Violence As Entertainment: HBO turns to what it knows best for its $100million attempt to replace Game Of Thrones. 6 reasons why you should not miss Westworld, by Jim Shelley
Tonight on Sky Atlantic sees the UK premiere of Westworld.
Westworld is a bona fide, old-fashioned, ultra-modern, TV Event and the most eagerly awaited TV remake of a 1970s classic since, um, Poldark.
It is also HBO’s $100million attempt to create a new Game Of Thrones, or at least begin to replace it (arguably even more important than the BBC bringing back Cornwall’s most handsome copper-miner).
Scroll down for video
Dare you go West? Westworld is a bona fide, old-fashioned, ultra-modern, TV Event and the most eagerly awaited TV remake of a 1970s classic since, um, Poldark
All shows must die and Thrones the goose that laid the golden eggs that changed the US cable channel’s fortune(s) - will only have seven episodes in its next season before its eighth and final series.’
HBO’s decision to go back to 1973 and a well-known Yul Brynner film directed and written by novelist Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain) might seem a surprisingly retrograde way of trying to emulate something as wildly innovative and imaginative as GoT.
Seeing the first episode though it not only makes more sense but perfect sense.
Set in the spectacular expanses of the Grand Canyon, Westworld is about a futuristic but brutally primal theme park that offers rich visitors from the cities the chance to pay $ 40,000 to go back to the Wild West and take out their blood lust and carnal fantasies on the eerily authentic androids and sexbots inhabiting its bars and bordellos.
Game changer? It is also HBO’s $100million attempt to create a new Game Of Thrones, or at least begin to replace it
A real blood bath: Much like Rollerball, The Hunger Games, and other modern metaphors, Westworld is primarily about Violence As Entertainment - something HBO knows plenty about
So, much like Rollerball, The Hunger Games, and other modern metaphors, Westworld is primarily about Violence As Entertainment - something HBO knows plenty about.
In fact you could say that, faced with gambling $100m to keep its gravy train running, HBO has turned to what it knows best.
Like a mix of The Hunger Games and The Truman Show, Westworld provides a stream of tempting, exciting, scenarios (mostly violent showdowns) that are scripted and staged for the visitors’ entertainment. Pretty much what HBO has been doing for years with The Sopranos, Deadwood, Game Of Thrones, and now Westworld. A bit rich? That is the idea, yes it hopes so.
Ostensibly it bares little comparison with Thrones. You are more likely to see vultures than any dragons and even those will probably be artificial. There are certainly no eunuchs. But like GoT, the story is set in its own isolated fantasy world and dominated by HBO’s usual predilections: storylines about internal power struggles and doomed romances punctuated with heavily stylised, brutal blood-baths, and scenes involving hordes of models gratuitously sitting around topless.
It's an old fashioned affair: You are more likely to see vultures than any dragons and even those will probably be artificial, and there are certainly no eunuchs - but plenty of horses
If Westworld’s ‘comment’ on the appeal of/our addiction to violence is not exactly pioneering, neither is the show’s other topic - a theme familiar from the likes of 2001, Blade Runner, and most recently Channel 4’s Humans.
Inevitably things go awry when some of the androids start to show signs of developing the human traits they have been programmed with (real memories and even a conscience) and rebelling.
This is attributed to a faulty ‘update.’ Whether Westworld’s own update of the 1973 original will also go horribly wrong remains to be seen.
In the meantime, here are 10 reasons why you should not miss the premiere - if only so you can complain ‘it’s no Game Of Thrones’, ‘it’s not as good as the Yul Brynner film’, or that, like some of the characters, ‘it has no future.’
(Warning: contains some spoilers.)
Designed to go haywire: Inevitably things go awry when some of the androids start to show signs of developing the human traits they have been programmed with and rebelling
Westworld is essentially the 1970’s sci-fi Western of the same name meets The Hunger Games with some Blade Runner, Deadwood, Humans, Terminator, The Truman Show, Groundhog Day, and Penny Dreadful thrown in. What’s not to like?
2. THE CREATORS
The series was created and co-written by Jonathan Nolan (the brother of Batman director Christopher Nolan) whose previous credits include scripting The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and Interstellar. J.J.Abrams (the all-powerful overlord of Star Trek and Star Wars) is one of the executive producers, along with the original writer-director of Westworld Michael Crichton.
