Overview: In the first of many cyberpunk (hopefully) movies to come out in the next year or two, we see Wolverine (aka Hugh Jackman) trying his hand at some futuristic Robot Wars/BattleBots action. Make that Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, as these machines are boxers as opposed to the spinners, flippers, etc. of the former TV programs.
The movie is based on Richard Matheson’s short story, but you will find it more closely mirrors another famous boxing movie.
The Story: Charlie Kenton used to be a prize fighter, but that was before fight fans wanted more violence and bloodshed leading to more extreme fighting like MMA and WWE wresting done for real. Before long, robots entered the arenas and forced humans out to the sidelines. It is now 2020 and Charlie is roaming the countryside with a beat-up rust-bucket robot called Ambush that gets destroyed by a bull in a county fair. He finds out his son’s mother died and he is to get custody, but wants the boy’s aunt to take him instead. He blackmails the woman’s rich husband to take Max when the couple return from Europe at the end of summer, and uses the money to buy a former world-champion robot. Charlie’s ego and inexperience with the robot’s voice-command system causes his new robot to be destroyed as well. While raiding an industrial junk yard for parts, Max finds a second generation sparring robot named Atom and believes he can be a champion fighter. Charlie is reluctant at first, but when Atom wins his first underground fight, he begins training it for bigger matches, including a World Robot Boxing title match with the champion, Zeus. All the while, he learns how to be a better father for Max.
“You’ll be able to spit nails, kid. Like the guy says, you’re gonna eat lightning and you’re gonna crap thunder. You’re gonna become a very dangerous… um, robot.”
Yo, Adrian! If you feel like you’ve seen this movie before, you must have have watched Sylvester Stallone in the original Rocky series. From IMDB’s Real Steel trivia section: You might recognize the moves in the championship fight coming from Rocky IV. The basic plot of Rocky is also present here. Even the champion robot’s name is an indirect reference.
All this similarity to Rocky has to make you wonder if Hollywood has run out of original ideas. Then again, Matheson’s short story has been turned into a Twilight Zone episode which in turn was parodied by The Simpsons.
On the ropes. Calling this movie cyberpunk wasn’t an easy decision. Themes like technology’s negative effect (the robots taking over a career path), man-machine fusion (the various robot controls, the autonomous Zeus), underground focus (the underground fight clubs), and the visuals are present. Themes of control over society and ubiquitous data access are not there, though a couple of times I felt like the all-mighty dollar was all that mattered to anyone. This might be the result of Levy’s decision to set the story in 2020 as opposed to further into the future:
“The whole reason it’s 2020 and not further in the future is because I knew this movie was going to be an underdog story and I didn’t want the distant futurism of extreme sci-fi. I wanted the world to feel really familiar, so that the characters would feel really relatable.”
USELESS FACT: The Crash Palace is actually an old Ford Model T assembly plant in Highland Park, Michigan. Sean Levy thought it was perfect for the movie.
Speaking of the characters, they do work for this movie. Of course, it’s the robots who steel… steal the show, but the estranged-father-son-trying-to-reconnect story should give the non-robotic a few laughs and tears.
Conclusion: If you’ve watched Sly’s work, you’ve already seen this. Boxing-movie fans might find this worth adding to their video collection. For cyberpunk fans, it’s not a complete knockout, but those unfamiliar with Rocky might give this underdog their decision.
Official FAQ for RoboGeisha: It’s from Japan.
That is all.
Overview: Just when you thought Japanese cyberpunk couldn’t possibly get any stranger (or bloodier), evil genius Noboru Iguchi (Tokyo Gore Police) ups the ante… and bloodshed… with RoboGeisha.
Actually most of the bloodshed is in the unrated version; It was added via CGI for the DVD releases since Iguchi was asked to tone down the violence. But that still doesn’t degrade the overall weirdness, even with a sibling-rivalry storyline the would have worked better as standard-issue melodrama.
