Monday, March 30, 2015


Score Technician: Joe Hemmerling

Long before helping a whole generation of kids fall in love with dinosaurs with Jurassic Park or reassuring a whole generation of climate change deniers with State of Fear, Michael Crichton directed a little movie called Westworld. The film revolved around a futuristic theme park where guests could act out historical fantasies (including the Wild West, medieval Europe, and the Roman empire) with a cast of robots built to be their compulsory sex slaves/murder victims. The action centers around two friends played by Peter Benjamin (who looks like a young Uncle Jack from It's Always Sunny) and James Brolin (who looks like a pudgy Christian Bale) who visit the park looking for a good time, but then get caught in the chaos when the park robots begin to develop minds of their own. They even stunt-cast Yul Brynner as a robot version of his Magnificent Seven character. This has the makings of a cult classic written all over it, but what did the nanobots think?
  • For yielding a pretty cool Pop. 1280 song. = +3pts (Not, like, one of their best, but still...) 
  • The Delos theme parks ad boiled down to one sentence: "Hey, rich people, now's your chance to hunt humans, guilt free." = +13pts 
  • Returning visitor to Medievalworld tells interviewer that he "married" a beautiful princess. (Wink.) = -4pts 
  • So is visiting Westworld the kind of vacation that you talk about with your coworkers after you come back?
    "Hey, Doug, how was your vacation?"
    "Oh, it was great. I got to kill a bunch of robots that looked like people and then have sex with some other ones. Afterwards, I got a free t-shirt to take home." = -10pts 
  • Young Uncle Jack asks more questions than my mom five minutes into a movie that neither one of us has ever seen. = -5pts 
  • The Delos logo is the perfect blend of tacky '70s graphic design and sinister. = +11pts 
It's like they bred a biohazard sign with a ladder spider.
  • The automated message reassuring the characters that "Nothing can go wrong" as they are shuttled to their vacation destinations is the opposite of reassuring. = -6pts 
  • Westworld: A place to sleep on uncomfortable 1800's furniture and get publicly emasculated by Yul Brynner. = +12pts 
  • Young Uncle Jack gets his first taste of blood. = +5pts 
  • The guns won't fire at other guests because they have a built-in heat sensor. order for the robots to feel like humans, wouldn't they also have to give off the same amount of body heat? Or is sleeping with one of the sex models like screwing a refrigerator? = -8pts 
  • The engineers positively nailed the dead-eyed, thousand-yard stare of the hooker-bots. = +7pts 
  • "When a man and woman really love each other, they share a very special...well, it's kind of like a hug. See, first they take off all their clothes and get into bed, then the man rolls on top of the woman. Then the woman rolls on top of the man. Then the man rolls back on top of the woman, and back and forth again, and that's where babies come from." = -13pts 
  • Do all of the guests at Delos theme parks go to bed and wake up at the same time? = -2pts 
  • Delos's lead technician describes a series of robot malfunctions as symptoms of a "machine disease" and is promptly scorned by all his peers. Michael Crichton, predicting the computer virus. = +20pts 
  • Young Uncle Jack shoots Yul Brynner again, but this time gets sent to jail. You know what they say, "Shoot Yul Brynner once, shame on him. Shoot Yul Brynner twice, shame on you." = +4pts 
  • Pudgy Christian Bale breaks Young Uncle Jack out of prison by smuggling him dynamite with which to blast out of his cell, which is... come on. Heat sensors on the guns, maybe, but there's no way a corporation would take on the liability of just handing some dude a stick of dynamite and trusting him not to blow himself to kingdom come. = -6pts 
  • Pudgy Christian Bale shoots the sheriff down as he and Young Uncle Jack ride off into the sunset. This is a super fucked-up vacation. = -7pts 
  • The rattle snake attack. = +16pts
  • A Wild West-style barroom brawl sounds fun and all, but seriously, how do you stop the guests from hurting each other? Where was Delos's legal team when they were conceptualizing this? = -5pts 
  • Portly guest over at Medievalworld duels the black knight with a sword that looks like someone used it as a makeshift lever. = +3pts 
  • Yul Brynner as cowboy terminator way scarier than you'd expect. = +32pts 
And way dreamier, too.
  • Ah, Pudgy Christian Bale, we'll miss your wisdom and gamely role-playing. = +6pts
  • Love how robot vision in sci-fi movies is always way, way worse than regular human vision. = +9pts
It's like a bad Pictionary drawing dragged mewling and hissing into the real world.
  • Young Uncle Jack establishes himself as the hero of the picture by getting driven away from his own ambush, sans his weapon. = -8pts 
  • Young Uncle Jack, fleeing his failed ambush, encounters a desperate technician trying to repair a flat tire on his park cart. The technician tells Young Uncle Jack that he's never going to escape from Yul Brynner. "No matter whatcha do, he'll always be a jump ahead of ya. You haven't got a chance!" To which Young Uncle Jack replies, "Yes I do," and rides away. = +10pts 
  • Right about now, the park staff is probably second-guessing their decision to equip their robots with infra-red heat-seeking vision, live ammunition, and an impeccable killing instinct. = -18pts 
  • Young Uncle Jack escapes into the subterranean tunnel network beneath the park through a manhole in Romanworld. Which makes sense, given that escaping into manholes is probably one of the major selling points in Romanworld's brochure. = +14pts 
  • So, earlier in the film, the scientists who run the park found themselves trapped in their control room with a dwindling air supply. Instead of MacGyvering their way out and finding a way to restore order in the park, when Young Uncle Jack happens upon the command center, they're all dead of asphyxiation. That's some cold-blooded shit, Westworld. = +20pts 
  • Good thing the technicians who worked at the robot repair center had access to a full-service acid bar. = +5pts
  • The scene in Medievalworld where Young Uncle Jack hides himself from Yul Brynner's infrared vision by ducking under a torch was essentially self-plagiarized for the initial T-Rex attack in Jurassic Park. = +9pts 
  • ...And just plain plagiarized for the climax of Predator. = +9pts 
  • Charbroiled Yul Brynner-bot. = +14pts 
  • The scene where Young Uncle Jack frees a woman from a Medievalworld dungeon and gives her water, only to discover that she's a machine when she erupts into sparks and smoke is way unsettling...buuut, doesn't that really mean that all he had to do to stop Yul Brynner the entire time was splash some water on him? = 0pts (Kind of a wash.) 
Total Score = +100pts
Available on: DVD, bits and pieces of plagiarized ideas from sci-fi movies throughout the past half century (more or less)

While somewhat shaky in its execution, Westworld brings a hell of a lot to the table. It's pretty obvious that the seeds for what would eventually become Jurassic Park were planted right here, and Yul Brynner's implacable, affectless robot killing machine seems like a pretty clear precursor to the Terminator franchise. Most of the weaknesses in storytelling are offset by some surprisingly chilling set pieces. Probably the biggest weakness, though, is the movie's unwillingness to explore the most compelling aspects of its own premise. The Delos parks are basically playgrounds where "civilized people" can go to live out their own atavistic fantasies, with the thin veneer of fake historicism to make it seem less barbaric. Does it make it okay to kill somebody, just because that somebody is an extremely detailed robot? How is having sex with a Medievalworld chambermaid that much different than engaging a prostitute for the night? What does partaking in these kinds of activities do to your sense of empathy for REAL humans? Apparently HBO has been cooking up a television adaptation for the film for some time. While we're struggling to see how this premise could sustain itself as a series, we would love to see more attention given to these less savory themes and implications. Too bad ol' Yul isn't around to don the chaps again. That dude was terrifying.

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