HBO orders series based on Westworld

A lot of entertainment news that’s also relevant to class this week. While there are scant few details, it has been announced that HBO has ordered a TV series for next year based on the early-70’s Yul Brynner movie Westworld, whose plot revolved around a fantasy amusement park in which the actors are all androids. As you can guess, something goes wrong and the androids start running amok.

The movie was one of the very early looks at the potentialities of future technology, and of what we are beginning to face today in terms of robotics and artificial intelligence. In what was very forward-looking at the time, the androids actually started to act wacky because of something similar to a computer virus, an idea that was virtually unknown at the time. Remember that androids are different from robots, in that robots are mechanical devices whereas androids, supposedly, can look and act like humans, with skin, organs, and everything.

In the early 70’s, many movies examined or postulated what future technology would be able to do, and almost all of them hit on something that came true, or is on the way to coming true. From Demon Seed to Silent Running to The Terminal Man to the television series The Six Million Dollar Man, the forward march of technology of which the public was just starting to become aware gave plenty of fodder for storytellers to consider what the future might hold. Where technology is and where it’s going is always relevant, it’s a topic we’ve discussed in class on multiple occasions. If unintentional comedy is more your speed, the idea was even addressed in a terrible 1965 movie called The Human Duplicators that was brilliantly parodied by the crew from Mystery Science Theater 3000; you can watch it in its entirety on YouTube. On an interesting side note, the creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000 got the idea for the show directly from Silent Running – see how it all comes together?


Even with all these movies being made, Westworld was very influential. Based on a novel by Michael Crichton (who also wrote Jurassic Park, Congo, The Andromeda Strain, and the previously mentioned Terminal Man, so ‘run amok’ seems to be a common theme in his stories), it was even parodied in an episode of The Simpsons. There was a less well-received sequel, Futureworld.

There’s no information about when it will aired or how many episodes will be ordered, but considering how far we’ve come in the last 42 years, technologically speaking, they’ll need to be sure it not only keeps up with technology but also shows what might happen. It’s an all-star cast both in front of and behind the camera, with a cast led by Anthony Hopkins and directed by J. J. Abrams. My enthusiasm is tempered, however, by the apparent veering from the original movie’s concept, as this one is described as “A dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.” While that was one of the themes in the original movie in which visitors could pick several ‘settings’ for their theme park adventure, one being of an adult nature, that was a very minor aspect of the film and overall it doesn’t sound like this new project is keeping with the theme of the original. I still hope it’s well-done, we don’t need another TRON fiasco.

Here’s a Vine teaser from HBO that tells you absolutely nothing.