The Story: Yoshie (Aya Kiguchi) is a geisha’s attendant with dreams of becoming one herself. Her older sister, Kikue (Hitomi Hasebe), is the geisha who takes delight in keeping Yoshie’s dream unrealized. When the president of Kageno Steel Manufacturing discovers Yoshie’s hidden rage and fighting skills he wants to recruit her to join the Hidden Geishas, an army of cyberneticaly enhanced female assassins being trained to kill “corrupt” Japanese officials so the company can create its ideal world. But when Yoshie is given an assignment to kill a group of people whose family members have been kidnapped to become the Hidden Geishas, she soon discovers the company’s plans to destroy Japan.
As if trying to save Japan wasn’t hard enough, Yoshie is always trying to earn Kikue’s respect since she wasn’t getting any while trying to be a geisha. Yoshie does give Kikue a taste of her own medicine when she was chosen for the Hidden Geishas, until Kikue showed a predilection for killing. The two sisters compete as each wants to destroy the other, even though they show respect and love for each other as the company pushes its agenda forward.
1000 Ways to Die… Give or Take. When dealing with cyborgs and androids, you know someone is going to die. The main question is how? Iguchi manages to come up with some innovative ways…
USELESS FACT: About 70% of Japanese adults are lactose intolerant.
When you see it, you’ll shit… shurikens?
“The fried shrimp! They do NOTHING! I STILL CAN’T UNSEE!!!
Too much blood? Iguchi was asked to tone down the violence for RoboGeisha. He did for the theatrical release, but added it back for the DVDs. An interesting strategy, saving time on re-shoots and money on cleanups, but end result doesn’t really add much… other than blood (check this page that shows the comparison between theatrical and home releases). Even so, what was left in still looks cheesy, and even inappropriate at times, like when the giant shiro robot was stomping through town and stops to smash a couple of buildings that bleed.
Can someone get this poor girl a fresh tampon?
To compare to some other Japanese cyberpunk films, the violence in Tetsuo was more social commentary, while Tokyo Gore Police went for shock value. RoboGeisha’s violence tends to be more cartoonish, like Tom and Jerry with more splatter. Combine that with ass-katanas, lactating demon-cyborgs, and enough blood-cheese to rival Wisconsin and you’ll be ROFLMAO Zedong going ZOMGWTFKMFDMBBQ. That or you’ll just ask yourself…
Conclusion: So far, Japan’s track record for TFWO cyberpunk fare remains intact. RoboGeisha may be the best place to start for those who can’t stomach the more brutal stuff. Definitely shows that cyberpunk can have a sense of humor… a dark, disturbing, sick, twisted sense of humor…
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Japan in the wake of the Sendai earthquake and tsunami and the Fukushima I nuclear plant accidents.
Overview: Not often that a good cyberpunk movie comes down the wires. Lately, the better ones have been coming out of Japan’s anime studios. Technotise could be the latest-and-greatest to come from the land of the rising sun… only it came from Serbia, not Japan, although the anime influence can be seen. While not enough to make those famed anime studios nervous… yet… it already has a live-action remake under development.
A sequel based on the comic (readable here, if you understand Serbian), Technotise looks into a bit of the the life of a college girl as she faces a struggle in Belgrade 2074 that could kill her.
The Story: Edit Stefanović is a psychology major in a Belgrade college. Like most students, Edit has had her successes and failures but mostly failures. Now her professor has given her an ultimatum:
“Pass or GTFO.”
After burying her robotic pet, and a fight with her mother, Edit decides to get a memory chip implant to help her pass the exam. She is also an intern at TDR, a research company that’s been working on a formula that connects all the energies in the world, aka “A direct line to God.” This “formula” can be used to predict the future, but any computer that calculates it becomes sentient before it shuts down. Abel Mustafov discovered the formula before becoming autistic, and when Edit sees a “graph” of the formula, her chip becomes alive and starts wiring itself into her body, making her act weird (like eating large amounts of iron). Now TDR wants Edit and the chip for their future-telling computers, while Edit wants what the chip did to her undone.
