Is ‘Westworld’ HBO’s next ‘Game of Thrones?’

Clip It: Each day, Jon Davis looks at the world of trailers, featurettes, and clips and puts it all in perspective.

When I was ten years old, I was sent to an overnight sports camp. It rained for the first three days. And on the third day, we all gathered in the mess hall to watch the movie Westworld, written and directed by famed novelist Michael Crichton. Perhaps it was the only VHS tape they had on hand. I don't know. All I know is I took advantage of the moment to mock the film because I felt it was incumbent on me to make my new campmates laugh before they found out I couldn't play sports. I mined my prepubescent comedy from the movie's deeply serious tone. I haven't seen Westworld since. I don't want to ruin that great memory of making jocks laugh as a kid by appreciating the movie as an adult. 

I just watched the trailer for Westworld, the epic HBO TV show. At first, it struck me again as a bit too serious for it subject matter, as if robots and the old west aren't supposed to be fun. But it grew on me.

By far, the best part of the trailer is Evan Rachel Wood, who plays a robot (or 'host') who has been resurrected and has literally met her maker in Anthony Hopkins. She has apparently decided to take revenge on the theme park creators who want to keep her subservient, and she already looks iconic as the cowgirl robot shooting backwards on a horse and later slipping the gun back in its holster, staring into the middle distance like a bad ass. Ed Harris sounds great, both gravelly and intense, Jeffrey Wright is his best ambiguously evil creepy self and Anthony Hopkins… I can't tell yet. Is he laying the cheese a little too thick, or has he calibrated his line chewing perfectly and this project has woken him up from a long nap? I don't know. He's the one I'm most wary of because it looks like he's been given a lot to do, and I haven't found him convincing in awhile. 

As for the theme park robots vs. evil human storyline, HBO has a lot riding on it, as it's supposed to be the show that will capture our imaginations after Game of Thrones goes off the air. It's the biggest reason, besides Veep, for us to hold onto our HBO subscriptions.

Let me play a skeptic for a moment. Game of Thrones might be a complex show, but the idea behind it is deceptively simple: Everyone wants power. As viewers, we can all understand that want on a primal level. We will have to see if Westworld has just as compelling a hook that will keep us going back. Robot rights might prove to be too esoteric, and I'm saying this as someone who loves robots and wishes he had one right now.  

Of course I'm going to see this show, and I want it to work, especially because if the creative team (led by husband-wife producer team Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy) can clear the high level of difficulty, it's going to be a home run. It's not easy to combine genres. Game of Thrones works for a lot of reasons, and even though it jumps around, it jumps between fantasy sub genres. Projects like Westworld and the upcoming Dark Tower, are tonally more ambitious, trying to pull off the weird western, which means taking the western genre and pairing it with sci-fi or fantasy. 

In the comics and novel media, I've really enjoyed weird westerns. But in TV/Film? Remember Will Smith's Wild, Wild West, a mishmosh of steampunk, western, and comedy that appealed to absolutely no one? Did you see Cowboys vs. Aliens? Because many of us didn't. Back to the Future III? The reaction to that was mixed at best. I'm predisposed to like anything with a cameo appearance by ZZ Top, but I'm a Back to the Future sequel apologist.

Still we want this to work. So let's watch Westworld together when it comes out in October. I promise not to make fun of it just to make jock friends.