‘Westworld’ Pilot Review: Gunsmoke and Glitchin’ ‘Droids in 4 Slices

For those missing ‘Game of Thrones’ like Dany misses her dragons it’s not TV it’s HBO premiered its new series ‘Westworld’ this past Sunday. If the name sounds familiar well that’s because the series is based on the eponymous 1973 film written and directed by late novelist Michael Crichton of Jurassic Park fame. But instead of a jungle theme park filled with dinosaurs and precocious kids we have a Western style theme park filled with androids and horny/thrill seeking adults.

The androids are called “Hosts” and the human visitors are called “Newcomers” and the androids are not allowed to harm them. Let’s see how long that lasts. The show was developed by Jonathan Nolan who created the superb crime drama Person of Interest and has co-written screenplays for The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar with big brother Christopher. So definitely a lot of talent behind the camera.

Before I get into my review of the pilot episode here is a big SPOILER ALERT. Still here? Okay. Here’s my review in four easy to chew slices:

#1 A high caliber cast

It is Sir Anthony Hopkins, thank you very much

The series features quite the cast. We have Evan Rachel Wood (‘True Blood’) as host and sweet hometown girl Dolores Abernathy, Thandie Newton (The Pursuit of Happyness, Crash) as no nonsense madam Maeve Millay, James Marsden (X-Men franchise, The Notebook) as love lorn gunslinger Teddy Flood, Sir Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs, Thor) as Westworld creative director Dr Robert Ford and Ed Harris (The Abyss, A History of Violence) as the mysterious gunslinger.

The acting overall was pretty good. Wood as the lead brought an innocence and vulnerability to her character and Marsden was decent. Newton was all sass and sexiness and Hopkins brought a good mix of eccentric and intense. Harris is the standout though as the brutal man in black who is searching for something within the game. Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games sequels) was interesting as programmer/artificial people creator Bernard but I found the other cast running the park a bit dull.

#2 Back to the Old West

img_0567 You have one of two options: either I’m gonna kill yuh or you gonna die

HBO really put their money where their mouth is with this series – the fantastic costuming, brilliant period sets and gorgeous cinematography show where the budget went. The Old West feels authentic which is important in any futuristic theme park. The bright blue sky and desert mountains contrasts well with the muted colours of the facility. And seeing the Hosts being interviewed or in cold storage is delightfully unnerving.

#3 Flying bullets and blood splatter

img_0568 This is what I call a face off

It’s on HBO so you know there will be blood. For most of the episode this was courtesy Harris’ character. He was shooting folk and slitting that guy’s throat and then scalping that same guy. That’s just plain mean.

But the real gunplay and splatter house came with the attack on the saloon. I enjoyed the over the top bandit and his deadly rifle woman and Madam Maeve exploding that guy’s face like a pumpkin. All good times.

#4 Where next pardner?

Take me on some happy trails

There was nothing I particularly disliked about the show but overall I can’t say that it grabbed me. The Groundhog Day feel of resetting every day did take away from some of the impact but I presume that will be tweaked in future episodes. The plot point of the Hosts malfunctioning and discovering who they really are is interesting but can it hook me for nine more episodes? I am not sure.

There were clues of a greater motive behind the park other than having folks get their kicks, so I will return to dig deeper into that. Let us hope the payoff is worth it. And I will check back to see more of Wood and what craziness Harris’ character is up to.

Rating: The pilot of ‘Westworld’ gets 2.75/4 sexy android prostitutes.

So what did you think of ‘Westworld’? And what other classic sci fi shows deserve the TV treatment? Feel free to comment below.

For my discussion of rape scenes in ‘Westworld’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ you can click here and for the Top 10 Westworld characters you can click here.

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