Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Director/Writer: Michael Crichton
Music: Fred Karlin
Cinematography: Gene Polito
Dick Van Patten
Linda Gaye Scott
Michael T. Mikler
Marrying a cutting-edge Sci-Fi concept with the horse opera, best-selling author Michael Crichton’s directorial debut feature WESTWORLD is a hybrid high on ideas but woefully inadequate in its modality.
In the then-near future (1983 to be specific), those who can afford $1,000 per day, per capita are privileged to stay in the Delos amusement park, which is divided into three distinctively nostalgic, manufactured worlds: Medievalworld, Romanworld and Westworld, peopled with human-likes androids to pander to their clientele’s indulgence of every immoral and illegal whim without any consequences, that is a provocative premise to plumb how low humanity can descend to when one’s action is no longer curtained by legality, but in Crichton’s book, that would be too depressing, so instead, he opts for another direction, what about an inexplicable malfunction (like an endemic virus) befalls on those lifeless robots and turns them to hunt down humans? Admittedly, there is a modicum of prescience concerning our eternal dread of A.I. technology in the design, but little food for thought is left in the final product.
Our proxy in this immersive adventure is the Chicagoan lawyer Peter Martin (a mustachioed Benjamin slumming it half-heartedly), a newcomer to the park accompanied by his friend John Blane (a smirky Brolin in a horrid-looking hairdo), who has patronized the place before and they choose to stay in Westworld, where those classic tropes like gunfights, bar brawl, jail break and brothel-dossing are churned out in a slapdash tepidity (one wonders how come they make absolutely no bones about sleeping with a programmed machine, however their verisimilitude of human can fool our eyes, there is something biologically repugnant here has been crassly glossed over), although the pair do cleave to the “make love not war” watchword when a trigger-happy robbery is alternatively proffered.
The thrill and spill escalates when insidiously and no less mysteriously, the android revolt takes shape in all three worlds, but in the main it centers on the Gunslinger (Brynner), who is programmed to provoke quick-draw face-off, embarks on a relentless chase to finish off Peter, regardless of the damage inflicted on his physical form, a defining forefather of TERMINATOR, so is Brynner’s no-blinking, no-expression stare.
It goes without saying that a Sci-Fi project made in the analog era doesn’t age pretty well for its ingrown reason, especially the laborious pixelated POV which looks starkly cockamamie and creaky, which explains exactly the raison d’être why its recent small-screen reboot is indeed right on time, WESTWORLD is a seam of ideas and conflicts, what we need is some visionary practitioner to mine it proper.
referential point: Michael Anderson’s LOGAN’S RUN (1976, 7.1/10)