'Westworld': 5 Key Takeaways From the 1973 Film

A return trip to the Michael Crichton movie reveals similarities and differences with the upcoming TV series.
Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

"Nothing can go wrong."

This is the guiding principle behind Delos, an amusement park where visitors pay a thousand dollars per day in order to live out their wildest fantasies, in dramatic historic backdrops, populated by robots designed to satisfy the guests' needs. 

Of course, as it turns out, everything can and does go wrong. The final act of Michael Crichton's 1973 directorial debut Westworld focuses on the utter collapse of the high-tech fantasy world, specifically honing in on a game of cat-and-mouse between a robot Gunslinger (Yul Brynner) and first time visitor Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin). The Gunslinger's relentless pursuit forces the deeply outmatched (not to mention deeply hungover) Martin into exhausting action, as the bold experiment of this practical virtual reality falls apart all around them.

HBO's upcoming TV adaptation of Westworld, debuting Sunday, Oct. 2, isn't a sequel to the original film, but it's certainly informed by Crichton's work. Here are five of the most important takeaways from the movie ahead of the televised Westworld revival:

1. The Gunslinger

First and foremost, there's the Gunslinger, the veritable pre-Terminator running amok through the final act of the Westworld film. Brynner's killer robot is an iconic force of destruction, and one who will be represented in HBO's series by veteran actor Ed Harris. However, Harris' Gunslinger comes with a few important modifications, including meatier dialogue, and a fundamental change in origin and drive. The relentless pursuit of his goals, however, remain firmly intact.

2. Dead is Not Dead

How many deaths does it take to kill one Gunslinger? According to the Westworld movie, quite a few. It takes countless gunshots, acid splashes, flaming torches and one final steep fall before the Gunslinger goes down for good. The villain's many deaths speaks to a fundamental truth at the heart of the film, as well as the upcoming television series: The robot hosts populating Westworld have died, and will continue to die, an untold amount of times. Some trauma required.

3. Worlds Apart

In the film, Delos contains three separate parks: West World, Medieval World and Roman World. The action takes places across all three locations, as the violence reaches a fever pitch. As it stands, HBO's show focuses squarely on Westworld, with no indication that other parks exist — at least not yet.

4. Do No Harm

Early on in Crichton's Westworld, Peter's friend John (James Brolin) explains that their guns are designed only to harm robots, not fellow humans. Likewise, the park's myriad mechanical entities are unable to damage the warm-bodied guests. Naturally, these rules are drastically violated as the movie heads into its final act — and an equal level of violence feels inevitable as the series moves forward.

5. The Main Attraction

While the film centers on two guests and one lethal machine, the Westworld series promises to offer a much broader view of the park's denizens. It's the robots who are most at the heart of HBO's Westworld, their existence bringing up uncomfortable questions about the abuse of power and the loss of control. These themes are certainly present in the film, but they're poised for deeper exploration in the series, with a whole lot more than three talented actors fueling the action: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden and Anthony Hopkins, just to name a few of the women, men and machines bringing this series to life.

Westworld premieres Sunday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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