Now we all remember when Daniel Craig starred in the hybrid-that-should-never-have-been Cowboys and Aliens (Favreau:2011), don’t we? And surely we also remember how well it was received, or rather, how badly it was received? Well, now there’s a new Western/Sci-Fi mash-up on the block, only this time it’s on the small screen.
**SPOILER FREE POST**
Westworld is the latest high spec drama from HBO, combining these two well known and opposing genres in a new 10-part series (showing on SkyAtlantic every Tuesday at 21:00). I only managed to watch the first episode two days ago, so I’m a little late to the party, but boy am I glad I watched it.
The premise is this: Set in the very near future, Westworld is an amusement park of sorts, where wealthy visitors pay a large sum to spend time in the park, surrounded by artificial humans/A.I.s/robots (whatever you want to call them) known as ‘hosts’. The park is set up as a town in America’s Wild West, where guests come to live out fantasies in a controlled environment of real-time stories and robots than look real, and as they are paying for the pleasure, they may undertake any fantasy without consequence. It is based on the 1973 film of the same title, and boasts an impressive cast, including James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, and Thandie Newton, with Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins.
Now, this is how you combine a Western with Sci-Fi. Perhaps it’s the lack of aliens, perhaps it’s the basis on a classic film, perhaps it’s the magic touch of HBO, but whatever it is, it bloody works. Someone seems to have taken a leaf out of Charlie Brooker’s book, because it does have a similarity to his Black Mirror (which is coming to Netflix on 21st October – get excited people!!) and perhaps this is part of the secret – it gives a sense of what Black Mirror might be like if it wasn’t an anthology series. But however they’ve done it, they made this combination work. This has all the hallmarks of one of HBO’s success stories. And as if you needed any more persuasion, Mr Jamie East – critic, funny man, radio presenter, and fountain of knowledge on Thronecast – is giving the show some of his highest praise, and that’s an opinion I can respect and rely on.
Obviously I’m giving my recommendations with this show; the concept alone is enough for me to do that. The set up of the drama is expertly done, particularly in the case of the Man in Black, and the interesting little cliffhanger they slotted in right at the end, I’m already excited to see more of what Westworld has to offer.