Michael Crichton must have hated theme parks. The novelist behind Jurassic Park also wrote the 1973 sci-fi film Westworld, on which HBO’s latest big-budget series is based. In both franchises, humans play god and sell previously impossible experiences to people, with disastrous consequences. The show aired on Sky Atlantic and some people billed it as a fix for Game of Thrones addicts, but really it’ll satisfy your inner Jurassic Park fan, as follows…
1. An old man caused all the mess
In the show, Anthony Hopkins stars as Dr Robert Ford, the inventor of Westworld – a theme park filled with realistic, humanoid robots who believe themselves human. People can go on holiday there, acting as they please without consequences or fear of being harmed by their robot ‘hosts’. They play through familiar scenarios that repeat themselves again and again – but then something changes, and things get dangerous. Much like Richard Attenborough and his dino DNA, then.
2. The creations are proper scary
Although humans are all-powerful against Westworld’s hosts – that is, their gunfire does no harm to humans, whereas it works vice-versa – it looks like that might change. And some of the robots are terrifying, built to be more violent than a Quentin Tarantino villain. The world is meant to reflect the turbulent, Wild West of yore, so there are plenty of thugs in amongst the more innocent, idealistic robots. And in order to distract visitors from problems in the park that begin in the first episode, its engineers decide to make things more interesting by turning some robots more violent – a plan that could go horribly wrong. Just like the Indominus Rex, then.
3. It makes you think big
Jurassic Park posed questions about man’s place in the world – is it irresponsible, or even ethically wrong, to resurrect species that went extinct thousands of years ago? Westworld is similar, but it’s more like Channel 4’s Humans or Asimov’s I, Robot, in that it’s about the personhood (or not) of artificial intelligence. In a world where robots are writing music that sounds like The Beatles, those are pretty relevant questions to be asking.
4. It’s beautiful
Instead of lush tropics, Westworld is set in the Wild West, with craggy mountains in the background, dusty desert ranges and verdant plains dotted with cattle. But then there’s also a cutting-edge laboratory where ‘hosts’ are tested, upgraded and decommissioned. So visually, it’s completely arresting.
5. The acting is great
Where the quality trio of Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum were our heroes in Jurassic Park, in Westworld we have Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden as our main protagonists, plus Thandie Newton, Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, Ben Barnes, Luke Hemsworth and even Sidse Babett Knudsen, the PM from Danish political drama Borgen, who plays a badass controller of the theme park. It’s top tier stuff.