In a time when fans are moaning and groaning at remakes more than a blue whale during mating season, there are still some upcoming efforts that show potential. Take the impending revisit to [Westworld](series:1099794), the Michael Crichton sci-fi story that he both wrote and then went on to adapt in 1973 and starred Yul Brynner. Seen by many as a blend of Jurassic Park and The Terminator before either appeared on the scene, the film explored a futuristic theme park that hosted various locations from history and was inhabited by androids that the visitors encountered. Naturally as with any theme park that touches on the very edge of scientific splendour things go south pretty quickly, leaving the guests to fend for their lives as the attractions go haywire and start shooting up the joint.
The original saw Brynner as one of the out of control androids known only as The Gunslinger, a role that has now passed to Ed Harris, an actor that has dabbled in his fair share of westerns but none have him needing to be plugged in before he draws his six-shooter. Known as The Man in Black in the series, he's also being joined by Sir Anthony Hopkins, James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, and Jeffrey Wright. Oh, it’s also being produced by J.J. Abrams and written by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. Yep, the man that took the torch for one of the biggest franchises ever, and another that wrote one of the greatest comic book films ever made are putting their heads together to help do a remake. Don’t worry folks, they’ve got this.
Speaking to EW, who also revealed the first look at Harris in Brynner’s shoes, Nolan has expressed his enthusiasm about working with the story that was even back then, ahead of its time.
"Crichton wrote this as an original screenplay and then directed it. There’s no book. What you feel in the film is there’s this larger world that he barely has time to explore. It leaves you breathless. Westworld goes from one f–king massive idea to the next. At one point in there, he references why the robots are misbehaving. He describes the concept of the computer virus. When they were shooting the film it was the same year, or the year before, the appearance of the first actual computer virus. This is why Crichton was so brilliant. He knew so much about the technologies that were about to emerge, spent so much time thinking about how they would actually work. Consider the fact that the original film was written prior to the existence of even the first video game. Think about massive multiplayer roll-playing games, and the complexity and richness of video game storytelling. When he wrote Westworld, none of that existed! So it’s a film that anticipated so many advances in technology. The film has a structure that barrels forward—there’s this unstoppable android hellbent on vengeance—and it preceded The Terminator by 10 years.”
I’m going to try to make some time to watch the original film, which just happens to be on Amazon Prime. Now whilst it might be dated in its look, the subject and the questions it poses are more relevant now than ever, something that Nolan looks to be keen to poke at with the upcoming series.
“[P]icture your neurosis,” Nolan continues. “Picture the things that keep you up at night—human behavior, artificial intelligence—any of those things that trouble you, worry you. That is exactly what the show is about. We are hoping to exploit all of those anxieties.”
The really promising signs that the shows writers have is the understanding of just how much dominance television has in the competition for entertainment. It’s now a tough decision for audiences to settle on either binge watching at home or taking a trip to the cinema, which Nolan seems really excited about.
It’s hard to think of any film over the last year that had the same impact as True Detective and the final season of Breaking Bad—in terms of the cultural conversation. I work in film. I love film. But a lot of the richer, darker questions in narratives are the more daring work being done in television. We’ve been able to collaborate with a legendary actor [and it’s] been a pleasure.
There’s currently no confirmed release date for the show but expect Westworld to be riding into town some time later this year. What do you think though? Are you excited for this, or do you think that regardless of the talent involved the original should be left alone? Sound off in the comments below.