Anthony Hopkins in a scene from the show Image: Facebook
The notion that artificial intelligence will alter our understanding of reality is hardly a fresh one. From the Terminator movies, to Blade Runner, RoboCop, A.I Artificial Intelligence and many more, Hollywood has time and again played with the idea of man's attempt to be God by creating something "human" going terribly wrong. HBO's big budget, star-studded science-fiction series Westworld, which makes its premiere this week, is the latest to join the bandwagon. The show, revolving around a bizarre, futuristic amusement park is the stuff sci-fi blockbusters are made of. The sci-fi drama is based on a 1973 film of the same name, directed by Michael Crichton.
Think of Westworld as a dude ranch gone wild. Its guests (newcomers) interact with lifelike androids (hosts) with no restrictions or consequences — sexually, violently or in any Old West way. It's a futuristic free pass for every patron's fantasy, depraved or benign. That's the intoxicating promise, at least initially. But behind the scenes, all the high-tech wizardry, advanced robotics and beyond-breathtaking artificial intelligence are suddenly besieged by worrisome glitches.
The show’s cast is its biggest USP. In a double whammy, it brings together Hollywood legends Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris. Hopkins plays the brilliant creative director of the Westworld, Dr Robert Ford, while Harris plays a gunslinger- the quintessential element in any cowboy-themed universe. His character is called the Man in Black and is a study in unapologetic villainy. He aims to crack the overarching mystery that Westworld represents for him, which seems nothing less than the nature of consciousness, the limits of free will, and what it means to be human. "I like playing this guy," says Harris about his character. "He's not trying to escape from anything, he's on a mission of discovery. He's not trying to forget his life, he's trying to learn more about himself — and about what's going on in the park, where he's been coming for 30 years."
Westworld’s intrigue lies in its audaciousness. The show takes virtual reality to the next level, quite literally. The guests of the amusement park can do whatever they like, get into gun-fights, ride horses through cowboy country or even visit brothels. Avatar actor Thandie Newton plays Maeve, a feisty brothel madame, while James Marsden plays a newly-arrived gunslinger. He is paired opposite Evan Rachel Wood of American Gothic fame who plays Dolores, a girl coming to terms with what is real and what is not. Hopkins’ role is one of the most awaited performances on television and is decidedly unlike anything the Oscar Winner has played before.
From what we have already seen in the trailers, the new Westworld is more hard hitting, gory and open to immorality than its 1973 version. The show also stars Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson and Rodrigo Santoro. Giving sci-fi fans more reason to cheer is the fact that JJ Abrams of Star Wars fame is producing the project. Westworld premieres on Star World HD on October 4 at 10 pm.