WESTWORLD (1973) was famous author Michael Crichton's first
attempt at directing a movie for the big screen. He also wrote this
erratic but nevertheless engrossing film. Conceptually the film is
more interesting that the realization due to Crichton's poor direction,
all of this notwithstanding, the film is worth seeing.
The show's premise is thought-provoking. What if you could do
more at an amusement park than just ride through a pseudo-environment?
What if the Pirates of the Caribbean allowed you to actually become a
real pirate? What if you could use real guns and kill robots that were
completely indistinguishable from real people? In other words, how
about a park where you can enter a fantasy world that for all intents
and purposes is a real world? You have got to admit that the setup for
this high concept movie is intriguing. One part I especially like is
that there is a subtle way in which robots differ from real humans in
their appearance, and it stems from the same problem that great artists
have in drawing the human body. I will not revel the difference. Rent
the film to find out.
Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin)
decide they want to get away from the stress of life by going to such
an amusement park. Given many choices they choose to be cowboys in the
Old West. They get to kill other cowboys in fights and to run around
with loose women. They have a great time. In an adjoining part of the
park another group of happy campers get to relive the bacchanal of
ancient Rome. Their toga parties are much better than in ANIMAL HOUSE.
The toughest gunslinger in the Wild West section is a robot played
by Yul Brynner. Peter and John having great fun killing him, but
overnight the technicians back at the command center keep fixing him up
and giving him better programs so he will be harder to kill the next
day. As anyone who has seen JURASSIC PARK can guess, the park develops
a bit of a problem and the robots start misbehaving. They develop the
nasty habit of trying to kill the guests. Imagine one of Disney's
pirates firing at you with real guns? A bit more realism than most of
us would want.
This all sounds much better than it is due mainly to Crichton's
plodding pacing. The film goes so slow that you find yourself wishing
your VCR had one of those double speed modes where you could still hear
the voice. The best part of the show happens at the command center
which is a 1970's version of the center in JURASSIC PARK. Other than
the equipment differences, notice how they need many people to operate
the command center in WESTWORLD whereas in JURASSIC PARK a single
programmer does it all.
Overall, watching this highly uneven movie is a blend of falling
asleep out of boredom when nothing is happening to being fascinated
with what is going to happen next. If you like science fiction, you
will probably enjoy seeing the movie. Be prepared however to be
frustrated by its low energy level.
WESTWORLD runs just 1:28 but feels a lot longer. It is correctly
rated PG for low key cartoonish violence. It would be fine for any kid
6 and up although they probably need to be 9 or 10 to be interested. I
recommend this unusual show to the adventuresome, but don't watch it
close to bedtime or you may never be able to see the ending. It is
easy to find your eyelids getting heavy in the many slow parts. I give
the film ** 1/2.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes