Westworld-Friends are electric again…

Inspired by the cult 1970’s sci-fi movie written and direction by Michael Crichton-the man who also gave us Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, this new HBO show was billed as the new event to step into the place of Game of Thrones.

It may not be the first seventies SF movie that comes to mind when considering an adaptation for small screen. Other cult movies films of that period to adapt could have included A Clockwork Orange, THX-1138, Zardoz (maybe…), Deathrace 2000, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Mad Max among others.

With the first released picture of this new Westworld tv show, it looked like something that might have come direct from cinema screens and Hollywood millions. There are a great number of very big cast name actors involved including Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood to name only the main players. Yes, the producers really were aiming to give us something very special and high quality this time. We were to believe this as well given that brother of Batman director Chris Nolan, Jonathan Nolan was (who co-wrote those Batman films) helped create this series and it had the huge guiding hand of J.J. Abrams.

So is it a good show? How much like the original cult movie is it?

Well right with the first episode you will quickly recognize many familiar visual elements and tropes seen in the film. You get the wild west theme park, we are shown that the cowboys are of course robots called Hosts. Like the film, at first it seems like a great place to spend some leisure time. Although with the show, we follow a different set of characters as the story moves along.

This was a slow burning series. There were some serious changes and unexpected switches from the movie to what we were watching here. At times it almost felt as if they may have taken things too far with the onscreen violence of various forms, as if it was just too much for what we remember the film as being, besides the last twenty minutes or so. Here it is like this series starts with the end of the movie and continues along that path but then goes on to explore and wide range of notions of violence as entertainment and what that means for us humans, why we sometimes seek that out and how it affects us.

Coming from J.J.Abrams and Jonathan Nolan many of us probably did expect to some extent some mysterious macguffins or long and unwinding narrative paths which could take many weeks to unravel and reveal strange truths-if they ever would. Yes, this is a challenging show regularly. After a couple of weeks many viewers were agreeing on social media how they were confused or perplexed in a number of ways by the often very vague and elliptical way characters would walk or scenes were cut suggesting a number of thing but not always obviously clear of meaning or the plot. But how often do we really want everything always spelled out to us in cinema movies or television like we are very small children with the smallest attention span?

This show does go way beyond the basic premise of the original movie, delving deeper into the existence of the theme park robot wild west characters. They do become conscious but why and how and for what reasons are held from us but very teasingly suggested episode by episode. There are some episodes where you really do have to pay very close attention or you will sudden be very confused or lost but stay with the show and I think I can say that you will probably be very rewarded and stimulated emotionally and intellectually.

We are challenged to ask questions about how we use modern technology, what we might do with artificial intelligence and super-realistic robots in our near future. These can actually be quite disturbing things to consider but with the whole series and the well chosen cast of actors we can look at some possible times of tomorrow and the challenges of our rapidly advancing technology and how we will live with it.

 

James E.Parsons is the author of SF novels Orbital Kin and Minerva Century, both available on Amazon and in various other well known and reliable bookshops internationally.

 

 

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AMERICAN GODS: GAIMAN GOES TV AGAIN?

There are rumors around, sited recently in the latest issue of SciFiNow magazine also, that there could soon be a televised adaptation of NEIL GAIMAN’S much admired novel AMERICAN GODS, which is being scripted presently and even seems attached to HBO and with Tom Hanks producing so far. It might take a while, but it could very definitely be worth waiting for.

But then, if we just stop and think about this seriously-now we all probably know at least some work from GAIMAN, whether his legendary SANDMAN dark gothic comic series, the recent CORALINE animated film, STARDUST the movie adapted from his own tale or some other work, he is respected and admired by almost everyone who has a liking of fantasy in comics, books, television and movies.

The bad feeling here though is the previous adaptations or shows inspired by his books or works. The most outstanding to me, anyway, would be NEVERWHERE from 1996. Very often it is viewed as a failure, a botched attempt, and just terrible thing that did not come very near to what it could have been. Gaiman himself produced a novelisation of NEVERWHERE which differed quite a lot from the series. Yes, the television series could be criticized for appearing too static, bland, like a poor theater production but it does honestly have a number of positive elements to it as well, and is certainly not all bad.

So what I am wondering now, really even while many GAIMAN tales are so amazing and fantastical in scope, characters, worlds and drama of many kinds, can they really, convincingly adapt to the small screen successfully?

There were glimpses of interesting charm and unique scenes and direction in NEVERWHERE, which do suggest good things could still be possible, and the great successes in STARDUST the movie, CORALINE, MIRRORMASK, and other one off shows and screenplays that GAIMAN has produced or been co-writer, there is hope there to be seen.

If AMERICAN GODS can eventually come to the small screen it could be a very amazingly entertaining thing, or God forbid, just awful to witness. There must be enough magic, hope and possibilities in television production to create a fantastic GAIMAN show to make his words proud.