The movie was written and directed by Michael Crichton, and is the basis for the current HBO TV Series of the same name. The thing that strikes me while watching it is how little is actually there. It’s like if you broke down a movie to its logline; say, The Hangover would be “A group of men take their buddy for a bachelor party in Vegas and wake up the next morning with no memory of what happened – and no groom.” Which accurately describes the movie, but obviously there’s a lot more that happens with tigers and a baby and Mike Tyson, because it’s a full movie. Well, in Westworld, “at a high-end amusement park populated by robots acting as people, the robots malfunction and start killing the guests.” And that’s it. That’s the whole movie. Really. Don’t believe me? Here’s what happens:
We open on something like filmed testimonials for Delos, which is made up of three parks: Medievalworld, Romanworld, and Westworld. (Notably, this was clearly shot after the rest of the movie, because everywhere else it’s referred to as Westernworld.) Guests discuss living their fantasies of shooting six men, a woman talks about getting her groove back, and a man gushes about marrying a princess, something he dreamed of doing “all my life!” And they say men don’t fantasize about their wedding days. One man brags that he was the sheriff of Westworld for two weeks. This will be important later. It’s also established that visiting costs $1,000 a day, which today would be around $5,500. (This seems low to me, but two different inflation calculators gave me similar numbers. I was thinking closer to $12,000.) Remember the Fyre Festival fiasco? Yeah. I think we’re supposed to hate these people.
Then we move to the hovercraft currently transporting a group of guests to Delos. Why a hovercraft and not a plane? Or a train, like the current series? Shut up, that’s why. We meet James Brolin, looking exactly like James Garner in profile and playing John Blane, keeping it cool. He has been to Westernworld before. He’s being grilled by Richard Benjamin, playing Peter Martin, who is a total dork about the whole thing. Peter asks John how much a Colt .45 weights, and John says it’s 3-4 lbs. Having never handled a gun in my life, I feel completely confident that John is full of shit. Every robber would have carpal tunnel. Everyone else watches a movie pumping them up to visit Delos, and giving us no new information except that Romanworld is basically a giant orgy. (Medievalworld is if you want to stab robots with swords, and Westernworld is if you want to shoot robots. In all of them, you can also fuck robots.) One guy traveling with his wife is clearly regretting that they are going to Medievalworld instead of Romanworld. The hovercraft arrives and everyone gets onto trams to go to their respective worlds, which is mostly us being introduced to robots that look like people “except the hands.” The guys going to Westernworld are given authentic clothes to change into, but they’re just in a big, open locker room, and Peter finally gets a gun.
We do get to briefly see Central Control, where they mostly say numbers and there’s one guy who’s always on the phone placing lunch orders or complaining about his laundry not getting done. It’s a swell job.
Peter and John arrive at their hotel, which Peter complains about being an authentic shithole, and John tips the innkeeper just so we can see his hands, which actually look fine to me but apparently are not? John gives Peter a hard time for still thinking about the wife who divorced him six months ago and took the kids, which, the hell? Peter shoulda pistol-whipped John as soon as he found out John lied about the gun. Who are these guys to each other, anyway?
They go to a bar and Peter’s having trouble getting into the spirit of the place (he orders a vodka martini, extra dry) until Yul Brenner, playing a character called The Gunslinger, shows up. He’s clearly a robot, clearly designed to goad tourists into shooting him. So Peter does, but it takes a while, and nobody thinks much of it besides Peter. John finally explains to Peter that they know The Gunslinger was a robot because Peter was able to shoot him, and the guns don’t shoot anything with a body temperature. Which, do the robot whores have cooch-warmers? Because I’d imagine that would be awkward to fuck a cold robot.
We check in on Medievalworld, I think just to show how much better the food is there than Westernworld. Then we’re back in Westernworld, where Peter and John visit the brothel because they have the same questions I do. Peter’s getting the hang of playing cool and ordering whiskey, but still freaks out at the prospect of fucking machines. For about two seconds. And then he’s all sad they have to miss the bank robbery happening across the street so he can fuck a machine. His robot, by the way, does not look into this. At all. She looks downright sad. But Peter doesn’t notice over the sound of his boner. They make sweet, sweet love, which, to be fair, doesn’t look particularly rapey. (This is one of the differences between the movie the TV show. The movie: “You can fuck and kill robots!” The TV show: “You can rape and kill robots!”) We see the robot’s eyes get wide and hear a tone which we’re supposed to interpret as her being affected by this malfunction, and when she leaves she says “I think you’re very nice” which I suppose is why she doesn’t kill Peter? John comes in so they can both giggle like schoolboys.
At night, while all the guests are asleep (sure, that’s how resorts work), the park employees come around to pick up all the robots that are dead or otherwise in need of service. They’re all put on a conveyor belt and taken to a big room lined with surgery-like repair setups. This is mostly to show off the special effects. It’s funny how there’s not even an attempt to get the actors playing robots to stop blinking if the camera isn’t focused on their eyes, although they do hold their breaths. We then get a long explanation about how more robots are breaking down than expected, and it started in Romanworld and is spreading. They kind of go out of their way to NOT invent the term “computer virus,” calling it “a disease of machinery.”
