Monday, April 30, 2018

(TV SERIES) Westworld Season 1 - A Great Science Fiction Original Series from HBO

I have known about this series since it was promoted and premiered in HBO almost 2 years ago. As usual, I would like to binge-watch a series when it was already completed for the whole season. But somehow this one eluded me and I completely forgotten about its existence until 2 or 3 weeks ago when I saw the promotion by HBO for the second season. So when I got the chance, I immediately set my time for a marathon of the first season. Well let us move on to the series itself now.

Brief Story Line

Westworld was a Wild-West themed park where people can enter it by paying large sum of money to enjoy experiencing the life as cowboy during the Wild West period. The theme park was filled with human-like android robots called Hosts who were able to interact with guests. The hosts were uploaded with predefined narrative that would allow them to always play out their characterization till their narrative was completed, with tolerable deviation depending on their interaction. 

Westworld was co-created by Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins - The Silence of the Lambs trilogy, Meet Joe Black etc) and he also served as the park's director. In order to maintain the service of its park, there were multiple high level personnel to assist, such as Head of programming Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright - Casino Royale, W. etc), Head of QA dept Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen - Inferno etc), Head of security Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth - Kill Me Three Times etc) and Narrative Director Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman). All of them have their own duties to ensure that everything was in order in the park.

Meanwhile there were a lot of hosts who occupied the park, but only few of them really stood out. There was a rancher's daughter named Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood - Thirteen, The Wrestler etc) who was the love interest of fellow host, a gunslinger named Teddy Flood (James Marsden - X-Men series, Hairspray etc). There was a "Madam" of the only bar/brothel in town named Maeve (Thandie Newton - Crash, 2012 etc) and a wanted bandit Hector (Rodrigo Santoro - Ben-Hur remakeFocus etc). We were also introduced to a reluctant player William (Jimmi Simpson - Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, House of Cards TV series etc) and his future brother in-law Logan (Ben Barnes - Punisher TV series, Dorian Gray etc). Not to mention the very mysterious man in black (Ed Harris - Geostorm, A History of Violence etc).

The story would revolve around the interaction between the guests and the hosts, and the hosts' realization of self-awareness which would complicate the situation, plus the power struggle in the company that owned Westworld.

End of Brief Story Line

This was an interesting science fiction series. The story revolving around 2 worlds have probably been told few times already, but in here, the main attraction was the uniqueness of the theme park where you could do anything towards the hosts (including killing and having sex) and it was very safe, since the hosts could not harm the guests. This series itself was rather heavy. You really need to fully concentrate watching the series to understand what it was trying to tell. In the first few episodes, I gotta admit that I had hard time to grasp the whole picture. I even thought that in term of complexity, it was no less challenging than Christopher Nolan's Inception. However, once you are able to better understand and also know more about the characters, then you should be able to enjoy it better.

One thing that I truly loved about the series were the multiple plot twists and surprises. There was a very mind blowing fact revealed in I think the 7th episode and after that there was twist after twist until the season finale which was again having a major surprise (the one that you would literally say WTF!) Just like another very famous HBO original series Game of Thrones, this one only had 10 episodes in first season. Each episode having duration of 50-60 minutes, except for final episode which was almost 1.5 hour. So be ready for a little bit of exhaustion after watching it, as I did for completing this season in 2 days.

Apart from the story and twists, the ensemble cast were totally awesome and amazing in their acting. I personally loved the performance of Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Woods and best of all to my opinion was Thandie Newton. She was fantastic in personifying the host Madam and her character development was really great. Even some of the guest stars having minor roles were also wonderful like Felix (Leonardo Nam). The special effects were nicely done (1 scene involving the host in the form of a boy was disturbing but very cool). The musical score was great, with nice instrumental from piano, including the opening sequence that felt emotional.

This series should be classified for adults. Those who are watching it in HBO Asia (at least in Indonesia), should be able to enjoy the series without the nude scenes involving the hosts. But if you are watching through online streaming where there was no censorship, it might be a little vulgar for the more conservative audience (one particular scene involving so many guests and hosts in an orgy-like situation might be too much for them). There were also some action scenes of capturing wanted men, or the war between cowboys and native Americans etc. But those might not be the main focus as it was the story of the hosts self-awareness and the corporate turmoil of Westworld's owner, plus the mystery surrounding the history of Westworld which were emphasized in here.

Btw, the series was actually based on a Michael Crichton's directorial debut movie of the same title back in 1973 starring Yul Brynner. Crichton was no stranger to science fiction since he was the writer of novels such as Jurassic Park, Sphere, Timeline and so on. The creator of the series were Jonathan Nolan (creator of Person of Interest TV series and also the writer of short story Memento Mori which was adapted into the famous movie Memento, directed by his brother Christopher Nolan) and Lisa Joy (co-producer Burn Notice and writer Pushing Daisies TV series). With such high profile experience, no wonder the series was a big hit and enjoyed multiple awards nominations in Golden Globes and Emmy Awards.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a heavy, mind challenging, science fiction series about the world with androids and their self awareness/consciousness, combined with various plot twists and great acting, then this one is definitely for you. But if you are looking for a casual, more action and less seriousness, then this series might not be to your liking. It was so serious that the only time I could smile due to something funny was in the final episode. The second season is currently airing in HBO and sometimes the first season is also aired once in a while. So you would not have problem giving this a try. The choice is yours.

Mike's movie moments rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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