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Set during an unspecified future era on Earth, Westworld features Peter
Martin (Richard Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin) on their way to
a new kind of amusement park, Delos, located way out in the middle of a
desert. Delos is divided into three "virtual reality" areas, Roman
World, Medieval World, and West World (or Westworld). These are not
mere computer simulations, however. Guests are immersed in a complete
recreation of the relevant eras--they wear the clothing, sleep in the
accommodations, eat the food, and so on, relevant to the era. They also
interact with robots that are nearly indistinguishable from humans, and
can talk to, have sex with, and even kill some robots. It's an
escapist's dream, at least until something goes wrong.
Westworld isn't the easiest film to rate. It has its share of faults, and the more one analyzes the plot, the more problems one can find. However, the premise is so fantastic, the atmosphere is so good (even though it's very spartan for a sci-fi film) and the performances from the principle actors are so entertaining that it is very easy to excuse any flaws and just "go with the film". The bottom line is how enjoyable or aesthetically rewarding a film is, not how logically taut the plot is. On those grounds, Westworld certainly deserves a 9 out of 10.
A lot of the attraction is the voyeuristic escapism experienced by the viewer. Who wouldn't want to be able to go to an amusement park like Delos? It's a fabulous idea, and a not-too-thinly-veiled satire/extrapolation of Disney World, which had just opened two years before this film was released (remember that Disney World is the Florida location; Disneyland is the California location). Walt Disney had already been talking about his original conception of EPCOT (which was quite different than the Epcot that was eventually opened in 1982) by 1967. Writer/director Michael Crichton's Delos is a rough combination of Disney World's theme parks with an EPCOT-like residency, if only a temporary one.
At the same time, computer and robot technology was finally starting to be strongly integrated into industry on an "everyday" level (it was just a bit more than 5 years until the beginning of the home computer revolution). Disney World's operational infrastructure is an extensive behind-the-scenes computer network, which Crichton parallels with his white lab coat-wearing scientists working amidst monitors and banks of flashing lights (and this is even better satirized in the sequel to Westworld, 1976's Futureworld).
The premise provides an easy launching pad for a number of ethical, philosophical and scientific dilemmas: What are the implications for killing someone when they seem almost identical to humans? What if they're artificially intelligent? Is it infidelity for married persons to have sex with robots almost identical to humans or artificially intelligent? If machines become sufficiently complex, won't they be prone to the same flaws as humans, such as viruses (or something analogous), and if artificially intelligent, disobedience? All of these questions and more are explored in Westworld, albeit most are not explicitly broached--probably in an attempt to avoid sounding preachy or over-intellectual.
Because at the heart of Westworld, at least on a surface level, is a fantastic thriller/suspense story. Once things begin to go wrong, the "play" turns deadly, and the end of the film is a very long, deliberately paced chase sequence. Yul Brynner is a menacing "Robot Gunslinger", in a character that Brynner thought of as an ominous satire on his Chris Adams from The Magnificent Seven (1960), and which eventually seems somewhat prescient of The Terminator (1984). The suspense/horror is based on a classic gambit of machines forcefully taking control of their creators. It may be more modern, but basically the threat is that of the wronged Frankenstein Monster, with all the attendant subtexts, including humans "playing God" as they create other beings in their own image, and dehumanization of the Other.
It's best while watching to not dwell on the quagmire of plot problems that aren't dealt with. If the guns in Westworld can't harm humans because of "heat sensors", what's to stop you from being shot if someone aimed at something inanimate that you happened to be standing behind? How do the swords in Medieval World not harm that land's guests? If guests can't be hurt, why are they thrown into tables, the bar, etc. during a brawl? (We could argue that the robots were already going haywire at that point, but the technicians aren't shown being alarmed by this behavior.) How do they fix all of the architectural damage done every day? Where are all the other guests? Wouldn't it cost a lot more than $1000 per day per guest to make all of those repairs and perform routine maintenance on the robots?
That's just a small sampling of the questions you could worry about while watching the film, but that would be missing the point. Westworld isn't intended as a blueprint for actually constructing a Delos-like amusement park. The idea is to get the viewer to fantasize about the scenario, enjoy the more visceral, literal suspense story, and at the same time ponder some of the more philosophical questions and subtexts. On those accounts, Westworld greatly succeeds.
