Before I begin talking about this film, I should probably take a moment to introduce myself. I’m a newbie writer here at Pop Bunker, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to toss some ideas out into the pop culture discourse. I was also intrigued to see the “Old Movies / Young Eyes” category on the site. As someone born in 1980, I often joke to some of my older friends that I shouldn’t be bothered about movies made before 1985 or so. That being the case, when one of my friends recommended that I watch Westworld a couple years ago, I shrugged the suggestion off with great ease. But when another friend held the DVD out and offered to loan it to me this week, I figured it might be worth at least one viewing.
Long before Michael Crichton took us to Jurassic Park to get torn up by dinosaurs, and before he patched us up in the ER, he offered the chance for “the vacation of the future, today,” through Westworld’s fictional travel agency, “Delos.” The film opens with a promotional video for Delos, in which a mildly creepy host asks person after person returning from their $1000/day vacation whether they enjoyed it. Each of the interviewees is still reeling from the experience and describes which of the fantasy vacation options they chose–Medieval World, Roman World, or the film’s namesake Westworld. This commercial is one of the rare glimpses we get of the larger futuristic society in which the story takes place, aside from the posh “hovercraft” ride our protagonists take to reach their vacation destination and the peeks we get of the highly-skilled employees responsible for keeping the resort in working order. It might be a bit presumptuous to try to read some sort of class commentary into that, so I won’t bother.
As James Brolin and Richard Benjamin (rocking a bad-ass moustache) establish themselves in their respective roles of the calm, cool, experienced Westworlder–John, and the excited, antsy, embarrassing virgin–Peter, we begin to get a sense of exactly what type of vacation they’re embarking upon. The Delos vacations, simply put, offer people the opportunity to indulge in their basest desires–fucking and killing–consequence free, thanks to the technology of incredibly lifelike androids programmed to entertain the resort guests. The best way to identify the androids, John explains to Peter, is to look at their hands. “They haven’t been able to perfect that technology,” he points out, an awfully convenient plot point.
In the ensuing scenes, we see the various resort guests having the time of their lives with the wrinkly-handed entertainment robots. Peter grows increasingly excited about the possibility of killing, and we learn that the guns given to guests are designed not to fire when pointed at warm bodies, so people won’t accidentally kill each other. We then get to see young Peter become a man not once, but twice, first as he successfully slays the “Gunslinger” bot (played by an impressive Yul Brynner–who apparently played a very similar role in The Magnificent Seven…perhaps another candidate for OM/YE?) and second as he loses his pleasure-bot cherry to softer, curvier specimen. Interestingly, no mention is made about whether the not-yet-perfected quality of the robot’s hands detract from what is undoubtedly an otherwise perfectly normal lovemaking experience.
With our protagonists’ vacations in full swing, we get the opportunity to see behind the technological curtain of the resort, where science-types in lab coats collect and repair the slaughtered androids in preparation for another day of debauchery. In a turn of events not unlike the one that would much later give us the iconic “ripple in a glass of water” scene from Jurassic Park, somehow the resort’s attractions begin to show signs of straying from the program. John gets bitten by a robot snake (yes, they took the time to create a robot snake, but couldn’t make the robot hands look convincing), the creepy old dude’s advances on a busty young sex robot are (GASP!) declined, and a sword-wielding robot then proceeds to make short work of said creepy dude. The science guys are growing increasingly concerned about the robots’ misbehavior, and in another familiar Crichton plot twist, their efforts to fix the problem (shutting off the power) end up rendering them impotent to save the guests of the resort from certain death, as they find themselves locked in the park control room with a rapidly diminishing oxygen supply.
John and Peter have been resting up after a barroom brawl scene (which might’ve made Adam West proud, by the way, had they only included some good “Bam!” and “Zow!” balloons), and so they aren’t aware that there’s been a role reversal at Westworld. (Eastworld? Too soon?) The guests are now there for the amusement of the androids, instead of the other way around. John doesn’t realize this when he reluctantly agrees to a gunfight with the Gunslinger, who then callously shoots John down with malice afore-programming. Now, maybe I missed something here—but if they gave the guests guns that wouldn’t fire when pointed at warm-blooded beings, couldn’t they have done the same with the android’s guns? Am I right? Now poor James Brolin doesn’t even live to see his son be president for Oliver Stone.
The rest of the film consists of Peter running from a robot reminiscent of the original Terminator, though as another blogger has observed, the acting is much better. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I will say that one of my favorite parts of the movie happens when Peter is fleeing the Gunslinger and encounters one of the park’s employees. Oh if you’re running from that robot, the park employee says (pretty much) in his apparent effort to comfort Peter, then you’re fucked.
All in all, I found this movie to be quite entertaining. It would be especially fun, I think, for a group viewing with lots of heckling. If that’s your plan, I’d recommend doing that sooner rather than later, as the ever-reliable Wikipedia confirms that there is still talk of a reboot coming soon.