Preview: HBO’s Westworld

Already being touted by some as a replacement for Game of Thrones, HBO’s upcoming series Westworld has a lot to live up to in a long line of great HBO series’. Due to air in October the series is partially based on the 1973 film of the same name. The trailer is dark and atmospheric, the cast is interesting and initial impressions of Westworld are, as a result, promising.

A visitor asks “Are you real?” only to be met with the response, “well if you can’t tell, does it matter?”

J.J. Abrams takes the helm as executive producer and as The Force Awakens showed us his leadership on set is no bad thing. Equally he’ll be at home with exploring the more sci-fi elements of the story. As the early teaser trailer demonstrates Westworld explores a sort of split reality in which ‘The West’ is a dream or simulated reality (a bit like the Matrix,) which is abused by its creators. In the original film Westworld was a sort of twisted theme park. In the trailer we see the ultra-high-tech area from which people seem to enter the ‘Westworld’ reality and we see ‘the West’ itself. Their stark contrast is remarkable and how the interplay between the two unfolds will be interesting and no doubt central to the plot. The question of ‘what do risks in one reality mean for the other?’ as explored in The Matrix, Life on Mars and even the Assassins Creed franchise is bound to be explored and the series looks to use this plot device in a pretty dark and uncompromising way.

In terms of casting Westworld also plays another promising card as Anthony Hopkins takes the role of the park’s sinister creator, a role which sounds like it will fit Hopkins like a glove. As one of his employees tells a new arrival, Westworld has “no orientation, no guidebook, all our hosts are here for you”. The trailer seems to suggest that the hosts are in-fact real people who are effectively enslaved to act within the alternate reality, a shot at the end of the brief teaser trailer shows bodies piling up in the high-tech HQ just as they did in the Wild-West street. Quite what the hosts are will definitely be a central thread of the plots investigation and looks like an intriguing one- another excerpt from the trailer sees a visitor asks “Are you real?” only to be met with the response, “well if you can’t tell, does it matter?”

WestworldEd Harris’ inclusion in the cast is just as pleasing as Hopkins’ though, he seemingly plays a villainous grunt, perhaps the equivalent of the Matrix’s Agent Smith. He’s very much at home in a Western setting and gave brilliant performances in Appaloosa and Frontera, (both of which are highly recommendable). So he’s another part of the casting jigsaw that looks to have been completed expertly, elsewhere though Evan Rachel Wood takes on a central role as Delores, a girl who discovers her whole life in ‘the West’ is a simulation and a lie. Her most notable recent work was her 8-episode role in True Blood as well as her appearances in The Wrestler and The Ides of March. Her character hints at the twisted reveals that lie in wait for audiences when, at the very end of the trailer, she whispers- “These violent delights have violent ends”.

At this stage Westworld looks immensely promising and may for some fill the TV gap left by Game of Thrones, stay tuned to Maverick Film for more updates on Westworld as we get them.

By George Storr

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