The Granite Tower
ARTS & CULTUREFILM REVIEW
Westworld: Violent Delights Meet Violent Ends
Lim Hyon Yoo  |  hyonyooobest@korea.ac.kr
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승인 2017.03.05  21:21:37
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▲ Westworld logo. Provided by wpaperhd.com
 
Imagine a world completely free from moral or legal restraints—like the Wild West back in the 19th century, a lawless mayhem where one can do simply anything desired. In a place where physical power and armament is might, imagine being utterly invincible. Primal instincts would dominate rationality and pure desire would surface. In Westworld (2016), these violent delights are not mere imaginations. The beloved TV series reveals to us the cruel nature of mankind, by bringing these wild dreams to reality. 

The first season of Westworld has come to its finale. After 10 breathtaking episodes of western wonder, it has instantly become the representative show of Home Box Office (HBO), alongside Game of Thrones. Doubts were aroused when HBO decided to release a Western ScienceFiction (SF) TV series. It sounded rather like an incoherent hybridism, with the two most incongruous genres mixed together. However, against the odds, the episodes showed remarkable qualities and have excited the fans.

 

The plot itself, based on Michael Crichton’s homonymous movie in 1973, is greatly unconventional. It is set in a Western theme park. By surprising technology, the scientists of the theme park create robots, referred to as hosts, that look exactly the same as real humans. They are given elaborate background stories and various personalities, which make them inseparable from the visitors of the park.

 

The visitors are given complete freedom within the park, only to reveal their darkest and cruelest aspects. The pointless massacres and numerous rapes committed by them, almost remind the viewers of the last day of Sodom and Gommorrah. All this, however, changes as new codes allow the hosts to experience reverie, a groundbreaking technology that empowers the hosts the ability to access their former memories. Reverie enables the hosts to remember the violence of the visitors and, furthermore, to act on a grudge to the aggressors. As one of the most prominently featured quotes says, “Violent delights meet violent ends.”

 

To portray the untraditional plot, the show uses an extraordinary directory method. By repeating the scenes of the hosts’ routines over and over again, it illustrates their inhumanely fixed patterns and how they get tormented on a daily basis. The more interesting feature is how the routines slightly alter each time. The position of Dolores’s (Evan Rachel Wood) arm when she wakes up form bed, the label of the can that Dolores drops, and the speed of the narrative change every time the routine is repeated.

 

Here, the director’s wit is used to express the host’s acknowledgement of how their world is a faux. Each time the hosts make a discovery and each time they find something out about the ugly truth of their world, the director gives a variation to imply their enhanced cognitive awareness. The subtle alterations build up and foreshadows how the hosts will eventually derail from the system of the park. Although it is a TV series, not a movie with a short running time, suspense successfully intensifies by the carefully controlled amount of mystery solved and produced throughout the repetition of routines.

 

   

▲ Jet-black train that brings the visitors. Provided by wpaperhd.com

Cinematic techniques of the show are also notable. The admirable use of color contrast gives a subconscious impression about the main characters. Robots, firstly, are created in pure white, and the ones that greet the visitors from outside the park even dress in white. Of course, the hosts who work within the park wear dark clothes to match their western theme; it is undeniable that white seems to symbolize these robots. This effectively articulates the innocence of the hosts and amplifies the tragedy of how they are tarnished by the violent greed of the visitors. The color white simply makes it easier for the viewers to feel compassion for these hosts.

 

On the other hand, actual humans are represented by the color black. The corporate people, who have created these near-life creatures for mere recreation, mostly dress in black or other dark colors. Visitors, who defile the hosts, also have a rather dark dress code. Even the arrival of these visitors is accomplished by a jet-black train. It is astonishing how the color black easily expresses the devil-like features of humans. By subtle black and white division, the main conflict of the plot, between mankind and robots, is efficiently delivered.

 

Watching the film, two controversial thoughts, the absoluteness of ethics and the danger of Artificial Intelligence (AI), come to mind. However, unlike the novel plot, the message it delivers is rather cliché, having been discussed by many movies and TV series before. Ethics, to the religious, for instance, is considered as a divine principal delivered by God himself, or by a sacred messenger of God. It is to them something that stands beyond human production, something indestructible regardless of the anarchic nature of mankind.

 

Yet, there have been many movies challenging this notion recently. Like The Purge (2013), there have been attempts to presume a lawless world, to prove that the essence of ethics is a mere human product. Westworld also tries to show how ethics disappear as law disappears. As soon as the visitors are unleashed from the chains of legislation, primitive cruelty takes its place. It is as Dolores’s father mentions, “Hell is empty. All the devils are here.” The way the message is delivered might be impressive but the message itself seems to have no originality.

 

 

Nevertheless, Westworld has surely attracted fans all over the globe. The message might be cliché, but the constant twist of the plot and the delicate expression of the actors left the fans begging for more episodes. The first season has only just ended, but the board of HBO already confirmed the production of the second season. This means that there are still plentiful episodes awaiting the fans— of Ford, Dolores, and not to mention the delightful supporting characters. Expectations are rising high and Nolan will have to put quite an effort into not disappointing them after a year wait until the return.

 

TV Series Information

Genre: Science Fiction, Drama, Thriller, Action/Adventure, Western

Director&producer: Jonathan Nolan, J.J. Abrams 

Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffery Wright, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins

Running Time: 57~91 minutes 

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