Cyberpunk Review » Westworld (Not cyberpunk, but a proto-cyberpunk influence)

November 16, 2008

Westworld (Not cyberpunk, but a proto-cyberpunk influence)

Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 1973

Directed by: Michael Crichton

Written by: Michael Crichton

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low

Key Cast Members:

  • Peter Martin: Richard Benjamin
  • John Blane: James Brolin
  • The Gunslinger: Yul Brynner
  • Rating: 2 out of 10

    Westworld Opening

    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).

    Gunslinger Upgrades

    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.

    The Gunslinger pursues Martin

    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.

    Conclusion. Ever since its release in theaters, Westworld has been a major influence… if not in cyberpunk then certainly in media in general. Influential enough for a sequel (Futureworld), a series, (Beyond Westworld), and now a remake currently in production.

    Just because it’s not cyberpunk, don’t let that stop you from adding this sweet slab of 70’s sci-fi to your collection. It fits with Crichton’s cyberpunk works.


    November 17, 2008

    LMXV said:

    When you rate these, is it for the overall rating of the film or how much it’s related to cyberpunk?

    I’ve been wanting to see this film when I first saw the DVD cover. It reminded me of Logan’s Run.

    Stormtrooper of Death said:

    There was also a sequal, for this movie, called Futureworld. Made in 1976. With a plot to replace government leaders with humanoid replicas.. funny movie, Futureworld…

    November 19, 2008

    SFAM said:

    LMXV, the rating of the movie should be different from how much it relates to Cyberpunk. This should be a quality rating. Personally, I liked this movie a decent amount - I’d give it at least 6 stars, but I fully agree with Mr. Roboto that this isn’t cyberpunk either in look or tone.

    November 20, 2008

    evan t said:

    Definitely notable for the CGI scene! This movie IS entertaining, but not true cyberpunk. Another Michael Crichton movie, Looker, has a similar feel to this movie, and probably falls into the same category. Notable for its ‘first CGI human character’. Not sure if Looker would be considered real cyberpunk either, but awesome 80’s music, special effects and futuristic themes makes this one a classic Michael Crichton thriller.

    August 4, 2009

    Sergio said:

    i think this article just got infected by spam

    August 19, 2009

    Marc McKenzie said:

    Hmmm…well, I agree–WESTWORLD isn’t cyberpunk, but “proto-cyberpunk” is more appropriate. Crichton wrote and directed this–man, he was an idea machine!

    Ironically, the film features “sex model” robots…and now, there are predictions that in a couple of decades, such robots will exist. Don’t know whether I should get excited or scared #@*less by this….

    February 10, 2010

    Cyberpunk Review » Spammer gets boot for spamming. said (pingback):

    […] spammer among our reviewers (No names, please. We already know who it is.). It managed to poison my Westworld review with drug adverts, and caused two other posts to “disappear” with HTML tags. I […]

    […] 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”) […]

    January 3, 2011

    Sick_Spazmoid said:

    The guy who gave 2 stars to Westworld sucks badly. His brain died from watching The Matrix too many times.

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