Algorithm Absurd. This phrase is used a couple of times to describe what happens to the computers that calculates the formula. Algorithm - like a computer program; A series of finite steps to generate an output from input. Absurd, the ludicrous, insane, irrational. The phrase is simply another way of saying: “That does not compute.” Apparently the computers see the formula like a digital existential crisis, one that says machines are not alive. But Edit’s chip doesn’t suffer the same fate, probably because of their connection to each other, or maybe because of Edit’s study of psychology she was able to “understand” the graph in a way that computers couldn’t so she acted as a “buffer” and the chip was able to process her output.
The next GITS? Like GITS, Technotise uses a variety of animation styles to produce some high quality movie fare. 2D, 3D, vector, and realistic static drawings come together for some of the best eye-candy. But without a good storyline, all you can get from eye-candy is diabetes. Fortunately, Technotise has the storyline to back up the visuals. About the only problem is the language is entirely Serbian with English subtitles so you might miss out on some of the vids.
“I have nothing against plastic but sometimes you have to make out with some real meat.”
Conclusion: With the themes of the search for “God” via science and our continued interconnection of human and machine, we have some excellent cyberpunk fare to even anime fans happy for the next decade or so. This is one animated movie that can go byte-by-byte with GITS. Just get the DVD and see what I mean…
Overview: With the upcoming anniversary of 9/11, one has to wonder how far our security-surveillance panopticon prison planet has come. Britons have seen a rise in the Orwellian nightmare, while Americans have had something of a reprieve from the “Patriot” Act, although other forces may be taking over that role. Eyeborgs breeds 1984 with The Matrix to create a new form of high-tech overlord scenario.
I probably would have missed this one if it wasn’t for my DVD club. While the “borgs” of Eyeborgs caught my initial attention, the description of the story is what sold me on it. After watching it, I was glad I had a chance to see it, even if it was direct-to-video. While not up to Terminator or Robocop standards, this is one of the better movies to come down the wires in some time.
That’s no punk, that’s President Hewes’s nephew.
The Story: The on-going threat of terrorism has led to the adoption of the “Freedom of Observation” act. This gives the Department of Homeland Security new weapons in their surveillance of US citizens. Among them are the “Eyeborgs,” cameras with robotic legs that allow them to move around. Coordinating them, and the millions of already existing stationary cameras, is the Optical Defense Intelligent Network… “O.D.I.N.” for short.
DHS agent R.J. “Gunner” Reynolds (Paul) is observing a gun sale to a possible terrorist whose targeting President Hewes. The person gets away, but is later caught when eyeborgs see his bike at a punk show where the President’s nephew, Jarett, is playing with his band. The person is captured for targeting Jarett and interrogated at a DHS office. Leaving the man alone for a few minutes, he manages to escape when the eyeborgs in the room attack him. He dies later when the eyeborgs force him over a railing and causing him to fall six stories to his death. It was determined via surveillance cameras that Reynolds left the door unlocked allowing the man to escape, but Reynolds did lock the door. He begins questioning the integrity of O.D.I.N. as other people involved with the investigation die in mysterious ways while the eyeborgs give a very different version of the truth.
“See with your own eyes… not theirs.”
O Say Can You See? Just when you the plot is pretty much cut-and-dried, the big twist comes when Reynolds tries to get Jarett from the Presidential Debate. That’s when Reynolds, and the viewers, figure out what the truth is. O.D.I.N. has been manipulating reality, or whoever is manipulating O.D.I.N. to manipulate reality, for their own end.
“Everybody knows that videos can be faked. Regardless of the motives of the people, they’re designed to confuse you, so you must ask yourself, each and every citizen of this country, ask yourself one question and one question only - Who do you believe? A government that is sworn to protect you, or a ratings-hungry media beholden to no one?”
For the most part the movies works well, but you might see a problem with some of the eyeborgs late in the movie. The colors reflecting from the machines feel “off,” and some of the eyeborgs appear to be two-dimensional sprites instead of 3D during the rescue scene. Probably a result of being rushed to video.
Conclusion: Given the current state of terrorism-generated paranoia, Eyeborgs seems like just the ticket to stoke those tin-foil hat fires. While it may have avoided theatrical release (and competition from Iron Man 2), it shouldn’t be left out of your home video collection, especially with recent disappointments from Hollywood.
