budget to be amazing, and somehow still exceeds expectations.
I can’t say much about the plot without risking spoilers – and for once I REALLY F*CKING CARE about not spoiling something for you. One of Westworld’s strengths is how it rocks a plot twist.
Here’s what you need to know: Westworld (the place) is a technologically advanced Western theme park, where rich people can live out their wildest Wild West fantasies without the risk of being shot, stabbed, scalped, raped, or killed. However, they can do all of those things and worse to the AI ‘hosts’ that populate Westworld.
Narrators create storylines that the hosts kind of loop through, and guests can pick and choose which they join during their visits. Guest participation has varying levels of impact on the hosts and the stories, ranging from becoming partners on an adventure to being gunned down by a bored CFO.
Westworld is supposed to reveal who you really are. At the end of the day, the hosts’ wounds are healed and their memories are scrubbed clean, and they start their stories over again. Or do they?
Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) is the loving creator of the park and its inhabitants. He has a deep affection for the hosts, but after a couple of episodes you realize something’s not right. It’s that soft darkness that Hopkins can evoke like no other – his voice remains gentle, he never says anything mean or nasty, and he’s almost always smiling… which is what makes the darkness even more sinister.
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is one of the central host characters in Westworld. She’s the perfectly sweet girl-next-door, complete with an endearing ‘I knew you’d come back’ storyline with host Teddy (James Marsden). Dolores’ journey feels so much more painful because of Wood’s earnest sincerity.
But the most fascinating host – and arguably the strongest character in the entire show – is Westworld’s smooth-talking madam, Maeve (Thandie Newton). I couldn’t get enough of her in Westworld. Her story was by far the most riveting, and the one I’m most stoked to follow in season 2. Also, her costumes. WANT. I’m not surprised that Westworld won a Costume Designers Guild award.
- Fun fact #3: Thandie Newton is 5’3. I have a weird trivial knowledge of short celebrities, probably because I’m 5’ and ¾” (every quarter inch counts) and the existence of short celebs got me through incessant teasing and bullying. Want to cheer me up? Throw on literally anything with Reese Witherspoon or Kristen Bell (both 5’1).
Ed Harris plays a character fittingly known as The Man In Black (and mad props to IMDB for listing that as his character’s name even after his identity is revealed).
Like Hopkins, Harris radiates darkness. The difference is that his is extremely volatile, and regularly taken out on the hosts. The Man In Black doesn’t give a crap about stories, or even the Wild West of it all. To him the hosts are just obstacles (or pawns) in his obsession with figuring out the one Westworld storyline he hasn’t yet defeated.
As with most AI movies and shows, Westworld asks important questions about what it truly means to be alive. What, if anything, still separates us from the hosts?
Westworld gives you sci-fi in a way that you totally forget is sci-fi.
I mean, I loved Ready Player One, Star Wars, and that movie where Sandra Bullock is in space… but I don’t watch sci-fi TV series or many other movies. Something about space and technology feels like too much smarts after a long work day. Yet Westworld lured me in with its new take on my favourite long-lost and heavily romanticized era.
Some purists might not like seeing modern people and technology juxtaposed into the Wild West. I think Westworld’s concept is much more accessible than, say, Cowboys and Aliens or a nightmare like Wild Wild West. It’s not the 1800’s Wild West with modern stuff being tossed in at random; it’s an ultra-modern Western theme park, creating the closest possible Wild West experience that anyone in today’s world can ever have. So… it’s plausible AF that a real Westworld could exist.
It’s not that different from what Disney started in 1955, with a massive park full of animatronic characters. You can’t spell “animatronic” without AI…