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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Westworld

Starring: Richard Benjamin, Yul Brynner
Director: Michael Crichton
Rated: PG
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: November 1973
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense

*Also starring: James Brolin, Norman Bartold, Alan Oppenheimer, Victoria Shaw, Steve Franken

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

WESTWORLD (1973) was famous author Michael Crichton's first attempt at directing a movie for the big screen. He also wrote this erratic but nevertheless engrossing film. Conceptually the film is more interesting that the realization due to Crichton's poor direction, all of this notwithstanding, the film is worth seeing.

The show's premise is thought-provoking. What if you could do more at an amusement park than just ride through a pseudo-environment? What if the Pirates of the Caribbean allowed you to actually become a real pirate? What if you could use real guns and kill robots that were completely indistinguishable from real people? In other words, how about a park where you can enter a fantasy world that for all intents and purposes is a real world? You have got to admit that the setup for this high concept movie is intriguing. One part I especially like is that there is a subtle way in which robots differ from real humans in their appearance, and it stems from the same problem that great artists have in drawing the human body. I will not revel the difference. Rent the film to find out.

Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin) decide they want to get away from the stress of life by going to such an amusement park. Given many choices they choose to be cowboys in the Old West. They get to kill other cowboys in fights and to run around with loose women. They have a great time. In an adjoining part of the park another group of happy campers get to relive the bacchanal of ancient Rome. Their toga parties are much better than in ANIMAL HOUSE.

The toughest gunslinger in the Wild West section is a robot played by Yul Brynner. Peter and John having great fun killing him, but overnight the technicians back at the command center keep fixing him up and giving him better programs so he will be harder to kill the next day. As anyone who has seen JURASSIC PARK can guess, the park develops a bit of a problem and the robots start misbehaving. They develop the nasty habit of trying to kill the guests. Imagine one of Disney's pirates firing at you with real guns? A bit more realism than most of us would want.

This all sounds much better than it is due mainly to Crichton's plodding pacing. The film goes so slow that you find yourself wishing your VCR had one of those double speed modes where you could still hear the voice. The best part of the show happens at the command center which is a 1970's version of the center in JURASSIC PARK. Other than the equipment differences, notice how they need many people to operate the command center in WESTWORLD whereas in JURASSIC PARK a single programmer does it all.

Overall, watching this highly uneven movie is a blend of falling asleep out of boredom when nothing is happening to being fascinated with what is going to happen next. If you like science fiction, you will probably enjoy seeing the movie. Be prepared however to be frustrated by its low energy level.

WESTWORLD runs just 1:28 but feels a lot longer. It is correctly rated PG for low key cartoonish violence. It would be fine for any kid 6 and up although they probably need to be 9 or 10 to be interested. I recommend this unusual show to the adventuresome, but don't watch it close to bedtime or you may never be able to see the ending. It is easy to find your eyelids getting heavy in the many slow parts. I give the film ** 1/2.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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