Footage of HBO’s dystopian, VR-steeped series Westworld surfaced recently in HBO previews of 2016 programming, as well as in its own clip (below). The series is the brainchild of Burn Notice creator Lisa Joy and Dark Knight co-writer Jonathan Nolan, and is a takeoff from a largely-forgotten 1973 film directed and written by Michael Crichton. It also boasts — like all recent HBO programming — an impressive cast of actors you’d expect to see in movies: Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright.
Also, we’ve got the god J.J. Abrams on hand as producer, who is pretty big these days.
Sound intriguing? Let’s break down what we can expect from the futuristic, high-concept series.
The plot is all about androids breaking free from a freaky, past-and-future-simulating theme park.
Did you know Crichton had written another theme park story?
Here’s one of the weird elevator pitches for the show, from an interview executive producer/writer/director Jonathan Nolan did with EW last year: “The back of napkin version, is that it’s about a theme park where you can take your id on vacation.”
By all indications, we should gear up for a little Jurassic Park-meets-Blade Runner-meets-Ex Machina experimentation. The androids in the Westworld theme park go berserk because they are invaded by a computer virus.
“When they were shooting the [1973 Crichton] film it was the same year, or the year before, the appearance of the first actual computer virus,” Nolan explained.
Oh, that Crichton — always ahead of his time conceptually. It will be interesting to see what Nolan et al. do with this concept in an age where we know so much more about these things — in which networks and laptops get fucked up thousands of times around the world every day.
More from Nolan:
“It’s based on a film that’s 40 years old, and one of the amazing things about Crichton is he was such a visionary… Our [modern] world is about to get very off, and some of the questions Crichton had in his film we’re hoping to elaborate on in the series. As exotic as they seemed years ago, they are now becoming very frighteningly relevant.”
These androids are gonna have trouble coming to terms with the “real world.”
Human visitors can interact and live out fantasies with computer-operated actors in fully fleshed out worlds, like an Old West town. But then the ‘droids get wise, somehow. Then they gotta come to terms with what’s underneath the hood. “Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?” intones this (James Marsden-delivered?) narration in the teaser trailer’s voiceover.
Scarred android women — including Evan Rachel Wood — tweak out, Marsden shows up staring off a cliff like stoic John Wayne, Ed Harris is “mysterious villain” The Man in Black, and Anthony Hopkins looks like he’s reprising his role in The Elephant Man in a nineteenth-century, double-breasted-vest get-up.
Here he is looking ominous and craggy in a more modern suit though:
On an unrelated note, there will be gratuitously explicit sex.
It’s not a big surprise — this is HBO. But still, Deadline’s September report about the leaked SAG requirements of some “background actors” on the show are totally ludicrous. HBO seems to be aiming to outdo themselves.
“This document serves to inform you that this project will require you to be fully nude and/or witness others fully nude and participate in graphic sexual situations. By accepting this Project assignment, you may be required to do any of the following: appear fully nude; wear a pubic hair patch; perform genital-to-genital touching; have your genitals painted; simulate oral sex with hand-to-genital touching; contort to form a table-like shape while being fully nude; pose on all fours while others who are fully nude ride on your back; ride on someone’s back while you are both fully nude; and other assorted acts the Project may require. The Project will also include language and sexual situations that some may consider personally objectionable or uncomfortable.”
So we’re in legitimately orgy territory here, and this is not gonna be your campy cable-channel sci-fi outing. It’s gonna be maybe a bit like this whole bit, if you recall it:
All in all, we can be sure of a couple of thing: It sounds like a show HBO will make, and it does not sound like it will be boring.
Westworld premieres on HBO next year.