Westworld Review: Michelle Hates It!

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Imagine a world where you could live out all your fantasies, no matter how vile they are, without consequences. That’s sort of the unintended premise of HBO’s latest mega series – Westworld. Many will applaud the show’s excellent production values while ignoring the glamorization and furtherance of an alarming rape culture. I guess depicting Rape is fine as long as it’s stylized and “has a point.” The saving grace is so far it hasn’t been graphically depicted, at least in the first two episodes.

The 1973 film Westworld was originally written by Michael Crichton and later became a cult classic. This time Jonathan Nolan (Person of Interest) and his wife Lisa Joy Nolan (Burn Notice) teamed up with wunderkind producer JJ Abrams to bring this reimagined bleak world back to life. Grim tidings are cool.

If you could visit an imaginary world and do whatever you want, I’m not sure I understand why people would choose to play out their vilest fantasies in the old west. The narrative push blends the real world science with customers’ individual fantasies and the slow awakening of the Revvies (robots) in the western world. The blending of styles and subject matter at times seems jarring. The structure reminds me a bit of the Assassin’s Creed video game series.

From a pure craft point of view, it’s hard to argue with the world building shown in the first two episodes. The western scenes all look what any old west town would be with nothing that pushes the envelope in style nor cinematography and the “modern” world scenes all take place in a bland, dark warehouse setting that makes the production look more low budget then one would expect from an HBO project. The 2nd episode opens up the modern world a bit, but it’s still post-modern bleakness draped in dark colors offset with over expose bright industrial lights and whites.

There is one inspired scene in the first episode where there’s Wild West shootout done to an orchestral, wild west version of The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black. I wasn’t entirely sure what the point of the scene was. This is definitely a show that requires commitment if you choose to go down this rabbit hole.

Evan Rachel Wood is the wide-eyed, sweet, beautiful blonde Revvie, Dolores Abernathy and of course the only black woman in the cast, Thandie Newton has to play Maeve Millay a prostitute (don’t even get me started on how sick I am of this cliché).  Of course both women are treated as sex robots that visitors like Ed Harris (The Man In Black) can do whatever they want with.

James Marsden is a Revvie that seems to be designed to die in everyone’s fantasy story. Jeffrey WrightBernard Lowe) plays a conflicted scientist who works with his mentor Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Robert Ford) who is showing regret for designing the world and the way humans are losing their humanity in his playpen.  One of the central mysteries of this season seems to be  is someone responsible for corrupting the Revvies programming, or is it a natural progression.

I don’t understand what the appeal of a world like this would be. But then again, I’m not a psychopath. You are literally bullet proof, so why bother having duels or shootouts if there’s no danger? Some guests just stand in the street and shoot and stab the Revvies. As Robots are want to do, at some point they are going to realize what’s going on and they are going to become sentient and rebel against the “visitors” and their creators.

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I understand what the producers probably want to do with these early scenes of Robot degradation. They want the audience to sympathize with the Robots so that viewers will cheer their inevitable uprising on. Can’t the writers come up with a better way to make us care than objectifying and raping females?  I know it’s HBO and they do for purely shock value, titillation and because they can, but it’s tired at this point.

I’m not convinced I’m going to be down for this ride, I’ll give it a few more episodes before I jump ship. The previews for the season showcase the full Revvies rebellion and that gives me hope that the series may turn out to be more exciting and better than the first few eps initially appear to be.

All the scenarios in the world are created by an arrogant, cock sure  Simon Quarterman (Lee Sizemore). At one point he boasts that his knew scenario includes lots of death, cannibalism, females that guests can do whatever they want and be able to live out their most vilest fantasies.  Ford throws cold water on the presentation saying that “this story is a reflection on the writers and not the guests participating.” Kind of sums up how I feel about the show.

Final Grade D