Westworld in itself is an interesting idea – and that’s essentially what the film rides upon. That’s really all I can say for it, because the ride that Michael Crichton’s cult film provides for oneself definitely is a fun one if also one that should have been explored much more than what is already presented on the spot. What I won’t deny though is that it is easy to see why did Westworld manage to acquire a cult following, even if the product had left such an empty feeling running through my head. Being a fan of Michael Crichton’s writing I figured that there was something set for myself to love about Westworld and in part, I got that – and the other half I just got something that almost felt somewhat lacking at the same time.
From the sound of the premise, I feel that there’s a lot I can already get on board with conceptually, for the commentary that Crichton wants to make is already clear. In Westworld, we are told a story taking place in a future where a highly realistic amusement park by the name of Delos features three themed “worlds” replicating the setting which they are named after. As the park promises, “Boy, have we got a vacation for you!” – implying that they suppose everything is set to work so perfectly for them. Something that Michael Crichton would have tackled once again when he conceived the idea for Jurassic Park, a novel whose adaptation would soon grow to become one of Steven Spielberg’s most well-known films.
Knowing already what Michael Crichton had intended to tackle with Westworld, it’s easy to note that he has the social commentary set in stone, and for everything which he wants to attack on the spot, it’s rather cleverly handled. Attacking the idea of a supposedly “perfect” paradise that just moves along only for the purpose of gaining out of those who are susceptible, Crichton’s commentary on consumerism is well-established. While Crichton knows what he wants to get across at least through the concept which he carries in Westworld, the traces can easily be felt that it is a directorial debut – one which shows enough skill that could grow to improve later on.
At a running time of 88 minutes, there are certain moments in Westworld that drag down the experience because what’s provided inside of the interesting concept is so little to the point that it ends up becoming a rather long 88 minutes to trudge through. It is clear where one of the most glaring errors of Westworld becomes prevalent, in the fact that it relies too much upon the complex nature of its concept to the point that it ends up doing relatively little with what is at hand. It’s a shame because the idea that Westworld runs on is something that is so vast and so brilliant, but all it ever really presents is a glass half full because there is far too much surface given away and it ultimately prevents something more meaningful in nature from coming out of the presented idea.
In order to make up for what prove themselves to be a long 88 minutes, Westworld at least provides enough to cover with the elaborate set designs for all of the distinct “worlds” it creates. That’s not to say it hides everything, because for every brilliant set piece that catches the eye, the visual effects also can become a bother. Generally, I do not like holding a film’s age against oneself and while I definitely have my admiration for what Crichton had been experimenting with when he employed 2D computer generated imagery, the age of Westworld also becomes apparent because they never seem to hold up very well given today’s standards of visual effects. To some extent a sense of camp can be acquired out of the effects, but never is it enough to elevate much higher than what is on the spot.
Other than the big gripes that have come about from what I have mentioned, the ride that Westworld provides is still something enjoyable – for Crichton certainly knows what he’s attacking and how to stage an action sequence. Sadly what’s also left behind is yet another case in which the film’s age ends up going against it for the visuals never seem to hold up and unless one really finds themselves immersed within the elaborate worlds of Westworld, the experience ends up becoming a grand slog to sit through. Some of the performances can make up for this, especially when we have Yul Brynner as the intimidating android, but as a whole it still feels like there is much more that needs to be explored within the elaborate idea that is put together, for it still feels restrictive upon itself.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via MGM.
Directed by Michael Crichton
Screenplay by Michael Crichton
Produced by Paul N. Lazarus III
Starring Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin
Release Year: 1973
Running Time: 88 minutes