In the morning, after the robots have been activated, The Gunslinger shows up looking for Peter, presumably because that’s the last person he remembers shooting him. John dives behind a bed, which is a good idea when Peter swings into action, taking out a mirror and a lamp before slow-motion shooting The Gunslinger.
The next scene only makes any sense at all in the context of the TV show, so props to the show for that. See, the show explains this concept that the park has “storylines,” which you can choose to participate in or get roped into. The movie sort of references the concept (like with the bank robbery) but the whole concept doesn’t seem as scripted out. What happens here is that Peter gets thrown in jail until the judge arrives “next week.” Which, clearly, you can’t have someone paying $5,500 a day for a park experience and then lock them in a small room for a week of that time. From the park’s perspective, that just doesn’t make sense. Fortunately, John is familiar with this concept, so he bribes someone to pass Peter a note that he’s getting out of jail. And then the side of the jail blows up. How is not explained. Did John also sneak Peter explosives? There’s no evidence of that. Does the wall randomly blow up every other day or so? No idea. But then John shoots the sheriff as they leave. Hey, remember that guy at the beginning that was all happy he got to be sheriff for two weeks? How was John so sure that wasn’t happening again? Anyway, the boys take off into the desert, where John is bitten by a robot snake and the boys prove they’re BOTH really bad shots and everyone in Central Control freaks out because even the snake robots aren’t supposed to hurt people. And we check in briefly again on Medievalworld, so we can see how quickly the robots can be reprogrammed, I think. And then Westernworld gets a new sheriff, who is a short tourist wearing glasses who clearly causes all the other tourists to worry that he’s going to get in the way of their robot-killing-and-fucking with his non-macho ways.
Central Control talks again about the snake problem and decides not to let anyone new into the park, although the people already there can stay. One guy says, “but we can’t ensure their safety!” and another guy says, “sure we can. Watch: they’re safe!” And clearly he’s mixing up ASsure and ENsure. This is why, presumably, they have INsurance.
John and Peter are at a bar fight/chance for stunt people to show off in Westernworld, except everyone is beating up everyone else. So clearly 1) that thing about guns not working on anything with a body temperature is going to be irrelevant and 2) some guests are beating on other guests. But just like in Fight Club, everyone leaves happy.
It seems all the scenes in Medievalworld have been leading up to this one, which is relevant because a “sex model” robot turns down sex with a guest and clearly that’s not right. Central Control takes this WAY WAY more seriously than the snake biting someone or The Gunslinger stalking someone, but they still don’t shut down the park. I mean, sure, snakes are supposed to bite people, but a woman turned down sex?!? WE HAVE A CRISIS HERE. So then the Black Knight shows up in Medievalworld and kills the guest. HE DIDN’T EVEN GET TO HAVE SEX FIRST. They try cutting the “robot power,” but that does nothing because the robots run on batteries, and naturally this is when The Gunslinger shows up again and this time he kills John. Peter’s like, “uh oh, better not shoot him again!” and runs away and The Gunslinger follows him.
We see quick video of the robots killing everyone in Romanworld and Central Control complaining about how they have no control and then realizing they can’t even save themselves because when they cut the power they accidentally locked themselves in. Peter rides a horse through the desert and The Gunslinger rides a horse through the desert. Peter loses his gun. Peter finds a maintenance man, who offhandedly suggests Peter throw acid on The Gunslinger’s eyes, then tells Peter he hasn’t got a chance and promptly gets shot by The Gunslinger. Peter rides his horse into Romanworld, where there are lots of dead bodies and suspiciously few robots. He finds an entrance to the underground tunnels (how? don’t know) and kind of picks one at random. He finds Central Control, where everyone has suffocated because their electronic doors are also airtight, or something. The Gunslinger follows Peter into the tunnels.
Peter finds the surgery/repair lab, where there is a handy bottle of HCl with which to douse the eyes of robots. He rather hilariously lies on a table and tries to pretend to be a robot until The Gunslinger walks up to him, and then he throws the acid in his face. And then just strolls away, like, “problem solved! This robot with a clear grudge against me will definitely be fine with this!” Fortunately for Peter, when The Gunslinger finds him, he can’t shoot him because THE BATTERY ON HIS GUN IS DEAD. I feel like someone at the NRA watched this movie and had nightmares. Anyway, Peter runs to Medievalworld, where all the robots’ batteries have died, so he and The Gunslinger are the only ones moving. Now The Gunslinger can only see Peter’s body heat, so Peter’s invisible if he hides near open flame. Yeah, that’s a thing that happens. So Peter then sets The Gunslinger on fire, and strolls away because that was so effective last time.
Peter finds a woman chained up, pleading for help, so he unchains her and then forces her to drink water, which short-circuits her. Maybe there was more rape in the movie than I realized. This is when The Gunslinger shows up again, but mostly so he can fall over and finally die. Peter actually watches it happen this time, so he finally learned his lesson. Or, since then he takes a load off on the stairs to reflect on things, maybe not.
And that’s the whole movie! From this, the TV show came up with a thing about the robots developing consciousness and spent a lot of time exploring what humanity is, what memories are, and what identity is. It’s bigger than the movie in every way, but although you can see the clear inspiration from the movie to the series, there are almost no clues as to where the series is going. At least, none that can be deciphered in advance.