Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins, Luke Hemsworth
Created By: Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy
Written By: Various
Studio: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, HBO
Buy On Amazon
What happens in a world free of rules, limits and consequences? From series creators Jonathan Nolan (Interstellar, The Dark Knight films) and Lisa Joy (Burn Notice, Pushing Daisies), and produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lost, Star Trek) and Kilter Films, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment brings HBO’s most-watched new series to Blu-ray, DVD and groundbreaking 4K Ultra HD on November 7, 2017.
HBO’s version of “Westworld” is based off of the 1973 Michael Crichton of the same name and the second TV adaptation. In an old west-themed park, the upper class pay to live out their dark desires on uninhibited vacations that comprise of android “hosts” that are only there to fulfill the requests and wishes of the visitors. As with most things sci-fi related that deals with artificial intelligence, you know that things are definitely not what they seem when the “hosts” begin to remember things from their supposedly erased past, and that these androids are probably going to take over the world.
“Westworld” focuses on that thin line that separates man from machine as these machines begin to edge closer and closer to that line as it begins to blur from the fragments of consciousness that forms in the androids. Written off as a glitch from recent updates, details are revealed and the glass house that surrounds the park begins to crack revealing secrets and cover ups from the bottom to the top.
First off, the set consists of 6 discs…three 4K discs and three Blu-rays as well as a digital copy. Unfortunately, my set was missing the digital code insert. I had to watch unboxing videos to see if I was missing something in regards to the code. Maybe there was a roundabout way to claim it via Warner Bros. websites or their partners. Nope…there was supposed to be an insert and it was missing. The rest of the collectors tin was intact including the episode guide and a really cool full color Delos corporate guidebook. I’m a sucker for things like that going all the way back to the video games that came with full color maps and movie collector sets with that added touch that engulfs you into the fantasy even more.
The bonus features in this set are abundant. Included are in depth documentaries about the early filming, the main title sequence, the science of the park in the real world as well as a gag reel. This is some of the most bonus content I’ve seen in a series set in quite some time.
“Westworld” season 1 only consists of 10 hour long episodes and getting started with it was somewhat of a chore. It started off really slow but after the fourth episode I was finally hooked. One of the only negatives of the show is that there was a lot of fluffer dialog and inflated juxtaposition that would circle the wagon (pun intended) to get from plot point A to plot point B. A lot of episodes had repetitive over-explanations. Once things finally started to piece together and the ante was upped, I finally got hooked. There were still ups and downs and a few flat scenes here and there but it all led up to what I was expecting…and the ending was a great set up that also revealed a multitude of directions that season 2 can go.
With a budget of around $100 million dollars, they made the best out of every dollar. From the amazing special effects for the androids, the opening sequence and the painstaking recreation of the old west from clothing to setting, “Westworld” looked gorgeous in both 4K and on Blu-ray. I’m sure that a good portion of that budget went to Sir Anthony Hopkins but that was also well worth it. His portrayal of Dr. Robert Ford was both haunting and sincere. Add Even Rachel Wood, Luke Hemsworth, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden and Ed Harris to the mix and you have an extremely talented and multidimensional cast that puts the show a cut about the rest. I’ve always been a fan of Ed Harris and he was outright amazing as the Man in Black…one part Dirty Harry and one part Hannibal Lecter. He was the perfect antagonist for Dr. Ford and the hosts.
I was both surprised and impressed with the fact that the creators of the show turned to video games as inspiration for the park. Games such as Grand Theft Auto, BioShock: Infinite, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and of course Red Dead Redemption were all studied for various aspects of the show like narrative storytelling, non-player characters or NPCs and player moral compasses. Westworld park is basically the penultimate virtual reality video game, allowing the players or visitors to do as they please whether that’s a heroic path of virtue as a sheriff or U.S. Marshall or a path of evil as a villain, bandit or cannibal. The visitors can choose to do whatever quests available however they please or not do any at all and just enjoy the atmosphere and local of the historic west.
What we learn through the visitor’s moral compass and through the eyes of the hosts is that the problem lies with the human visitors that don’t realize how far along the consciousness is of the hosts as they treat them like the machines they think them to be…beating, raping, murdering, torturing them for their pleasure. It all falls back within the classic science fiction trope that it isn’t man who is the victim but the monster. There is definitely a classic sci-fi feel to “Westworld” and that is a major part of its charm and likability for me.
“Westworld” would be a hard sell for your average television audience but for those out there that are fans of classic science fiction literature and cinema, the show does a great job of meshing the old with the new. There are ups and downs over the course of the season but the payoff of the last few episodes is well worth the hiccups early on. I’m probably not telling you anything that you don’t already know because I’m pretty sure that most of you sci-fi fans have jumped on this wagon long ago. With season 2 right around the canyon, I find myself hitched and itching for more.
Realizing the Dream: First Week on the Set of Westworld, Imagining the Main Title, The Key to the Chords, Gag Reel, Welcome to Westworld, Crafting the Narrative, An Invitation to the Set, About the Series, Reality of A.I.: Westworld, “The Big Moment” Featurettes
DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1
English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles
4K UHD Episodes: 2160p Ultra High Definition 16×9 1.78:1
Blu-ray Episodes: 1080p High Definition 16×9 1.78:1
Bottom Line: “Westworld” takes you to a fantasy world where technology mixes with the lawless old west and tells a tale of warning…be careful what you wish for because the odds can and will become deadly. When involving A.I. of any kind always remember that they can and will take over eventually.
Running Time: 619 Mins
Rating: Not Rated