"Boy, have we got a vacation for you...where nothing can go wrong!"
Well, as the old saying goes..."famous last words."
"Westworld" is supposed to be set in the future (as visualized back in 1973 when the film was made, apparently the computers of the future are really, really big, and the monitors are really, really small, lol), where pampered rich folk can go to a vacation resort named "Delos", where they choose one of three "worlds" to visit and interact in: Medieval World, Roman World, and Westworld. Our protagonists John Blaine and Peter Martin (played by James Brolin and Richard Benjamin, respectively) choose Westworld. John is a Westworld veteran, having visited many times. Peter is his friend and first-timer at the resort; uttering childlike statements such as "Do we get a real gun? Wow!" In the various "worlds", the guests interact with each other and with anatomically-correct, extremely realistic robots. They are able to *ahem* interact very closely with the female robots, and also shoot the mean robots for fun (the guns they are supplied with will not work on real people) as they wish. A real "cowboys and indians" scenario for the child in us all. Roman World is promoted as a big sex resort, and Medieval World is geared towards the romantic, it seems.
The film starts out with quite a lot of intentional comedy and satire, and frankly starts out very much like it could have been a 1970's TV "Movie of the Week", but once the robots start to go bad...what we have for the rest of the film is a truly creepy western/sci-fi film. It's a gunfight! Albeit a Sci-Fi one. The last half-hour of the film is essentially a silent movie, as Crichton said he wanted, save for the great soundtrack, which sounds something like a bow being drawn against piano strings, or a cello; anyway it has the same unsettling effect as the out-of-tune piano in another classic, "Wait Until Dark" (1967).
Movies with robots/androids...there have been many I have seen and loved. But for this review I will cite examples of what I consider to be scary robots in film, besides "Westworld": "The Stepford Wives" (1974), "Alien" (1979), "Blade Runner" (1982), "The Terminator" (1984), "Aliens", "The Companion" (1995).
But "Westworld" was the first scary robot film I ever saw. And even after the others that followed, nothing quite equals Yul Brynner in his role as the gunslinger robot gone bad in "Westworld." His performance is what really makes the movie. Brynner was a good actor, and even (aybe especially) playing a machine, his skill is used to great effect. His performance was anything but wooden (unlike the always wooden Ah-nold in "The Terminator", for instance).
When Brynner's robot gunslinger commands "Draw", with the slightest twist at the corner of his mouth, he is completely creepy and scary. Even the way he walks when hunting down Richard Benjamin's character has an element to it that I have never seen again.
What's also great about this film is the development of Benjamin's character of Peter Martin. He starts out as the inexperienced nerdy sidekick to Brolin's John Blaine, and ends up showing his true mettle as the going gets rough. The nerdy naive Martin quickly learns how to survive.
This was Sci-Fi writer/director Michael Crichton's first foray into big-screen film-making. Crichton has said he made the film in thirty days. I would expect that finding pre-made sets were easy at least; there was bound to be at least a western set sitting around the studio lots. And of course, back then there were fewer and less complicated special effects.
If you find a DVD of this to rent, and you've never seen the film before, I recommend that you do not watch the trailer first! It's a real spoiler.
Note: Look for Majel Barrett (of "Star Trek-Generations", and she is also Gene Roddenberrys' widow) as the whorehouse madam.
Brynner's part was a play on his role in the classic western film "The Magnificent Seven."
Westworld was the blueprint for what was later Jurassic Park. Here, Michael
Crichton first envisoned Disneyland, if the Hall of presidents ran amuck.
It provided many of the inspirations for later sci-fi films, like
Terminator. It was a great blend of action, horror, and
Richard Benjamin and James Brolin are the heroes of the film, but Yul Brynner is the star. He portrays a robot, based on his character from "The Magnificent Seven." Brynner is the relentless killing machine who fights until the end. With almost no dialogue, he conveys fear with little more than expression and body language.
