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Adult theme park becomes nightmare ride in solid film from author Crichton

April 18, 2011

By Jimmy Gillman

Jimmy Gillman
Westworld
MGM; 1973; 88 minutes; PG, but contains violence, adult themes, situations and language; Directed by Michael Crichton; Starring: Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin, Alan Oppenheimer, Victoria Shaw, Dick Van Patten and Majel Barrett; Screenwriter(s): Michael Crichton

 

 

 

 

GRADE: B

For those who would elevate technology to a place where it is viewed as the answer to that which ails us comes a seemingly simple science fiction film from author Michael Crichton; one that illustrates all too well the overriding and ever-present dangers of technology, particularly when that technology is thought to be benign.
 
More than slightly ahead of its time, Crichton’s first directorial effort brings to the screen his vision of a live action theme park for adults, where certain fantasies can be realized on a scale heretofore only imagined. The park (and the film) is called Westworld, a fully featured recreation of a Hollywood style town in the old Wild West where grown-ups—mostly men—can enjoy the high-fluting brothels and take on the bad guys in gunfights and bar room brawls that will do them no harm and always end in victory.
 
Those victories are assured because the inhabitants of Westworld are highly sophisticated, lifelike robots programmed to provide the park’s guests with unlimited (and safe) physical pleasures and visceral excitement.
 
Of course, things eventually go haywire, but despite its predictability “Westwolrd” remains successful because Crichton has focused the story on human dynamics instead of special-effects, which has also helped the film to avoid becoming dated in an era of computer-generated filmmaking. Relying on his fine novel and aided immeasurably by the marvelous performances of Yul Brynner, James Brolin and Richard Benjamin, Crichton has created a film with a high degree of action and suspense without sacrificing insight, a quality missing from much of his latter work, specifically in the Jurassic Park series.
 
Crichton’s overall narrative point—that technology is to be used with caution and never fully trusted—may have been made before, but that doesn’t make it any less important. In fact, considering what has transpired technologically since the film was made, the point is more important than ever.
 
When things in “Westworld” begin to break down and the robots run amok, we’re not only treated to some exciting action, but reminded of the fact that technology will forever remain flawed because its human creators are far from perfect.
 
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Film Grading Key

A+ Can't get any better

A Outstanding

A- Superior effort

B+ Very good

B Good

B- Still worth watching

C+ Strictly iffy

C Waste of time

In Memory of Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014

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