The bots are back in the official “unofficial” sequel to Westworld. Actually, the makers, American International Pictures, was bought up by Filmways, which was bought up by Orion Pictures, which was bought up by MGM, who made Westworld.
Overview: The idea of making a (crappy) sequel to a popular movie isn’t exactly new, as Futureworld will show. As the now “official” sequel to Westworld,Futureworld tried to take the storyline into a new (some would say “misguided”) direction by answering the big unanswered question: Why did the robots suddenly turn on the human guests of Delos?
I managed to catch this on Reelz a few weeks back. I’ve been looking for a DVD for some time as well, but this rare film is… well… rare. I resorted to torrenting it to give you this review. I’ll keep on searching for it.
The Story: Reporter Chuck Browning (Fonda), who first reported the Westworld fiasco, gets a phone call from a person who says he has important information. When they meet, the contact dies, but uses his last breath to say why he needed to contact Browning… “Delos.”
The Delos Amusement Park is now set to reopen after two years and some $1 billion in “improvements,” and want Browning and fellow reporter Tracy Ballard (Danner) to visit the park and report on the improvements to show that it is now safe. Among the improvements made are the abandonment of Westworld in favor of the space adventure “Future world.” Browning soon discovers that the park has a more sinister operation behind it than just entertainment.
Another moment in cinematic history: Just as Westworld was the first to use 2D CGI, Futureworld is the first to use 3D CGI. The hand on the monitor is the first example.
A Gunslinger’s last stand.
Ballard gets to try out a brain-wave scanner. This is where we see Yul Brenner in his last movie role before his death in 1985. Meanwhile, Browning is watching it all through a scanner.
An unanswered question is answered. And now, the answer to the million dollar question: Why did the robots go screwloose and kill everyone in Delos?
Somehow, the robots were learning through their contact with the guests, and what they learn is that humans are a threat not only to them (the robots), but to the the planet as a whole:
“The human being is a very unstable, irrational, violent animal. All our probability studies indicate that, if left alone, you will destroy much of this planet before the end of the decade. We at Delos are determined to see that doesn’t happen. We don’t intend to be destroyed by your mistakes.”
To stop the humans, the robots came up with a plan:
Invite the world’s “elite”… the rich, the famous, the powerful and influential… to visit Delos park.
Drug the guest’s meals and measure and sample their inert bodies.
Create clone “duplicates.”
Program the duplicates to act on behalf of Delos.
Have the duplicates kill the guests.
Send the duplicates out into the world to work on behalf of Delos.
WORLD DOMINATION! (Why not? They already run Delos.)
But, is it cyberpunk? Like Westworld,Futureworld was made before anyone ever coined the word, so they could not have made this cyberpunk… at least not on purpose. The visuals aren’t there (even the access tunnels are brighter and cleaner than what one would expect), there are no hackers or underground resistors, and there’s no word on the state of the world in the movie other than the above mentioned probability studies. The added themes of corporate control (Delos’s plan) and the robots running the show do push Futureworld closer to being cyberpunk, but not totally into that arena.
Conclusion. Since its release, Futureworld has had a rather hard-knocked life of being constantly panned by critics (Rotten Tomatoes gives it only a 33% “Rotten” rating), some see it as a worthy sequel to Westworld. At least, it was worthy enough to attempt a television series, Beyond Westworld. I sort of liked it, but you may feel differently, depending on how you see ‘unofficial’ sequels.
Spring must be around the corner. I can hear the birds… flipping.
Overview: After reading the graphic novels, I thought I was ready for the movie. Unfortunately, Hollywood decided to “tweak” certain elements until there’s little left resembling the books. Not that ink-on-single-colors would work for a live-action film, but they could have left the action in Georgia instead of moving it to Boston, and leaving Greer (Harvey, not John) as a city detective as opposed to an FBI agent. While some “tweaking” might not have hurt, totally deviating from the books doesn’t. This could probably be traced to the trio of Mostow, Ferris, and Brancato, who were also behind the train-wreck of Terminator 3.
The good news is the message remained intact.