The film explores old themes, the dark side of technology, but it was ahead of its time in depicting the dangers of computers and automated systems. The effects are dated, but the story holds up well. The sequel, Futureworld, tried to add political intrigue, with less success. Definitely one for the sci-fi fan or collector, or cult movie lover.
Classic sci-fi thriller of the 70's, Westworld is a film that never
fails to be fun and riveting in its own campy way.
Two pals go on vacation to a hi-tech resort where they can live out a wild west adventure among human-like robots. Unfortunately, the robots are starting to malfunction and our human guests may be in for more excitement than they bargained for.
Michael Crichton delivers a clever and engaging story with this film. It packs plenty of intense action and increasing suspense, that firmly keeps the viewer on edge! Crichton's direction is also solidly well-done, creating a believable feel with the help of some good special FX (especially with the droids).
Cast-wise the film is great as well. Yul Brynner does a wonderfully creepy performance as the robotic gunslinger that just won't stop coming! Richard Benjamin does a nice turn as the timid visitor who must fight to survive, as does his friend played by James Brolin.
Westworld is truly enjoyable sci-fi/thriller excitement and stands as one of the best genre films of the '70s.
*** 1/2 out of ****
Michael Crichton wrote and directed this precursor to "Jurassic Park" that, while showing some of it's age, is still effective and was undeniably influential. The story concerns a unique and expensive vacation resort called Delos in which customers can choose from one of three "worlds"--Roman World, Medieval World or Western World (as it is referred to in the film.) Here, customers can indulge their fantasies of conquest (violent or sexual) among a host of ultra-realistic robots who are programmed to promote the experience while not allowing the participants to become hurt. Benjamin stars as a newcomer to the place with his buddy Brolin along for his second visit. Brolin shows Benjamin the ropes at Western World (how to shoot villains, seduce dance hall girls, etc...) One of the bad guys they encounter is icy Brynner who they dispose of more than once. Eventually, things start to come unglued as the men note that things aren't working as properly as expected and promised. The controllers of the park are unable to prevent the robots from hurting or even killing the guests! The film begins with that once-cutting-edge, but now amusing, sense of high-tech awe as the guys enter the park. Benjamin is an acquired taste and borders on annoying for much of the film. More at ease is Brolin who doesn't have a great deal to do. The most striking performance is that of Brynner. He has almost nothing to say, but he doesn't need to talk. His steely stare and mechanical gait wind up being quite relentless and terrifying. The highlight of the film is his non-stop pursuit of Benjamin. ("The Terminator" owes a lot to this section of the film.) There are several other supporting roles, but, aside from Van Patten, the actors create little interest in their exploits. "Star Trek" fans will note the presence of Barrett as a robot madame. There were rumors of a remake with Arnold Schwarzegger, but Arnie's already done the indestructible robot thing and no one's going to outglare Brynner. His bid as Governor seems to have quashed these plans anyway.
A great movie about an amusement park with robots to entertain you and
for you to experience life in the three different worlds. Yul Brynner
as the gunfighter is truly excellent and yes, scary as hell.
To nitpick a movie from the 70s is truly childish. It was interesting, action/sci-fi. Well paced, reasonably written well. Great chase scene at the end, because if the Gunslinger was coming after me, I'd be scared. And, as far as I know, the first movie to mention a 'virus' in the machines.
You might as well complain about the bombs in Dark Star having intelligence. Why would a bomb need AI? But if it didn't, the ending wouldn't have been as interesting.
It's like complaining about movies from the 50s, like 'War of the Worlds' or 'Forbidden Planet'. They worked with what they had and had no ideal about what would or could be done in the future. OMG, 1984 didn't happen like Orwell said. Guess we should toss his book in the trash. Too many people nitpicking silly things. Ever heard of entertainment?
If your a REAL sci-fi fan, watch it. You won't be disappointed!
You can see the roots both in the plot and the special effects in
Michael Crichton's Westworld that can later be found in the incredibly
popular Jurassic Park series.
Like Jurassic Park the protagonists of Westworld are a pair of wealthy American yuppies who are going to a futuristic vacation resort. The place is called Delos and like Disneyland with its separate theme parks of Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, and the World of Tomorrow, Delos has three different resort type places to visit, Romanworld, Medievalworld and Westworld.
