Classic Movie Reviews
by Mike Peters Westworld (1973)
Classic Film Review
Directed by Michael Crichton
Starring: Yul Brynner and Richard Benjamin
In the future, there will be extravagant amusement parks for adults that will cater to every whim and fantasy imagined. John (James Brolin) and Peter (Richard Benjamin) are two of the guests visiting one of the three parks offered. For a thousand dollars a day, John and Peter decide to visit Westworld where they can kill, fight and fornicate with machines disguised as humans. However, things do not go as planned and the machines begin to act irrationally which, as a result, threatens the very existence of every human being at the resort.
Many people have pointed out numerous flaws with this film and I will be the first to agree with them. This film is not perfect. There are many plot holes and the acting is amateurish (even campy) in certain instances. However, the film attempts to convey an eerie message that is even more prevalent in this day and age. Man’s fascination and obsession with technology and the consequences as a result.
As was the case with Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Westworld attempts to showcase man’s fascination with attempting to create a simpler and better world through the means of technology. As the film exemplifies, this is not always a sensible step. Technology can be used to improve life and make it simpler but there are far too many consequences that can result if man is not careful. Technology can rear its ugly head and turn on the human being who believes he is in control.
When Peter and John arrive at Westworld, they are allowed to do what ever they want to whom ever (as long as they are a robot). In one instance, John and Peter are at a bar when the gunslinger (Yul Brynner-his wardrobe referencing his character of Chris in “The Magnificent Seven”) bumps into Peter. The gunslinger is an antagonist machine and belittles Peter. Peter does not step down and enters into a draw with the gunslinger. Peter kills the gunslinger and, in this instance, he is allowed to feel the rush of killing another man/machine.
These incidents are closely monitored by a group of scientists who play God in a sense by creating scenes that are fixed and staged. They have everything under control. When the robot is killed, he is taken back for repairs and then placed back onto the stage for another scene. In fact, the gunslinger continues to return but is repeatedly murdered by Peter. However, things begin to get a little suspicious as the robots systematically begin to rebel against their creators. They begin to refuse the advances of the guests and even begin to harm them. The scientists are concerned but decide not to shut down the park because it would cost them financially in the end. Is there ever another reason?
This film plays like an updated version of the Frankenstein story. A being is created who cannot be controlled, begins to think for himself and commences to run amok causing terror and tragedy. However, Westworld does not merely have one Frankenstein monster but rather hundreds. The three worlds created for this park, Westworld, Medieval World and Roman World, begin to self destruct as a result. Rules are ignored and chaos and violence mount. Ironically, these worlds sink into the type of behavior that helped to define them in the first place. For instance, the West was known for being uncivilized and a violent era of time. It is only when rules and creeds were instilled that the West became civilized in a sense. The scientists are not prepared for this sort of reality. One cannot instill rules into an era that never had them in the first place. The robots are forced to act in a land that is unaccustomed to them. The West embodies individuality and violence as a way of solving problems and the machines seem to take this to heart.
The film is a cautionary tale for society dependant on every innovative gadget that is created. In this day and age, people rely on the means of technology to help them get through their day. It makes life easier and simpler. It is only when people begin to worship the gadgets in their possession that problems can arise. Technology can still cause many problems and drive people bonkers. WE NEVER OWN TECHNOLOGY. In fact, it can control us through society’s dependence on it.
Westworld is a film that attempts to tell a cautionary tale but as well strives to entertain. In the last twenty minutes of the film, there is a chase scene that occurs that is both exhilarating and suspenseful. Peter has witnessed first hand that the machines are out of control and takes off on a horse with the gunslinger (who has targeted Peter and John personally) close behind him in full pursuit. The machines have taken control and we, the audience, fear for the human’s lives. The characters no longer take anything for granted. They are now the hunted.
Michael Crichton wrote and directed this film. He is a world renowned author who has penned such stories as “Congo”, “Sphere” and, of course, “Jurassic Park” which incorporates sort of the same story as Westworld except with a much larger budget. Crichton does an adequate job of directing but he must be commended for his incorporation of digitalized effects into the film. In fact, Westworld is the first feature film to ever include the use of computer digitalized effects (not used for monitor graphics) which is reflected in the gunslinger’s P.O.V.
All in all, this film is not perfect and does have many glaring holes. However, the story is taut (and relatively short at a mere 88 minutes), the performance are good in instances (especially by Yul Brynner who conveys so much in the film but yet says so little. He was truly a tremendous talent).
This film arrived during an era that was undergoing great change. Films were attempting to convey meaning and messages about society throughout their stories and characters. Although, not widely known, this film is one of the more important one’s of the 70’s. It conveyed a message that was before its’ time and is still a message to be thought of dearly in the present day.