3. THE CAST
Anthony Hopkins plays the robots’ ageing/fading messianic creator Dr Ford. Sidse Babett Knudsen (from Borgen), Jeffrey Wright (Boardwalk Empire), Luke Hemsworth, Thandie Newton, and Ed Harris also feature. The star of the show though (in both Westworlds) is Evan Rachel Wood as the park’s oldest ‘host’ Delores. The American Gothic/True Blood actress carries the first episode through its occasionally chaotic string of showy shoot-outs and stilted analysis of android mal-functions. She makes Delores the one we actually care about.
One reason to not miss it: Anthony Hopkins plays the robots’ ageing/fading messianic creator Dr Ford
4. THE OPENING SCENE
This sets the tone for the best parts of episode one, titled cutely The Original.
Delores is sitting on a chair, naked, being questioned by the Head of Programming (Jeffrey Wright) as part of her routine check-up.
‘Do you know where you are ?’ he asks.
‘I’m in a dream,’ Delores says simply, sweetly.
‘Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?’
‘Tell us what you think of your world.’
‘Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world, the disarray. I choose to see the beauty. To believe there is an order to our days. A purpose. I know things will work out the way they're meant to.'
This is her mantra, the stock response she has been given. For now anyway...
Even when a fly lands on her face and crawls in to her eyeball she does nothing.
She's a star: The star of the show though (in both Westworlds) is Evan Rachel Wood as the park’s oldest ‘host’ Delores
5. THE SCENERY
Setting a drama series in the spectacular expanses of Arizona and the Grand Canyon was an obvious gift but had never utilised so breathtakingly beautifully before.
6. THE STORYLINE
Most of the shoot-outs in Westworld are scripted, choreographed, deliberately predictable set pieces. Others less so. Their masters are confronted with growing evidence of rogue robots ‘exhibiting aberrant behaviour’ and executing their fellow ‘hosts’ in drunken massacres (for milk bizarrely).
‘Walter was homicidal by design,’ shrugs Wright about the most violent. ‘He kills all the time...’
He assures the park’s boss that as the robots’ ‘core code’ are intact they ‘couldn’t hurt a fly’ let alone a guest – a transparently rash promise.
‘You don’t have kids do you?’ a more sceptical colleague asks him. ‘If you did you’d know. They all rebel eventually.’
For now 200 of the robots involved in ‘active inter-connected narratives’ are beginning to go ‘off script’ – the 10% who received the most recent update.
Some of these, like Delores and her father Peter, have been given what are described as ‘new gestures’, ‘forged memories’, and ‘reveries’ accessed by their creator Dr Ford in the sub-conscious.
‘A hooker with hidden depths? Every man’s dream.’
‘A hooker with hidden depths? Every man’s dream’: The plot is simple enough, but the script draws you in with violence, humour and all that HBO special gloss
Like the Rutger Hauer character in Blade Runner, Delores’ father becomes disturbed by fleeting awareness of his own artificiality when he finds a visitor’s discarded photo of the real world (Times Square).
‘I have a question – a question you’re not supposed to ask,’ he tells Delores. ‘Don’t you see hell is empty and devils are here?!’
When he starts to crack up he is taken to Dr. Ford who asks him: ‘What is your itinerary?’
‘To meet my maker!’ his android answers.
‘Ah well, you're in luck,’ purrs Hopkins typically. ‘And what do you want to say?’
‘I shall have such revenge on you !’ Peter blazes darkly. 'The things I will do, I know not yet. But, they will be the terrors of the Earth !’
Knowing what happens in the original Westworld and the way HBO’s other shows usually go, you don’t doubt it.
Westworld starts tonight at 9pm on Sky Atlantic
The doctor is in: Westworld starts tonight at 9pm on Sky Atlantic
Most watched News videos
- Bulls head butt each other then die instantly from brutal blow
- CCTV captures final tragic moments of Mirna Salihin's life
- Funny Vine by Samuel Grubbs shows guy being brutally slapped
- Brutal moment two buffalo hit each other head-on at village party
- Soldiers attacked by knife wielding man at Israeli checkpoint
- Prisoner appears to headbutt guard moments before execution
- Is this proof that ballot boxes have been stuffed in elections?
- George Clooney is left shocked after finding out about Brangelina
- Teenager screams in agony as she is beaten by merciless gang
- Dashcam shows dramatic outside lane crash on M6 motorway
- Sickening footage shows ISIS shoot and behead 'spy' in Syria
- Shocking footage from 'mass brawl involving up to 100 youths'