As the clock winds down on Game of Thrones, HBO has enacted its search for the network’s next torch-bearer. The popular series based on George R.R. Martin’s novels can’t last forever and the network is all too aware that a successor with similar audience appeal has yet to be crowned. A large part of that is rooted in the fact that HBO’s current offerings simply aren’t up to par with the high standards set by GoT. It certainly hasn’t been for lack of effort though. There’s been solid progress marked by the debut season for The Night Of, but that doesn’t cover the epic sci-fi/fantasy vacuum that Westworld is poised to fill.
[Update, 9/26/16: Added new “About the Series” trailer (see below).]
The series is based on a 1973 film by the same name, directed by original Jurassic Park mastermind, Michael Crichton. The show roughly follows a similar premise. The initial trailers tease at as much, showing us the story of a hyper-realistic Western theme park, stocked by A.I. androids that are beginning to become self-aware. As it is with past theme park-centric stories conceived by Crichton, things quickly deteriorate, as the park begins to turn on its unsuspecting guests. For more details, let’s go to the tape, shall we?
1. “You’re in my dream.”
Evan Rachel Wood plays what amounts to be our main character, as an android named Dolores who’s slowly realizing she’s not real. The trailer opens on Anthony Hopkins informing her of as much. “You’re in my dream,” he tells her, as he sets the stage for the greater conflict that’s sure to become the central focus of Westworld’s story. Why or how she gets pulled out of her seemingly ignorant bliss is unclear, but we imagine it won’t be long before dominoes begin to fall all around her.
2. A look at the world’s most immersive theme park
Jurassic Park may have had dinosaurs, but that has nothing on Westworld. The theme park is stocked with lifelike androids (and possibly sex robots?), all of whom function and act like actual human beings living in the old west. From the look of the trailer, these androids think they’re leading normal lives, as they encounter guests to the park who pay a premium to be immersed in their world. Hopkins sits in his ivory tower as the grand creator of the park itself. Part of that role requires him to remind his employees that the robots they’ve created aren’t real, even if the advanced A.I. start to call that idea into question.
3. Peeling back the curtain
Above we see Jeffrey Wright as what appears to be the resident psychiatrist, having pulled Dolores into a room to reveal that her whole “life” has been a lie. Wright’s role is in direct opposition to Hopkins’s, as Wright seeks to free the resident A.I. androids from their man-made theme park prison. Of course Hopkins has a vested interest in pulling the wool over the eyes of his creations, and there are bound to be people within his team who heartily disagree. Here we also get another hint that the residents of Westworld are used for more than just cursory interactions, hinting at them being “built to gratify the desires of the people who pay to visit your world.”
4. It’s not long before things go horribly wrong
In Crichton’s original story, the androids are programmed to be incapable of shooting human guests. Eventually, they start killing humans anyway, leading to the breakdown of anything resembling order throughout the theme park. Something similar seems to be taking place in the HBO series, with the trailer showing us Dolores in the middle of a field of dead bodies. In the vein of Jurassic Park, the park’s attractions are turning on their creators, and chaos is sure to ensue. Hopkins describes it simply by admitting, “our creatures have been misbehaving,” although when those very same “creatures” are going through a decidedly murder-y malfunction, that doesn’t quite seem to sum it up properly.
5. “No choice you ever made was your own.”
Above we see what looks like Dolores curled up in a ball, sitting on top of a strange logo in the dirt. Based on the fact that her whole reality is crashing down around her, the revelation that she’s had zero autonomy over her artificial life is likely to have a negative affect on her own sanity. More than that, we hear Ed Harris, who plays a murderous, gun-slinging android, revealing the truth to her, going on to point out that she has “always been a prisoner.” He wraps up with an ominous offer: “What if I told you I’m here to set you free?” Looks like we may have a full-scale uprising on our hands sooner rather than later on this show…
6. The robots are fighting back, and it doesn’t look pretty
It’s not just in the theme park itself where there’s danger. The trailer shows us an android shoving someone straight through a window in the lab, demonstrating both their unsettled demeanor, and their considerable strength. If things really do go all Skynet on the Westworld staff, we could be in for a violent robot rebellion by the season finale. It’s an ending that always seems inevitable when it comes to A.I. in movies, and HBO’s own adaptation will be no exception to this. That being said, it’s also an incredibly interesting twist on the genre as a whole.
7. “Are we very old friends?”
The trailer closes with Dolores and her creator in a room together. In the tense scene, she asks, “are we very old friends?” Hopkins pauses, and with a tear welling in his eye, responds by telling her, “I wouldn’t say friends, Dolores. I wouldn’t say that at all.” This could mean any number of things: Perhaps he made Dolores in the image of a long-dead loved one. Or maybe she’s been stirring up enough trouble to where her own creator resents her. Either way, it’s an ominous and intriguing way to round out a killer two minute teaser for the series.
Westworld debuts on HBO in October 2016
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