Archive Review: Westworld (1973)

Welcome to Delos, an immersive Disney World for adults featuring three real-life role play worlds: Medieval, Roman and West World. Outfitted with robots, these era-inspired theme parks are there to serve your every desire. You can shoot people, you can have sex with them and you can take their world as seriously as you like for $1,000 a day. They’re a set of amusement parks and for all intents and purposes, amusement sums up the purpose of the film as well.

Oh, the 1970s. There comes a point where every pre-“Star Wars” film can no longer lean on the technological limitations of the era. That’s because things like plot and suspense transcend time. Yes, “Westworld” has a plot, but it’s extremely one-dimensional. Ironically, the movie focuses on robots, though its human characters come off just as hollow.

Richard Benjamin and James Brolin play Peter and John, two pals whom we know little about that venture out to Westworld for a good time. John’s been there before, but it’s new to Peter, who has a bit of an adjustment period to the whole shooting and committing crime and prostitution thing. On several occasions the two are confronted by a gunslinger robot played expertly by the infamous Yul Brynner. More on him later.

It’s no wonder Michael Crichton just stuck to writing his books after this movie. He leans on slow motion for action sequences and does odd jump cuts during the suspense climaxes. He also manages to painfully drag out a movie with a runtime of under an hour and a half. For all there was in “Westworld” of substance, the film could have been less than an hour. So many shots say absolutely nothing to the viewer who’s fully aware things are going to go wrong at some point or another with these robots. Eight different scenes slowly escalate the fact that the robots are exhibiting strange behavior when half that number with a bit more punch a piece would help keep the plot unpredictable and interesting.

“Westworld” does ride its concept well and manages to find good grace through Brenner’s cold, robotic and downright creepy performance as the gunslinger. The character was undoubtedly a precursor and possibly an inspiration for the Terminator, though in comparison he’s much less formidable than Arnold. All that considered, “Westworld” would be well-suited for a 20th Century makeover and rarely does a film strike me as such.

2.5/5 Stars

Westworld (1973)
Written and directed by Michael Crichton
Starring: James Brolin, Richard Benjamin, Yul Brynner


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