REVIEW: Westworld – “The Original”

westworld-review

The following is a spoiler review of the first episode of Westworld – Developed by Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy

Westworld – produced by Jonathan Nolan, J. J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk, among others – is based on the science fiction film of the same name from 1973, which was written and directed by Michael Crichton. It takes place in a futuristic theme park, where guests – or ‘newcomers,’ as they are called – can interact with robots – or androids – in any way they see fit.

If Michael Crichton’s name rings a bell, then that’s probably because he’s the man behind Jurassic Park – another theme park story. Actually, this version of Westworld does feel a little bit like Jurassic Park – or, maybe more accurately, Jurassic World. This feels like a mixture of 2015’s Ex Machina, The Truman Show, any western really, and the aforementioned theme park films.

“Last question, Dolores. What if told you that you were wrong. That there are no chance encounters. That you – and everyone you know – were built to gratify the desires of the people who pay to visit your world? The people you call the ‘newcomers.’ What if I told you that you can’t hurt the newcomers, and that they can do anything they want to you?” – Bernard Lowe.

This was a really impressive first episode. You really get a sense of the size of the world, The production value is also really impressive. Sure, this is an HBO show so you sort of expect it, but it is really impressive how expensive it looks. It’s also very effective to have this stunning western world – so to speak – in the theme park, and then juxtaposing it with a blue, dark, and cold setting behind the scenes of the park.

Okay, so, let’s get into spoilers here. So if you somehow missed the spoiler warning in the very beginning of this post, then this is when you should look away. Still there? Good. Let’s talk about the title of the episode – The Original. My best guess is that it refers to Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) who Luke Hemsworth’s character mentions is the oldest host in the park.

Dolores was the beating heart of this first episode, and I really did enjoy her relationship with James Marsden’s character Teddy – who I referred to as Cyclops in my notes. One of the reasons why I think this first episode could bring a lot of people in is that the opening fourteen or fifteen minutes are absolutely amazing.

You slowly learn everything you need to know at this early stage of the show, and you do so with Teddy who I definitely thought was a returning ‘newcomer’ for a very long time. It’s a really intriguing set-up with this character, and there’s great payoff in this episode too.

By making him seem like a newcomer – being on board the train coming into town – his later encounter with Ed Harris’s characters seems much more startling. As Teddy desperately shoots at Harris, without being able to hurt him, you start to get the sense of how these robots – or hosts – are being ‘used.’ When another newcomer – on another day – then shoots down a wanted man with glee, a good episode becomes great.

It is elevated even further by the great actors behind the scenes. Anthony Hopkins’s character seems to be the ‘John Hammond’ of the story, insofar as he seems to be the main man behind everything. I always enjoy watching Jeffrey Wright, and he did a good job here as well.

I also really enjoyed watching Sidse Babett Knudsen here. Maybe it’s because I’m Danish, but I really liked her character. I also found it really funny that the Danish actress was correcting the very British Simon Quarterman in one scene. It’s even funnier when you realize that he’s the narrative director.

One last thing I want to mention is a very tiny thing, but something that’s really important to me. The title sequence is gorgeous, and the theme that plays in that opening sequence is beautiful. As is this very addicting show. I’m already falling in love with Westworld, and I can definitely see myself obsessing over it for a very long time. Especially after seeing the chilling end to the first episode.

A

– Jeffrey Rex