West­worLd Sea­son One

Gun­smoke and mir­rors

SFX - - Reviews - James White

re­leased OUT NOW! 2016 | 15 | 4k Blu-ray/Blu-ray/dVd Cre­ators Jonathan Nolan, lisa Joy Cast an­thony Hop­kins, evan rachel Wood, Jef­frey Wright, James Mars­den, Thandie New­ton, ed Har­ris

With HBO cast­ing about for some­thing to fill the void when Game Of Thrones even­tu­ally wraps up, a philo­soph­i­cal re­boot of a ’70s Michael Crich­ton technopot­boiler might not seem the log­i­cal choice. Yet in the hands of Per­son Of In­ter­est’s Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy (a vet­eran of Push­ing Daisies), West­world is a fas­ci­nat­ing ex­plo­ration of man’s in­her­ent cru­elty.

Beau­ti­fully shot, it’s a se­ries worth watch­ing and dis­sect­ing. Its at­ten­tion to West­ern de­tail is with­out ques­tion – no green­screen sound­stages for its vis­tas, cap­tured in the sorts of places John Ford once shot. The cast is uni­formly ex­cel­lent, chew­ing through dia­logue that switches be­tween cow­boy drawls and ro­botic English (for the Hosts) and a blend of won­der and snark (the hu­mans) with poise and skill. Of par­tic­u­lar note are Evan Rachel Wood, who jug­gles a com­pli­cated role and real emo­tion; Jef­frey Wright, typ­i­cally great as con­flicted techie Bernard; and Thandie New­ton as Maeve, who’s far from the ba­sic saloon madam she ap­pears at first glance. An­thony Hop­kins, mean­while, is both mys­te­ri­ous and mer­cu­rial as Dr Robert Ford, one of the big brains be­hind the place, with Ed Har­ris all growly men­ace as the mys­te­ri­ous Man In Black. The set­ting al­lows the sto­ry­tellers to kill some of their char­ac­ters with aban­don, though they al­ways make the ex­pe­ri­ence count, adding lay­ers to the nar­ra­tive each time. Plus, while Thrones prefers to keep its themes in the sub­text, this show al­lows the char­ac­ters to pon­der big ideas out loud.

West­world is by no means per­fect; all of that windy hy­poth­e­sis­ing can grate, even when some­one as ac­com­plished as Hop­kins is voic­ing it. While the show clearly wants to spin mys­ter­ies and keep you guess­ing, a lot of what is to come can be guessed be­fore the big re­veal. And for all its for­ward-think­ing at­ti­tudes (es­pe­cially where the likes of Maeve are con­cerned), there re­main mo­ments of gra­tu­itous vi­o­lence and nu­dity.

Yet for the most part, West­world spins a com­pelling web of ideas and ac­tion; though it may never re­place Game Of Thrones in view­ers’ af­fec­tions, hope­fully it will get the chance to ex­pound upon them for sev­eral sea­sons to come.

Ex­tras New to this re­lease are a piece which fol­lows the showrun­ners on set dur­ing the first week of film­ing (11 min­utes); a fea­turette on mak­ing the ti­tle se­quence (13 min­utes); and an­other on the use of the player pi­ano (eight min­utes); plus the 2017 Comic-Con panel and a short gag reel. An­other two fea­turettes are car­ried over from the pre­vi­ous dig­i­tal re­lease – as are a bunch of on­line promos, in­clud­ing seven “The Big Mo­ment” fea­turettes, fo­cus­ing on par­tic­u­lar scenes.

The park’s cen­tral hub, Sweet­wa­ter, is named af­ter a key lo­ca­tion in Sergio Leone west­ern Once Upon A Time In The West.

West­world has its fans.

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