The Story: In a near future (no exact year given), humans spend all their time at home jacked into stem-chairs while piloting their surrogates, robotic avatars that interact in the real world now abandoned by humanity.
Two surrogates are destroyed by a mag-pulse type weapon. The destruction kills the operators, one of whom is the son of the surrogate’s inventor. FBI agent Greer searches for the weapon and is lead to the walled “Dread Nation” where his surrogate is destroyed by the anti-surrogate group. He continues without it as he probes deeper into a conspiracy that involves the military, Virtual Self Inc., the company behind the surrogate phenomenon, and the surrogate inventor, Dr. Cantor.
William Shatner, you are not.
What else went wrong? Another problem, other than the deviation from the books, is the look of the movie. Other than scenes showing the stem-chairs and a couple of scenes showing the “central control” of the surrogate grid, it is virtually impossible to tell if it is 2053 or 2009. Having live actors playing the robotic roles only adds to the confusion, though there were times where they not only looked like robots, but acted like robots. That was a surprisingly interesting touch.
… And the message? You can hear just as the movie starts: Does living life through a surrogate mean you’re actually living? Does being a robot make you less of a human? Have you been so plugged into your surrogate that you can’t unplug? And once you are unplugged… then what?
Those kind of questions about humanity being (over)connected to technology are what cyberpunk writers and fans have been asking since William Gibson’s first draft of Neuromancer.
Conclusion: If you’ve already read the books, the movie may only disappoint you with how far off it is. Bruce Willis fans and fans of action films may get a kick out Surrogates. Cyberpunk fans should find the message familiar, though you would be better off with the books.
“Holy father, I pray that you keep Jonathan Mostow, Michael Ferris, and John D. Brancato from ever making another cyberpunk movie, lest they cause the universe to collapse on itself.”
“We had such potential. Such promise. But we squandered our gifts. And so, 9, I am creating you. Our world is ending. Life must go on. “
Overview: Tim Burton sees Shane Acker’s short and helps to make it a feature length move about 9 robotic rag dolls, a.k.a. the “stitchpunks,” who are left to fight the machines that exterminated humanity. Together, the stitchpunks must find a way to pull the plug on the nightmare creations (without John Connor’s help) that have turned their attention to the them.
The story of 9 may not be the most complex, but the straight-forward approach does work with the CGI effects, though the backstory of how the world got into the sorry shape it is in helps makes the doll’s fight more relevant.
The Story: In an unnamed country, a scientist creates the B.R.A.I.N., an AI that was supposed to help humanity. But the country’s chancellor forces the scientist to install the B.R.A.I.N. in a fabrication machine, which is used to create machines of war. The machine rebels and launches a massive war that exterminates humanity. The scientist, the last human left, creates the 9 “stitchpunks” (Acker’s name for the rag doll-bots) and infuses them with a “life force.” When 9 is complete, the scientist dies, leaving it to find the other stitchpunks in their quest to stop the machines.
A stitchpunk in time saves… 1 through 8. The other stitchpunks he finds are: #1 - the “leader” of the group, who shows much cynicism regarding 9’s plans to rescue #2, the inventor of the group who gets captured early on.
Numbers 3 and 4 are twins who hide out in a library. Through them, we learn of the machine’s war against humanity.
5 is a journeyman who was trained by 2. He is missing an eye due an attack during the war.
6 can probably be best described as an “artist” whose paintings are clues about the machines.
7 is the only female in the group. An agile warrior who wears a bird’s skull as a helmet.
8 is a big but dumb brute who acts as 1’s bodyguard. He give a slight clue that the stitchpunks may be robotic when he uses a magnet near his head like a mind-altering drug.
But, is it cyberpunk? Some might question if 9 is cyberpunk enough to review here, but from what I’ve seen (and from the definition on this site), there’s enough to make it cyberpunk; The negative impact of technology (the machine revolt), the man-machine fusion (the scientist transferring his life force to the stitchpunks), the underground (stitchpunks), and the visual style (the post-apocalypse scene and darkness occasionally punctured by light). The only things missing are the access to information and the control over society, though the machine threat could cover the control aspect. Can this be called steampunk? Possibly, though no signs of steam-power is immediately seen. Can this be called “stitchpunk?” Only the doll-bots should be called that.
