Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Jimmi Simpson, James Marsden
If Inception, Back to the Future III and AMC’s Humans had a baby, that baby still wouldn’t quite describe HBO’s Westworld properly.
Empowered by its incredible cast and writers, Westworld is another must-see television show of 2016. Fusing the greatest elements from the best western and science fiction films, Westworld lies somewhere between action/adventure and psychological thriller.
Inspired by the 1973 film of the same name, Westworld follows the story of a futuristic wild-west theme park filled with androids referred to as ‘hosts.’ The first season focuses on the consequences of a flawed update to the hosts’ software. This mistake inspires a season-long debate over the true nature of consciousness and free will. Several action-packed adventures follow as hosts and humans fight to solve a mysterious park-wide puzzle known only as ‘The Maze.’
Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, and Ed Harris deliver exemplary performances as Ford, Bernard and The Man in Black, respectively. These humans spend the season manipulating the hosts and carrying out their various agendas.
The real stars of the show, however, are the hosts played by Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores, the farm girl, and Thandie Newton as Maeve, the saloon’s madame. Westworld is notable for its two strong female leads in place of the archetypal male gunslingers one might expect in the wild west.
Both Wood and Newton deliver some magnificent acting and character development, making us question the difference between host and human. They are, thankfully, the most interesting and deeply explored characters.
Westworld’s one significant misstep is a self-indulgent overuse of clichés, quotes and riddles. Much like HBO’s True Detective, dialogue is often bogged down by floral language and excessive wordplay.
Regardless, Westworld represents a triumph of excellent writing and story-telling. Although Westworld often asks more questions than it answers, it is worth the often-confusing or ‘trippy’ ride. And unlike shows like Lost, Westworld finds its way to clear(-ish) answers and a fully satisfying conclusion on the backs of synthetic horses.
So yes people, drop those pencils and get binge watching!