Dec. 12th, 2016

Westworld

Dec. 12th, 2016 01:21 pm
migmit: (Default)
I was a bit sick yesterday and decided to watch "Westworld".

Massive spoilers ahead. You've been warned.

First one (meta-spoiler): I didn't like it.

There are two things I care about in the movie: characters and plot. It's possible to make a good movie without one of those (Bergman was a master of movies without a plot; Christopher Nolan was (not anymore) a master of movies without characters), but it rarely happens; it's not possible to make a good movie without both. Unfortunately, in "Westworld" both fail. Not completely, but significantly.

Let's start with characters. One of the central characters here is Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). She is a "host", which in the show's context means "robot". Wood certainly tries to play her part convincingly, but overdoes it a bit, looking less like a robot and more like a brick. If you look in her eyes — and the show gives us plenty of opportunities to do that — you are rewarded with an unobstructed view of the back of her cranium.

Another host, Maeve (Thandie Newton), gets a bit more interesting somewhere in the middle, when she starts taking control of her life. But her idea of "taking control" seems to be "murder everyone I don't need and threaten with murder the ones I do". There were interesting parts, when she discovered the stash of sketches under a floorboard, or when she made Hector search for a bullet inside her... but it was a brief moment.

The purpose of Dolores in the park is for men to fight over her — and win her. I just don't see it. Fighting for Maeve I could get; but she is for sale, so, no luck.

We're told that in "Westworld" the hosts a routinely reassigned to other positions — like, first Dolores' father (forgot his name) used to be a sheriff, and before that — a professor. We see that Maeve used to be a farm girl. You'd think that's an actors paradise — playing a lot of different characters instead of just one. But no. In "iZombie", which, IMNHO, is one of the best things on TV right now, Liv Moore does switch personalities, while still having a very strong one of her own; in "Dollhouse", which bears certain degree of similarity to "Westworld", Echo, Sierra, and Victor do pretty much the same; but here everybody retains the same personality, while not actually having any.

Humans aren't much better. Ed Harris certainly looks good as a Man in Black, but that's what Ed Harris always does. Can't say the same about his younger self. William aged really well; even without a hat, old and balding, Harris is more handsome than Jimmi Simpson. But it's hard to identify with William, who fell in love with a walking toaster, and hard to identify with Man in Black, who is painted with as much black paint as they could find. And when it's finally revealed that he just wanted to make the hosts able to fight back — dude, you own the company! Surely you can find an easier way to make Dr. Ford change a few lines of code! (Sure, you'll get sued by victims' relatives, but if that's what you want...)

Speaking of Dr. Ford. Anthony Hopkins routinely plays characters who are above the world. Here he brings nothing new. No new shades, no new angles. Just the same. No one can best him at the beginning; no one could best him at the end.

There is, I think, only one character who was a bit interesting. No, not Bernard/Arnold; Elsie. Young and inexperienced, but also quite smart. Ambitious, but wanting to do good. Her demise was only a result of not being given full information. In a better show she might have become a serious obstacle to Ford's manipulations — or a great ally to him; here she is nothing but a small distraction.

Let's talk about the plot then. What strikes me is how unimaginative "Westworld" is. There is so much potential here. And almost all of it is wasted.

For example: I get that some people would dress up as cowboys and try to play the part. But I don't believe all of them would agree to leave their Android phones behind (everybody in the show seems to be using the same phone, and, given how ugly the UI is, I bet it's Android). Maybe not just phones; smart watches, smart glasses — everything. Even if there is no Internet access in the Westworld (which would be a huge blow to the company income), they are still useful. And, given that that photo of William's bride remained there for thirty years, some of the lost electronic devices would remain as well. Not just lost; stolen, also. Sometimes hosts can actually hide things from their masters, like Maeve did with her drawings. So, I imagine a black market with electronics; general awareness of a bigger picture; hell, even some of the hosts having their own blogs!

Another problem with the setting is what the guests actually get for their money. Forget Man in Black, he as far from typical as it gets. Shoot a criminal? Have sex with a hooker robot (or is it robot hooker)? I'm pretty certain you can have all that much cheaper.

Man in Black keeps talking about a "deeper level of the game", but there is no game. The thing is, people play video games for two reasons: a) they don't get really hurt; and b) they feel like they won. Hosts can't kill humans (at least those that are in the park); but they can punch them. Would you go to a theme park where workers would sometimes beat you up? And what it is that you win?

Sure, you can have your private orgy there, but... do you really want it in a dirty brothel? More importantly: do you really want it under a surveillance, without knowing how many employees would have a look?

But enough about premise; let's talk about how it plays out. And the answer is: not in a good way. Apparently, Dr. Ford was trying... no, there is no "trying" for him; he was setting up a robot apocalypse. Um... and how is it good? Earlier, Arnold said that robots would be considered an enemy by humans; Ford just ensured that they would be enemies for real.

You know, I'm sick of this robot threats. In my review of "Interstellar" I've mentioned that pretty much the only thing that I liked there was that robots were people's allies. It's so easy — and so cliched — to write a toaster uprising; it's much more interesting to see real interaction between sentient species. And no, the scripted sex between Dolores and William doesn't count, as it's scripted.

Okay, I've wrote enough. Despite everything I've said, my time wasn't exactly wasted here. "Westworld" isn't the worst way to pass the time. It desperately tries to be something more; but it's not.