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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 38.89%
Just Average61.11%
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1 review, 12 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Add some dinosaurs and you've really got something."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: Nowadays, it's hard not to think of Michael Crichton's "Westworld" as a rough draft of "Jurassic Park", and to wish that it included a Pirate World, if only so that a certain Jeff Goldblum line would be even funnier. In some ways, that's an unfair way to judge the movie, but in others, it's rather fitting - even without considering that later multimedia blockbuster, there are a lot of ways that this one falls short of its potential.

We're initially treated to an infomercial-like bit hinting at how the Delos resort is sold to potential tourists in its world, but soon we meet two friends headed there for an expensive but elaborate bit of role-playing: John Blane (James Brolin), who has been there before, and Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin), who had just been through an ugly divorce. They will be staying in "Western World", while others on the Delos hovercraft are heading to Medieval World and Roman World, all of which are populated by androids of every variety. At the saloon, Peyer has a shootout with a gunslinger (Yul Brynner) as John eggs him on. They treat themselves to a night at the cathouse, unaware that in the underground service areas, the technicians are noticing an increasing number of catastrophic failures.

There's a peculiar frankness about just how much of the place's appeal is the chance to shoot people and have it feel real; debates about violence in video games were far in the future on 1973. Sex, on the other hand, gets a bit more of a winking treatment, although Crichton doesn't hide it behind too much innuendo. It is kind of a shame, though, that he does very little to directly engage the idea; for all that one may argue that the robots going haywire is a sort of symbolic payback for how the people who come to Delos not only embrace their bloodlust but have created people (of a sort) whose sole reason for existence is to be raped and murdered, that layer of the plot is buried deep. There's never a sense of purpose to all this beyond a glitch bit of self-replicating code, and there's no thematic weight to the confrontations, either.

That would be okay if there were a particularly good robots-run-amok movie, but while it shows flashes of potential there, it's a fair amount of set-up for not a lot of pay-off. Crichton introduces the audience to some folks in Medieval World and has a bunch of nameless technicians spout some jargon, but doesn't quite find the right balance between building his setting up and tearing it down. There is a pretty good game of hide and seek in a robot repair facility, but there's also what seems like a big missed opportunity when we see characters move from one area to another, like Crichton could have done much more than make a cowboy in a castle a little incongruous.

It's at least a fairly serviceable cast. Richard Benjamin's character isn't given a lot of depth, but his wide-eyed enthusiasm proves kind of infectious when the audience needs to be drawn in, and he's also got at least one line that will make me laugh no matter how many times I see this movie because of how he sells it. James Brolin, on the other hand, gives Peter a sort of seen-it-before detachment - not enough to dislike, but just enough to suggest that the arrogance of this place is not strictly limited to the people who built it. Yul Brynner gets top billing, but he seems kind of wasted as this killer robot: A great western villain made generic when he's in-character and a killng machine with the emphasis on machine when things get out of control.

Twenty years later, Crichton would add dinosaurs to this scenario and Steven Spielberg would blow people away with the action movie that resulted. It may just be a coincidence that the latest "Jurassic Park" sequel is being called "Jurassic World" and supposedly features a working amusement park breaking down, bringing things full circle. That set-up likely won't have the concept of lives created only to be killed again and again, and not doing much with that idea seems like "Westworld"'s biggest missed opportunity in a movie full of them.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10774&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/25/14 22:18:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/17/21 morris campbell not bad has some good ideas & some chills 4 stars
1/08/20 Carl Bruun Entertaining flick that only runs 90 minutes. 3 stars
9/02/17 Ed Riddick Just misses. In its time was pretty spooky. 3 stars
11/08/15 mr.mike Is "no bad" 3 stars
8/22/15 Dr. Lao For a Michael Crichton film, its very good 4 stars
12/07/14 action movie fan decent dry run for Jurassic Park watchable but never peaks 3 stars
6/29/14 Carl Bruun I found the film entertaining, and with a great sense of humor. Definitely worth seeing. 4 stars
10/18/10 bored mom This should be a 30-minute film instead, but Brynner-Bot is scarier than the Arnold-ator. 4 stars
3/01/08 Pamela White sci-fi meets western good combo 4 stars
10/26/07 ahnold Just ok. I expected more compelling story from the hype. It's watchable once. 3 stars
9/10/04 R.W. Welch Ingeniously crafted sci-fi and Brynner is on the money here. 4 stars
9/09/04 tatum Entertaining sci-fi 4 stars
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  21-Nov-1973 (PG)
  DVD: 03-Jul-2001

  21-Feb-1974 (15)

  21-Feb-1974 (PG)

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