Welcome to WESTWORLD - TV Preview

PrintE-mail Written by John Townsend

In 1973, Michael Crichton directed his début feature based on his own novel. Set in a futuristic theme park where paying guests could get their ‘cowboy on’ opposite robots who would eventually go on to murderously malfunction, Crichton’s film has become a cult classic. Inevitably, at a time when Hollywood executives are on the lookout for the next fan favourite from the last century to reboot as a new feature or reinvent as a television series, Crichton’s potent blend of sci-fi and thriller was always going to attract interest. So, with the confidence of an aging gunslinger, Westworld will swagger on to our screens this October.

So then, what should we expect?

Co-created, produced and occasionally directed by the lesser-known Nolan, Jonathan, alongside his wife Lisa Joy (and even with an executive role for one J. J. Abrams) there is good reason to be optimistic. Jonathan worked closely with brother Christopher on several of the latter’s projects so will bring a little of the blockbuster to the series. His key involvement also indicates that there will be a dark tone to the episodes, which given the potential for some truly horrific moments can only be a good thing. Crichton’s original, while notable for its strong sci-fi ideas surrounding the fear of technology and the arrogance of mankind – ideas the writer returned to successfully with Jurassic Park – was infamous for its plot holes. Given the people involved this new series should be a much tighter affair with the 10 episodes providing ample opportunity for developing strong interconnected storylines.

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From the episodes we’ve seen, Westworld is going to be amazing. The Western setting has been beautifully captured, instantly drawing favourable comparison with classics of the genre. And given the futuristic setting of the world, there will be an interesting balance to be struck as the high tech and polished meets the dusty and old, providing a real clash of cultures.

The final reason for optimism is in the casting. As television increasingly draws more and more acting powerhouses Westworld seems to have roped in its fair share of Hollywood’s most wanted. Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris look to be the ‘black hats’, with the former starring as the park’s mysterious creator and the latter reprising the role of the Gunslinger, made famous by Yul Brynner in Crichton’s original, albeit with a twist. Able support is provided by James Marsden and Even Rachel Wood, with Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright set for key roles.

So then, we have reason to expect great things. There are many, many quality television shows now vying for your valuable viewing time, not least of all a plethora of comic book adaptations and the behemoth that is Game of Thrones. But Westworld looks to be offering something different. If the writers and producers get it right, this series should perfectly balance the sci-fi and thriller elements, while also introducing a little horror through our fear of overly aware artificial intelligence, a theme so perfectly handled in Alex Garland’s Ex­_Machina.

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Westworld could then be the television series to watch in 2016. Make sure you don’t miss out.

Sky Atlantic will be taking you on a trip to Westworld from October 4th.

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