Our two intrepids have chosen the Westworld experience. They get to mix and mingle in an old west frontier town, or at least a Hollywood type version of same and get the feel of western life. Included are gunfights and bar brawls such as you see in any good Hollywood western. This is what Richard Benjamin and James Brolin have chosen for themselves.
For reasons unexplained in the story, the whole thing breaks down in all three theme worlds and in the case of Westworld, a very nasty gunslinger robot has shaken loose from his programming and is on the hunt for human targets. Will man with all of his weaknesses defeat an apparently indestructible machine?
You can also see some of the themes in the later Terminator films that Arnold Schwarzneggar popularized. Here the relentless hunter is played by Yul Brynner in the familiar black western garb that he made popular in The Magnificent Seven.
The VHS copy of Westworld advertises itself as the very first use of computer graphics. If that's the case this is one unique experience for that reason alone and should not be missed.
Michael Crichton is a versatile man whose career as a novelist would
seem to be satisfying enough without trying his hand at the movies.
After all, most of his books have been adapted for the screen. This was
his first attempt at directing a big feature. He showed in "Westworld"
an affinity for the film medium.
Mr. Chrichton employed computer technology that was in its infancy at the time. The result is a movie that is entertaining even after more than thirty years after it was released. Most of Mr. Crichton's books deal in science fiction.
The best thing in the film is Yul Brynner, without a doubt. His presence dominates everything. As the Gunslinger, he shows intelligence and tenacity in dealing with those that dared to cross him. Richard Benjamin is also effective as the young lawyer who is fascinated by the things he finds in Westworld. James Brolin's character seemed to be on auto pilot as he didn't register much emotion throughout the entire movie.
The film merits a look.
Writer/director Michael Crichton clearly has an interest in amusement theme parks where things go horribly wrong! His most successful achievement "Jurassic Park" revolves on this ingenious premise, but so does this "Westworld" which predates Spielberg's box-office hit by 20 years! And maybe I don't know anything about cinema, but I sure think this film is at least ten times better and more unsettling than "Jurassic Park". Despite some flaws and script-errors, Crichton's film is a tense milestone that is ultimately compelling and far ahead of its time. In a near future, a couple of slick marketeers have developed a holiday resort where rich tourists are offered imaginative vacations in perfect copies of the ancient Rome, a medieval countryside or the Wild West. The story mainly focuses on Westworld, where robot gunslingers like Yul Brunner (even more brilliant than usual) are programmed to die bloodily whenever a jolly tourist challenges them to a duel. That is, until suddenly the central computer begins the malfunction and the robots stand up for themselves. The last half hour is amazingly suspenseful and contains some grueling images that'll definitely excite horror fans. The set pieces and costumes are excellent and with a great eye for detail. For the legendary actor Yul Brunner, this was an ideal movie to conclude his brilliant career and simultaneously a great opportunity to bring homage his entire repertoire. Slightly negative elements about "Westworld" include the rather goofy choice of music and the abrupt ending. Although this last remark may be a purely personal point of criticism, since I really wanted the film to go on for another hour or so. Great movie...terrific entertainment!
In a near future, the Delos Company offers the vacation of the future
in the present days in the amusement parks Medievalworld, Romanworld
and Westworld for U$ 1,000.00 per day. The vacationers can feel in the
Middle Age or in the Roman Empire or in the Wild West and have joust,
sex, duel against gunslinger and whatever he or she wants interacting
Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin) travel in the hovercraft to Westworld and sooner Peter duels against a Gunslinger (Yul Brynner). However, when there is a malfunctioning of the machinery, the robots get out of control jeopardizing the guests.
"Westworld" is a very successful sci-fi of my generation and a sort of grandfather of other robots films, such as "The Stepford Wives", "Blade Runner" and mainly "The Terminator". There is a scene in this last franchise that is an updated rip-off of Yul Brynner's character chasing Peter.
The story has flaws, but is engaging and suspenseful, holding the attention until the very last scene. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Westworld Onde Ninguém Tem Alma" ("Westworld Where No One Has Soul")
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