Tuesday, February 7, 2017

HBO TV Review: Westworld (2016)

Westworld (2016) - Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Jimmi Simpson, James Marsden, Luke Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Angela Sarafyan, Clifton Collins Jr.

By Kenny Howell

With Game of Thrones winding down, HBO needed another tent pole addictive drama to keep its momentum.

Veep, Silicon Valley and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver have the comedy genre covered, but something was needed that provided water cooler talk, and they probably have found it with Westworld.

The series is adapted from the movie series from the 1970s about a giant game world where very life like robots interact with patrons, who mostly just shoot or have sex with them. However, there is a bigger game within the game, and another game going on behind the scenes among the people that run the game.

The production hit a snag early on when HBO halted it and made the team go back to the drawing board a bit. They were still committed to the idea, they just wanted a long term goal for the series so they knew they could get several seasons of quality material out of it.

The first season seems to have set that up, though I am a little unsure where they go from here. The first season almost works as a complete story in itself, following several different storylines to a kind of catastrophic conclusion. The world is run by creator Dr. Robert Ford, played by Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs). He created the world with a now deceased partner years ago. Inside the world are a mixture of gamers and the robots, which are referred to as hosts. One of those key gamers is a man known as The Man in Black, played by an excellent Ed Harris (The Truman Show). He has been coming to the park for years, and wants to find a secret game within the world, the real meaning behind it all. There is also William (Jimmi Simmons), a man making his first trip to the park along side one of his business partners. He gets emotionally involved with one of the hosts, a sweet young woman named Dolores, played by Evan Rachel Wood (Charlie Countryman). Dolores is one of many hosts who are starting to have some weird flashbacks and may be becoming sentient and realizing their true nature.

There are mysteries abound throughout the 10 episodes, as the real motivations and histories behind the characters are not totally clear. What is The Man in Black really after, is Ford really on the up and up, and will the hosts find out what they really are. It is perfectly handled as the hosts' slow uprising builds over the season, and two major reveals (one of which I did guess) are expertly unveiled.

Westworld has the potential to be that next Game of Thrones which will bow out after two more short seasons. If they reach that is still up in the air, because I have no idea where they go to now. The ending is quite explosive and will change a lot. If they can carry that on, and bring something new to it, Westworld has a chance has to be another HBO classic.

The first season of Westworld is now streaming on HBO Go or HBO Now.

Rating: ***1/2

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