‘Westworld’ ambitiously reboots sci-fi thriller into HBO series
At the same time, the “guests” — most of whom pursued fantasies that involved good guys in Crichton’s take — now revel in wearing black hats. That includes Ed Harris, a frequent visitor whose barbaric tastes hint at a deeper, more nefarious motivation, still vague after previewing four episodes.
In fact, there are a lot of mysteries that the writers of “Westworld” appear in no hurry to disgorge. There’s also a genuine all-star cast of a caliber only HBO could likely lure to TV, including Anthony Hopkins as the facility’s eccentric founder, Jeffrey Wright as his chief programmer, and Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton as “hosts” who seem to be retaining memories in a manner that’s more than just a glitch.
Flipping the concept on its head brings a subversive quality to the show, leading the viewer toward identifying with the machines, whose rising consciousness creates the prospect of rebelling against their abusive overlords.
The actors, certainly, master blurring the line between who’s fake and who’s real. Even so, the program’s unorthodox perspective proves intellectually engaging and emotionally chilly, and at times the show’s internal logic seems a little twitchy too.
Notably, very little is exposed or discussed about the world beyond the park. But the wealthy that come to play cowboy revel in behaving badly, exploring the heinous things people do commit if they knew they could get away with murder.
At its core, “Westworld” — whose premiere was delayed due to production complications — contemplates what makes us human as technology makes more and more marvels that were once the stuff of science fiction possible.
“We practice witchcraft,” Hopkins’ character says at one point. “We create life itself out of chaos.”
Handsomely produced, there’s certainly enough here to sustain interest and curiosity, without fully cementing the show’s must-watch status just yet.
“Westworld” premieres October 2 at 9 p.m. on HBO.
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