Westworld – yes, it’s high time someone made a series about the late ’80s British pop band… (pardon? It’s based on the 1973 sci-fi movie featuring Yul Brynner whose circuits get fried and he goes on a killing spree that can’t be stopped without great difficulty? Oh, that’s a disappointment…)
I jest, of course. Westworld was a great film, and a swift 88 minutes, and with TV being ‘the new movie’, it’s given another chance to be explored in greater detail. There’s huge landscapes, sumptuous vistas and mechanical hookers, yet lifelike!
Teddy Flood (James Marsden) moseys on into town on the train that takes you from the main base into Westworld. In the film, those behind the scenes didn’t get things sorted out, but this series starts with the knowledge that some of the units are faulty and need fixing, and there are new and improved machines which have more lifelike gestures. Naturally, things go a little ‘ka-ka’ with some of the machines, which is what you were expecting, otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a show.
Westworld has some great leading cast members which shows the production team have attracted some great talent who you’d normally only see in high-profile movies: as well as X-Men’s James Masters, there’s Ed Harris known only as The Man in Black, but coming across as a mean rustler, making the most of his visit to Westworld, Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy – a resident of the town who is, of course, a machine, as we see her being reset as the show begins, Thandie Newton is one of the aforementioned lifelike ladies in my second paragraph, occasional Felix Leiter from the Bond films, Jeffrey Wright, is Bernard Lowe, working behind the scenes, as is Borgen‘s Sidse Babett Knudsen – sporting a bit of a dodgy American accent as Theresa Cullen, while the show is run by Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Robert Ford, thankfully NOT sporting a dodgy accent 😉
One neat line he came out with when describing the nature of their work: “You can’t play God without being acquainted with the devil”.
There’s elements that reminded me of Universal Soldier, plus some of Channel 4’s Humans in there, too, and probably others I can’t think of right now. I don’t want to say too much, but you’ll know when you see it. It’s certainly something I don’t recall seeing in the original movie – I could be wrong, but it has been a while since I saw that.
With a piano player machine in the bar playing Soundgarden‘s Black Hole Sun, and Radiohead‘s No Surprises, plus background music including The Rolling Stones‘ Paint It Black in a Wild West-style, this is the sort of mild updating that the remake of The Magnificent Seven should’ve had.
I’ve also seen episode two and the focus switches to other characters dominating the storyline, but then there’s a large cast to get through. In addition, I’m surprised there’s a fair amount of general conversation between the machines. Surely, they’d spend their time talking to the punters?
There’s the makings of a good drama here, but I’ve seen the first two episodes so far and while it’s building the story nicely, albeit a little bit too slowly, I assumed each episode would include a ‘story of the day’, the second one featuring new visitors including William (Jimmi Simpson – Breakout Kings), but before we can get to the meat of what they’re up to, the story seemed to forget about them. I hope there’s more to come of them, otherwise things will feel a bit disjointed, but then I’m surprised there wasn’t the story arc within the episode for them.
Westworld will premiere tomorrow night on Sky Atlantic at 9pm, and also on NOW TV, and later on Sky.com. The series isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
Episode 1 Score: 7.5/10
Director: Jonathan Nolan
Producers: Cherylanne Martin and Athena Wickham
Creators/Writers: Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy
Music: Ramin Djawadi
Dolores Abernathy: Evan Rachel Wood
Maeve Millay: Thandie Newton
Bernard Lowe: Jeffrey Wright
Teddy Flood: James Marsden
Armistice: Ingrid Bolsø Berdal
Stubbs: Luke Hemsworth
Lee Sizemore: Simon Quarterman
Hector Escaton: Rodrigo Santoro
Clementine Pennyfeather: Angela Sarafyan
Elsie Hughes: Shannon Woodward
The Man in Black: Ed Harris
Dr. Robert Ford: Anthony Hopkins
Peter Abernathy: Louis Herthum
Rebus: Steven Ogg
Old Bill: Michael Wincott
Sheriff Pickett: Brian Howe
Sylvester: Ptolemy Slocum
Lutz: Leonardo Nam
Clarence: Kyle Bornheimer
Bartender: Bradford Tatum
Lori: Lena Georgas
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.