Conclusion: Those looking for a deep storyline are going to be disappointed. Those who prefer bleeding-edge eye-candy will have a ball with 9. Those looking for a good cyberpunk movie, this should hold you… until Surrogates hits the screens next week.
Lead Slave Hunter/Labor Camp Guard/Slave: Aidar Sydykov
Slave Hunters: Yerbol Zimanov & Yerbol Alkhanov
Slave: Tengiz Sydykov
Labor Camp Guard: Erden Zikibay
Rating:7 out of 10
Any similarities between this and certain movies… was probably intended.
Overview: Somewhere is a budding Steven Spielberg, Riddley Scott, Cecil B. DeMille, or Laszlo Kovacs sitting in a classroom, secretly (or not-so-secretly) dreaming up the next Blade Runner or Matrix, or some similar mash-up of cyberpunk media. Erden Zikibay and Mohamed Talaat make their case with this cyberpunk short.
The Story: It’s mid-21st century and Earth government begins an ambitious space exploration endeavor, but getting people to join the effort proves difficult… until they revive an old institution: Slavery.
I’m going to stop it there since you are already familiar with Blade Runner (And if you’re not, WHAT THE F&^@ IS WRONG WITH YOU???). Forbidden Dreams draws heavily on Blade Runner, and to a lesser extent, The Matrix (the hunters’ outfits and shades). There’s no Roy Batty speech at the end, but a quote from Phillip K. Dick that makes the connection obvious.
Being a student film, the quality is far from the multi-megadollar Hollywood fare. But for its ten minute run, they use what they had to its best effects.
The Bottom Line: You have to give Erden and Mohamed credit: To make a low-budget version of a legendary movie takes some balls. Hopefully they got A’s for their effort.
For the rest of us, Forbidden Dream would probably be best described as the Cliffs Notes to Blade Runner: It gives you the basic idea behind BR in a ten minute snippet, but you really need to see the full movie, if only for Roy Batty’s death speech.
Note: The Star rating is based on the cyberpunk content of the movie, not it’s quality. Personally, it would only be a 4 or 5 out of 10.
Salvation is better than T3, but still falls short of T2. Maybe it’s because of the way it is presented. From the trailers one gets the impression that Salvation would be about John Connor’s rise to leadership of the the human resistance. In actuality, Connor’s rise is more of a side-story…
The Story: The movie starts in a death-row jail cell in 2003, where a murderous convict named Marcus Wright awaits execution. He is being visited by Dr. Serena Kogan who wants Wright to donate his body to “science.” Wright agrees and signs the papers (with Cyberdyne letterhead) before being put to death.
Now, it is 2018, and John Connor leads an assault on a Skynet facility. Connor’s team is exterminated while he barely escapes, but someone else manages to leave the facility after the devastation, Marcus Wright. Wright wanders the wastelands until he reaches what’s left of Los Angeles, and encounters a young teen named Kyle Reese. Meanwhile, Connor has his own problems with the current leaders of the human resistance, then learns that he is on Skynet’s hit list, number two behind Kyle Reese.
Wright tries to get help Reese find Connor, but Reese and his deaf-mute friend are captured, leaving Wright to try to find Connor and possibly find a way to save Reese. When the two finally meet, we learn that Wright isn’t human… only Wright himself doesn’t know it …
Who’s Salvation Is It Anyway? Like said before, Salvation isn’t about Connor’s or humanity’s salvation. Rather it’s about Wright’s salvation; His trial by post-nuclear fire in the robot ruled wastelands to learn that he is not a monster we are first lead to believe…
“He saved my life. I saw a man, not a machine.” - Blair Williams
After being shot down by Skynet’s forces, Blair Williams finds herself and her parachute tangled in a high-tension wire tower. Marcus finds her and helps her down to the ground. She asks if he is one of the good guys, but he says no. She tells him “You’re a good guy. You just don’t know it yet.” She soon falls in love with Wright as they travel back to Connor’s base, and even helps him escape when his mechanization is revealed.
