TOO REAL

India Today - - LEISURE - —Ja­son Over­dorf

If there were ever any doubts about HBO’s hyp­notic power over the US en­ter­tain­ment world, last week’s 22 Emmy Award nom­i­na­tions for West­world—a medi­ocre and pre­ten­tious suf­fer­fest—should put them to rest.

While a case can be made for Evan Rachel

Wood, An­thony Hop­kins, Jef­frey Wright and Thandie New­ton be­ing hon­oured in the var­i­ous act­ing cat­e­gories, the pon­der­ous se­ries doesn’t be­long in the same sen­tence with Best Drama nom­i­nees Bet­ter Call Saul (AMC), The Crown (Net­flix), The Hand­maid’s

Tale (Hulu), Stranger Things (Net­flix) or even the some­what twee This Is Us (NBC). (Some­how the badly faded Sea­son 5 of House of Cards also limped in.)

On the face of it, it’s a ser­vice­able ve­hi­cle: for rea­sons best known to them­selves, an all-pow­er­ful cor­po­ra­tion has spent bil­lions upon bil­lions of dol­lars de­vel­op­ing robots so so­phis­ti­cated they can pass for hu­man—all so they can pop­u­late a theme park where the well-heeled can pre­tend to be gun­slingers in Amer­ica’s ‘old West’. In the orig­i­nal 1973 movie, which had the good for­tune to star Yul Bryn­ner, this made more sense— west­erns were the most pop­u­lar movie genre. It was also more fun: think a lowtech ver­sion of the Ter­mi­na­tor with­out the time travel (and with Yul Bryn­ner!). Avail­able in In­dia on Hot­star, the mod­ern re­boot has, like so many ‘dark’ su­per­hero movies of our era, left the fun out. Watch­ers of a cer­tain age go­ing into it think­ing “who’s do­ing Yul Bryn­ner” will be dis­ap­pointed: if any­body is do­ing Bryn­ner’s role, it’s Ed Har­ris. Worse still, the char­ac­ter is no longer a ro­bot. In this weirdly anachro­nis­tic take on Michael Crich­ton’s very silly story, the robots are the good guys, and it’s vi­cious hu­mans like Har­ris who are the vil­lains, il­lus­trat­ing how, well, in­hu­mane we can be to crea­tures we deem to be with­out equal rights (Ho hum). You’ll be wait­ing for the robots to rise up from about 15 min­utes into the first episode, but fans of a good blood­bath will be bet­ter off re­peat­ing the oddly ho­mo­erotic mus­cle-bro se­ries Spar­ta­cus, be­cause West­world never de­liv­ers the shootout that’s al­ways been this genre’s money shot. In­stead, we get An­thony Hop­kins and dime­store phi­los­o­phy (even Ju­lian Jaynes’ The Ori­gin of Con­scious­ness in the Break­down of the Bi­cam­eral Mind gets a nod): those

robots liv­ing in an end­less loop, where life just keeps re­peat­ing it­self with­out mean­ing? Those guys are sup­posed to be you, the viewer. While the point does hit home, be­la­bor­ing it over 120 episodes—sorry, 20 episodes—just feels like cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ment.

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