I’ll admit that I hadn’t seen Michael Crichton’s original Westworld film from 1973 until recently to prep myself for HBO’s adaptation. I was glad to learn that it’s a classic that still holds up pretty well today, and showed me why HBO decided to remake it into a hardcore sci-fi series and release it in 4K with the Westworld: The Complete First Season set. If you enjoy deep sci-fi, westerns, and shows such as Black Mirror, you’ll want to saddle up and take a dark and often times disturbing ride into this world.
Just as in the original film. Westworld is a fantasy place created by genius inventor Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and his partner Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) where for a nice sum of money, you can leave your troubles behind and have an adventure in the wild west where anything goes. There are other worlds people can choose from, from ancient Greece to feudal Japan, but the show (like the movie) focuses on the wild west themed world. These worlds are populated with super-realistic androids that all have their own roles and backstories that you can do anything and everything with, from sex to bar fights, to even killing them, only for them to be repaired/replaced the next day.
Some of the main androids are Teddy Flood (James Marsden), and his love Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) who just want to live together peacefully but get caught up in trouble when various people come to Westworld and stir things up. Things like going on an adventure to hunt down the bandit Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro), or going to the local brothel ran by Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton), both which seems to place them in harm’s way.
The real antagonist of sorts is the man in black (Ed Harris) that seems to know every square inch of this huge world and all the tricks in it, except for one in the form of a secret area he’s trying to get to. Needless to say, with him going way outside the world’s parameters, this causes some of the androids to malfunction and make problems for Dr. Ford and his team, as well as other secrets coming to light that threaten to destroy Westworld, the people in it, and become a threat to the real world.
Exploring what it means to be human in science fiction has always been one of my favorite subjects, and apparently it’s a favorite with Hollywood. From movies such as Ex Machina, to the recent Blade Runner 2049, this is one theme that will be continually poked and prodded with me enjoying every second of it as I did with this series. I also loved how the show goes into how kind or sadistic people can be with the androids, and how you can see the tension building up on both sides. The casting is superb and everyone fits their roles nicely as well, namely Sir Anthony Hopkins as the brilliant but often troubled Dr. Ford. Thanks to HBO sending me the 4K UHD version, the visuals and audio are the best I’ve seen for a TV series. Everything seems to come off the screen, and the special effects look even more special thanks to the awesome clarity and HDR color. You’ll also be dodging bullets and running from horses thanks to the amazing Dolby sound, which places you right in the middle of Westworld with the proper sound system.
As far as special features go, “Realize the Dream: The First Week on the Set of Westworld” is a nice one that behind the scenes of the show and shows the cast and crew preparing for an epic show. Two of my favorites are “Imagining the Main Title” and “The Key to the Chords” which go into Ramin Djawadi’s score of the show, the self-playing piano in the series that seemed to be a character itself, and how the freaky but beautiful title sequence was made. There’s quite a few behind the scenes extras here, but I also enjoyed the “Gag Reel” that switches up the usual formula by having character do their lines which someone laughing afterwards for a nice comedic touch.
If you love hardcore sci-fi and westerns, picking up Westworld: The Complete First Season is a no-brainer. It’s one of the best shows I’ve seen from HBO since Game of Thrones, features a great cast, even greater special effects and music, and contains some nice extras on top of all that. So hop on the train to Westworld and let all your dreams and nightmares come true.