Westworld (Cont.)

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Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s take on Westworld has wrapped its first season, and it was glorious. Possibly the headiest and heated first season for any television show, it took great pains to create a meticulously detailed world, only to have it set for utter destruction by the end of its run. Mind you, I may be spoilering a bit here (but no more than I need to), so if you have yet to see the show you may not want to read any further (but you just might).

The biggest mind-blower was the fact that the show, from the first episode, was running in three different concurrent timelines. This was not revealed immediately but was slyly hinted at in details presented onscreen. The casual viewer will be dissuaded by clever editing and writing, but even this was done for a sincere reason — to invest ourselves in the characters, and their motivations. Had we known for certain what we were watching in a more linear manner would have simply made things terse and wanting, the given method truly involved the viewer as an active participant, should the many reddit threads and youtube videos prove to be self-evident.

Secondly, the character arcs were genuinely satisfying. There were relatively few of them who didn’t go through a considerable metamorphosis, albeit some had begun a passage that will probably continue into the next season. This includes humans as well as the aforementioned android “hosts”, with the overall effect being a balancing of the board, so to speak — and an open wake for things to come.

Lastly, I want to point out the magnificent performances of the cast. Jeffrey Wright is simply amazing. I cannot go on enough about what an incredible actor he is, able to take the most subtle and transient emotions his character(s — SPOILERS) surmount and ingest throughout this telling season. I’ve been a fan of his for a while, but he really has been given a role worthy of his finesse with Westworld. Evan Rachel Wood is a revelation. The entire show impinges on her character, and she carries the weight with an even stride. Her performance is effortless and evocative, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next. Thandie Newton is an absolute delight, and Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris do their usual brilliant takes on their given characters. I’ll have to admit that my favorite character is Ingrid Bolsø Berdal’s Armistice — she is so goddamn foxy, missing an arm or not (SPOILERS) — and I hope to see more of her in the upcoming season.

Westworld.

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Way back in 1973, science fiction author Michael Crichton (who had already had cinematic success with Robert Wise’s adaptation of his novel The Andromeda Strain) apparently finagled enough leeway in Hollywood to create a film that he would both write and direct — Westworld.

While not the greatest of films, Westworld had a number of fascinating concepts — many of which Crichton would carry over some twenty years later to his novel (and screenplay) Jurassic Park. Both were based on visions of far-flung amusement parks, places filled with a number of random elements which would end up subjugating their visitors. As Jurassic Park had dinosaurs that “found a way” to mate, mutate and rise against their surroundings, Westworld had android “hosts” that interacted with guests, with some of them becoming independent of their programmed scripts, much to the regret of their human victims.

Again, the film (while a huge fave of mine, ever since I saw it on TV on the CBS Late Night Movie as a kid) was only enough of a success to warrant a dismal sequel, Futureworld (which Crichton had nothing to do with), in 1976, it died a quiet death in the shadow of the Jurassic franchise (which is still ongoing, with the upcoming Jurassic World II). Leave it to Jonathan Nolan, best known for co-writing such amazing films as the Dark Knight series, The Prestige and the source of the film Memento with his brother, director Christopher Nolan, to find a new path in Crichton’s pre-Jurassic footsteps.

Along with co-author Lisa Joy, and fellow producer J. J. Abrams, Nolan has brought a much darker take on Crichton’s concepts. Given our greater understanding of such things as computer programs and Massively Multiplayer Online games (which Westworld is the ultimate iteration of — *SPOILER* in particular Ed Harris’ “Man in Black” could be seen as the ultimate “griefer”), Nolan runs with the given status of Crichton’s original and proceeds to warp and wend it to many new and fascinating ways. The echoes of Blade Runner and Moore and Eick’s brilliant take on Battlestar Galactica are informed here as well, with many new potential insights hinted at from the first episode. This new Westworld is gonna be a barnstormer (and I’m not only referring to what Harris does with Evan Rachel Wood), hopefully for seasons to come.