Westworld (1973)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

After watching the first episode of the new HBO series, I decided it was time to revisit Michael Crichton’s original. Yes, the man who just can’t get enough of writing about theme parks gone rogue penned both Westworld and the source material for Jurassic Park.

The premise of the movie is this: in 1983, a theme park called Delos offers guest their choice of one of a kind experiences. They can chose from Medieval world, Roman world, or the titular Westworld. Once there, they can indulge in their every fantasy because most of the people in the park are robots. Totally killable, sexable robots. And in the third act, all those sexy killer robots start, well, killing the guests…all sexy like.

The story follows two tourists, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin, who upon entering Westworld came toe to toe with The Man in Black, a gunslinger played by Yul Brynner, who’s pretty much playing a robot version of his character from The Magnificent Seven. Once the robots lose their shit, The Man in Black turns terminator and starts hunting the pair. Fun fact, Arnold based his performance in Terminator on Yul Brynner’s gunslinger. You can tell.

This movie does not stack up well against the new series. With all respect to Michael Crichton as a writer, the concept of the film isn’t all that thought out. The whole thing with these parks is that no one is supposed to get hurt, but Westworld has a triggered event where the robots start a bar fight, throwing the protagonist through break away walls, punching them in the jaws. And that’s before they go crazy. Last I check, getting hit in the face with a fist full of steel doesn’t feel good. Also, the whole concept of Delos kinda weights down the story.

The series focuses solely on Westworld. There are no other worlds to the park, just endless West. This opens up the story to be larger because of the smaller set. In the original, they spend almost as much time in Medieval world as they do Westworld which takes away from all the cool cowboy stuff they could be showing. I get why there are multiple worlds in the original: Crichton develops this idea of a spreading virus as a cause for the roguishness which moves haphazardly from park section to park section, flying just under the operators radar (they didn’t think it was a big deal till it was too late). Delos, as a concept, just weights the story down.

I like to picture the new series as sort of a sequel to Westworld (1973). Ed Harris’points out that the park has been going for at least 30 years, which lines up with the 1983 date. It’s like after the incident, they scraped the other two parks and just ran wild with Westword. Too bad that theory is torpedoed by the 1976 follow up Futureworld, where Delos builds another self explanatory park. So the series is more like a sequel to the original if the original had gotten it right the first time around.

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