It’s become pretty much par for the course these days to instantly knock Hollywood’s never ending wave of reboots and remakes. This year alone has seen Ghostbusters, The Jungle Book, Pete’s Dragon, The BFG, Ben-Hur and more in cinemas, while on the TV side we have Lethal Weapon, MacGyver and The Exorcist to look forward to/dread.
Good or bad, its pretty striking that out of that deluge of old material, HBO’s upcoming Westworld adaptation somehow still feels exciting. The TV remake of Michael Crichton’s 1973 film is centered around a Western-themed amusement park populated entirely by androids. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it all goes a bit wrong.
This is HBO, of course, so that means an excuse for liberal quantities of sex and violence, but the show clearly has loftier aspirations too. The first two trailers have hinted at plenty of philosophical musings about consciousness, creation and the value of life, all helped by the fact that they’re delivered in the treacly tones of Anthony Hopkins.
All of which is much the same as the original film (well, except for the Anthony Hopkins bit I guess). So why am I excited about Westworld when plenty of other remakes and reboots prove so disappointing and, well, predictable?
Simple: Westworld is actually a bit rubbish.
To be more specific, Westworld has a brilliant premise that it never really quite does justice to. Robot theme park? Rich people living out their basest fantasies? Big questions about artificial intelligence and corporate corruption? Check, check, and check. Brilliant. Sign me up. Except that Crichton’s film takes all that rich potential and doesn’t really know what to do with it.
Sure, Yul Brynner is great as the ominous, implacable gunslinger (modeled on Brynner’s earlier character in The Magnificent Seven, also getting the remake treatment this year, oddly enough). There are a few great visuals when the film explores the creation of the droids, and the addition of the Medieval World and Roman World settings makes for some neat moments. But for the most part the film’s a bit disjointed, oddly paced and doesn’t really know how to answer any of the interesting questions it raises.
Which is exactly why it’s perfect for the remake treatment. The film is mostly fun, and it has its fans, but it leaves plenty of room for someone else to come along and not just offer a different take, but a better one. The fact that it’s making the leap from big screen to small doesn’t hurt either, as the 10-hour running time should give the creators time to really dig into the philosophical stuff (y’know, when they’re not totally distracted by all the boobs and six shooters), exploring the stuff that Crichton just didn’t have the time to.
We don’t need remakes of the films and shows that someone already got right once before — but Westworld is a chance to make up for a missed opportunity all those years ago. That’s the kind of remake I can get excited about.