Review: Westworld

What if, for a small fortune per day, you had the ability to acquire whatever you wanted and be whoever you wished? In Westworld, this is nothing less than expected, and every man and woman is there for the exact same reason. An escape. Humans desire what humans cannot have. We desire wealth and material goods, and we wish to be everything that we are not. By the time we obtain the things we beg for, our acquisitions are rendered unsatisfactory.

In this film adaptation of Michael Crichton's screenplay, the audience is presented with an invitation to a theme park of identity. For a high price, guests are able to choose between Roman, Medieval, and Western themed worlds that allow them to act as noble or reckless as they see fit. The parks are populated with artificial humans designed to satisfy the physical and emotional demands of the paying guests by simulating realistic combat, romance, and conversation, and it is frighteningly easy to see how these visitors fall into a routine of sexual and violent aggression.

Without becoming obscene, the film conveys the thrills of two guests, John and Peter, who, finding the permission to kill granted by the rules of the resort is too enticing to refuse, assimilate themselves into a western lifestyle. After a shooting incident with Yul Brynner's Gunslinger, the two men begin to achieve a sense of false pride, shooting and "killing" their artificial enemy that appears each day. They become wrapped in the exhilaration of lawlessness, fighting and stealing, thereby conveying to the viewer just how little effort it takes for mankind to slip into savagery.

While Westworld remains a classic science fiction film, it is also bound by the technology of its time. The idea of a futuristic world in the seventies is clearly not how we envision our future today, yet the film subtly touches on concepts of raw human nature and chaos as the park's robots begin to malfunction. It is the mere suggestion of this fantasy that opens the audience's eyes as to just how far the consequences of a world like this could extend. This idea of chaos theory was explored almost twenty years later in Michael Crichton's novel, Jurassic Park, in which an artificial prehistoric world likewise collapses around its human creators.

By the end of the film we are left with the impression of an unsettling human truth concealed within a colorful set and a campy mandolin soundtrack. It is delightfully effective in its delivery, leaving the audience wanting to know just how degenerate a scenario like this could become when explored at length and when not bound by a motion picture rating system. More than forty years later, HBO has decided to do exactly that. Producers J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan plan the series to be an in depth tale of the world from the perspective of the artificial humans, describing the first season to begin a "dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin." Premiering on October 2nd, 2016, HBO's Westworld is set to test the limits of this science fiction classic in a modern time that knows no boundaries.