Drawn in by the homoerotic display of a buff robot cowboy adorning the cover of Westworld I settle in for a chuckle. I'm quickly provided with one when rather than a genre grinding mind bender Westworld begins as awfully as Death Race 2000. If you haven't seen Death Race 2000, just think of Paul Verhoeven's deliberately corny fake TV commercials in Robocop and you're about there.
"I've had a couple of sword fights" testifies one man. Good start.
Michael Crichton, revered writer of Jurassic Park takes the role of director in this his 2nd feature film released in 1973. Westworld bares basically the same premise as Jurassic Park only instead of an amusement park with Dinosaurs, Westworld is an amusement park with robots playing cowboys. As the customer you pay to live out the fantasy of gunslinging and whiskey drinking in the wild west of the 1880's. Westworld is part of an amusement complex incorporating Ancient Roman world, Medieval world and Western world and we see glimpses of each world throughout the film.
In regards to human nature I think it's interesting to note that the idea of humans using robots to facilitate the living out of fantasies is a key concept in sci-fi (think of A.I., Total Recall, scenes in Minority Report or Stepford Wives) But intrinsic to this fantasy is the fear of losing control of what we have created (Frankenstein, Terminator, Blade Runner etc). Throw in these ingredients and you have a good chance of reaching an audience. However, the western/sci-fi blend is a challenge. Wild wild west and Back to the future 3 have proven that.
Westworld provides a few more laughs before it's tipping point and then doesn't really go anywhere. There is a computer malfunction and an intensely glaring robot played by Yul Brynner goes AWOL in a drawn out horseback chase scene. Okay, so an angry cowboy strutting through ancient Rome with his thumbs in his belt might possibly be the campest thing ever committed to film but it really doesn't go anywhere interesting. The human characters are about as engaging as a conversation with that "I've just done my first pill, what's your name?" guy at any given nightclub. Some shots seem to have influenced the later Predator and Terminator movies but that's all. There's talk of MGM bankruptcy and if you're going to remake something for a quick buck, why not Westworld? With so much potential it collapsed under it's own weight. We'll have to settle for strip clubs and paintball until Westworld becomes a reality. Damn.