Later, after helping Connor rescue Reese (and some other captured humans), Connor is critically hurt and needs a new heart. Wright offers his. The last words we hear from him are along the lines of “there’s something about the human heart that can’t be programmed into a chip” (Quotes are still coming in). This act of sacrifice would complete Wright’s transformation from death row douchebag to a hero for the resistance. If only the same can be said for the rest of the movie.
The Bottom Line: It’s hard to say that Salvation is bad. It’s not T3 bad, but no where near T2 level. Maybe if McG focused more on Wright’s story than Connor’s… that story would seem be more about salvation than Connor’s rise to resistance leader.
“Humans have a strength that cannot be measured. This is John Connor. If you are listening to this,you are the resistance.”
Feeling burned out from net surfing? Has the grind of cyberpunk turned you cortex to pudding? BOY HAVE WE GOT A VACATION FOR YOU! Come on down to Delos Amusement Park and play with our robots that have been programmed with your safety and enjoyment in mind. NOTHING CAN PUSSIB… POBABAB… POSSIBLY GO WORNG!
With Michael Crichton’s death earlier this month (04-Nov-2008), I’d thought I’d review one of his most classic movies because of its influence on cyberpunk. Though mostly known for his books-turned-movies like Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain and the television series ER, he has also written and directed several movies including Looker and Runaway.
Westworld primarily focuses on the theme of technology run amok, and very little… if anything… on the rest. Crichton’s theme-park-gone-fubar plot would be repeated in Jurassic Park, while the idea of robots gone berserk would appear a decade later in a low-budget piece featuring a then unknown Austrian muscle man, and in some other cyberpunk flicks since.
Murphy’s law in action. Delos Amusement Park is a near-futuristic adult playground divided into three areas corresponding to different time periods in world history; RomanWorld, MedievalWorld, and the titular WestWorld (briefly refered to as WesternWorld during an orientation video.
John Blaine (Brolin) is returning to WestWorld and brings his friend, Peter Martin, along to experience the six-shooting action where a Yul Brynner robot gunslinger is the main attraction. Things go smoothly… for a while. In the underground control centers, the park technicians notice that robot “malfunctions” are becoming more severe, until a guest is killed in MedievalWorld. Then they realize that even in a place where nothing can possibly go wrong, everything can go wrong.
The Three Laws revisited. While cyberpunk themes are lacking, there is a definite play on Asimov’s Three Laws at work. The First Law (protect humans) is obvious with The Gunslinger, who must always lose the duels he starts. The guns also enforce The First Law with sensors that disable firing when it senses it is pointed at a human.
The Second Law (obey humans) is seen in WestWorld’s whorehouses and MedievalWorld’s slave girls, who are programmed to comply with sexual advances of the guests. When a MedievalWorld slave girl rejects such a request, the technicians begin to suspect that things are about to take a turn for the worst.
The Third Law (protect self) is a bit harder to detect. The robots are programmed to put up a fight and will defend themselves… to a certain degree, but will always allow themselves to be beaten by the guests (again, The Gunslinger).
The Gunslinger gets a facelift… and some new optics.
OK, so why not cyberpunk? Other than being released before Bruce Bethke invented the word, what other factors keep Westworld from being a true cyberpunk movie? For one thing, we don’t see much of the world outside the park other than the opening minutes in the hovercraft lounge, so we don’t know what state the world is in. Then again, if average-looking schmoes (for the 70’s anyway) like Blaine and Martin can afford a grand a day to play with robots, the world can’t be in that bad of shape.
Perhaps the biggest reason why the “not cyberpunk” tag is the biggest weakness in the movie: The question of “Why did the robots go screw-loose?” is never answered. Bad software? Hardware flaw? “Outside” influences? If the question had been answered in this movie, it could have been a true cyberpunk movie… at least, its star rating would have been higher.
A moment in cinematic history: This chase scene is the first use of computer generated images (CGI) in a movie. Primitive by today’s standards, but groundbreaking for 1973.