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Westworld: The Complete First Season
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(Nov 07, 2017)
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Westworld: The Complete First Season (DVD)
Created for television by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, WESTWORLD is a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin – exploring a world in which every human appetite, not matter how noble or depraved, can be indulged. Exploring what it means to be human through the eyes of the lifelike AI “hosts” in the park, the series investigates the boundaries of an exotic world set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past. Meticulously crafted and artfully designed. Westworld offers its guests an unparalleled, immersive world where they have the freedom to become who they’ve always wanted to be – or who they never knew they were. No rules, no laws, no judgment. Live without limits. Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright and more star in this one-hour drama series from J.J. Abrams Bad Robot Productions and Kilter Films.]]>
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Top customer reviews
"Westworld Season 1" takes the concept of the original Michael Crichton movie and expands it drastically, making it an exquisitely dark tale about entertainment and sentience. The themes are ones that have been done to death elsewhere (playing God, the potential for artificial intelligence), but the intricacy of its writing sculpts this into a slow-burning, hauntingly intense tangle of dreams, mazes and intertwining realities.
For decades, Westworld has been the playground of wealthy people who want sex, violence and to just indulge their base desires. The park is full of "hosts," semi-sentient androids who truly believe they are gunslingers, farm girls, madams, desperados and so on. They die over and over, and are reassigned like dolls to different lives. And the patrons -- such as timid William (Jimmi Simpson) and his depraved "friend" Logan (Ben Barnes) -- are allowed to kill, rape and rampage through the hosts.
But something is changing in Westworld. Some of the hosts are acting strangely, speaking to a man who no longer exists. Others -- including dreamy farmgirl Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and hard-nosed madam Maeve (Thandie Newton) -- are becoming aware of what they are. Fragments of forgotten experiences are coming back to them, and Maeve even snaps back to consciousness in a repair center. Along with William, Dolores begins a quest into the depths of Westworld, searching for something she can't even identify -- but which might give her the freedom she craves.
At the heart of Westworld's success is Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins), who has just introduced a vast new storyline and a cruel villain to the artificial world, throwing the company into disarray. His increasingly strange behavior coincides with programming director Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) learning of a plot within the company. And making his way through Westworld is the Man in Black (Ed Harris), a mysterious guest who is in search of the Maze.
They say there are no new ideas, and "Westworld Season 1" is a good argument that it doesn't even matter. The themes of this story are old, well-worn sci-fi tropes -- the dangers of playing God, the line between man and machine, the point where an artificial intelligence could be considered alive -- but the presentation and skill with which they're written makes them feel fresh and incisive. Well, that and the awareness (missing from most sci-fi) that human beings can be unfathomably cruel.
The story is a slow-unfolding one, and Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy scatter countless mysteries and unanswered questions throughout it, slowly building on each other with every new episode. What is the Maze? What is Dr. Ford planning? What happened with Arnold? And are the hosts truly achieving sentience, and if so, how has it happened? These questions are raised and expanded with exquisite slowness, but they're still very gripping.
Half of the story is in the bloody, gritty, sun-baked Westworld, where life is even cheaper than it was in the real Wild West, and the other half is in the dark, glassy labyrinth of the actual Westworld corporation. These two worlds start to bleed into each other more with every passing episode, with haunting, exquisitely-disturbing visuals scattered throughout -- from the faceless hazmat-suited men that haunt the hosts, to the player piano that (very symbolically) can only play a prearranged, mechanical tune.
It also has a spectacular cast -- Hopkins as a sinisterly paternal overlord of the company; Wright as an amiable man who begins to think the hosts can be more than they are, and with good reason; Simpson as one of the few good, gentle people to visit the park; Harris as a cruel and mysterious figure who has seemingly appointed himself the villain; and Wood as a naive, romantic farm girl doomed to a "loop" of rape and loss, who begins a quest to learn the truth of her world.
There are a lot of solid supporting performances, like Rodrigo Santoro, Tessa Thompson, Ben Barnes, Shannon Woodward and James Marsden, but the easy standout is Thandie Newton as Maeve -- she's a fiercely independent, strong-willed woman who discovers that everything about her life is artificial, but takes the chance to seize control of it anyway.
The one problem? One of the underlying themes is that it's bad to indulge in unlimited fantasy violence and sex with unconsenting "fake" people... except this message is coming from HBO, who have fictional graphic violence and sex as their bread and butter. Seriously, one scene has Maeve provoking a guest into strangling her as he rapes her.
While some of the themes are well-trodden, "Westworld Season 1" is a richly-detailed expansion of the original movie, with excellent acting and sublime writing. But just where will playing God take us next?