Monday, October 3, 2016

A Stoner Girl's Review of the Westworld Premiere

HBO is incredibly good at creating hype around a show if they put their minds to it. (And their money). This week, they premiered the new original series, Westworld, starring Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood. Right off the bat, I'm fucking interested as shit. Hannibal Lecter and Marilyn Manson's incredibly sweet ex-lover with a voice like a nightingale? Count me in. (James Marsden too, but let's be real, who really cares?) Especially since Game of Thrones is off the air right now, I need them to distract me with something freaky and fresh. I think they're on their way.

The show starts off before the HBO logo even rears its head. A countdown with jaw dropping western imagery leads us into what feels like an event, not just a show. I must admit the opening graphics had me thinking "holy shit balls, this is dope." There's some foreshadowing with the piano being played and printing out something on the back side of it. Not sure what that means, but I'm sure we'll find out. Finally, we see Wood in a cold and calculating atmosphere. It's clear she's not human, a fly sits on her fucking eyeball for crying out loud. And what's really daunting about this opening scene is that it is all revisited again at the end, but with a very different vibe, giving the ending of the pilot a book ended and complete feeling while still leaving us with tons of questions.

In a modern world where film directors, philosophers, and psychedelics are asking us to question the nature of our reality and technology is making entertainment creepier and creepier, it's a pretty relevant plot. I will admit I had no idea what to expect going into the show, so it took me a few minutes to catch onto what was really going on. But I'm glad I went into it that way, because I wasn't expecting the twists and turns that come with the AI narrative. I won't get into any terrible spoilers, but there were definitely some noteworthy moments that would have any stoner thinking, "That's a gross thing to do with milk."

One of my favorite things about the introduction of the "theme park" is that all the people are too pretty, all the cowboys are too sassy, and this matrix style shit is a neat juxtaposition to the western background. The Washington Post called the show "the wrong kind of deep" but I disagree. Stoner film and television lovers across the country will look forward to the watch and bake every Sunday night for the next few months. I know I will. Whether or not The Post thinks that this show beats a dead sci-fi horse, it's captivating and meticulously constructed. There's little moments to breathe, though, like a scene where we get to see Hopkins doing shots (it's lit.) 

Cleverly enough, too, the show writers have incorporated technology that we already have, hinting that maybe an AI rebellion like this one is not that far away. In one scene they appear to be 3D printing these lifelike androids that they call "hosts" inside the Westworld theme park. The show really feels like a melding of AI, Doctor Who, and The Matrix. If you dig that combo and you smoke a little loud before you hit play, you'll most certainly enjoy HBOs latest guinea pig show.

It's clear that Westworld has a precise and narrow vision, aiming at a pretty deep concept. How would you even know if you were a host? Wood's character stays in a loop the whole time, making her the 50 First Dates character of the show. When the loop breaks down, that's when the action starts and the "makers" of the theme park start to panic. Maybe that's not the most original idea in sci-fi, but it's definitely never been done like this. (Not since the 1973 Michael Crichton movie, anyway.) And there's something magical about movies turned into TV shows. Right after I got done with watching Westworld, I started a Buffy rewatch. Because good show runners can take us deeper than 90 minutes. And we should let them. Especially if they're J.J. Abrams.

Westworld airs Sunday nights at 9PM on HBO.

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