Westworld Wants To Exploit Your Anxieties About Artificial Intelligence, Here’s How

By Brent McKnight | Updated

WestworldThere’s a tidal wave of potentially incredible science fiction coming to our TVs over the next year or so, and one that we’re super excited for around these parts is HBO’s upcoming adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Westworld. It has a fantastic cast, the resources to pull off an ambitious project like this, and a strong creative team working behind the scenes. As it moves along, we’re seeing more and more pieces in the light of day, and learning more about what to expect.

Entertainment Weekly just revealed this grim new still of Ed Harris’ villainous Man in Black, a role originally played by Yul Brynner in 1973. They also sat down to chat with the husband and wife producers and writers Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy discuss their project.

Joy talked about making the transition from the big screen to the small screen, and the challenges and freedoms inherent in the format. She said:

The glory of doing it as a series is that you get to kind of dance in the little spaces that were left unexplored. In a film, you only have a finite amount of time, and you’re so concerned with saying what happened and making it a gripping short story with a satisfying ending. But in a TV series, you can really take a novelistic approach and explore characters that you wouldn’t ordinarily see, in a level of complexity that you wouldn’t ordinarily get to explore just out of the sheer time constraints in a feature.

The series is set in a futuristic amusement park where visitors can live out their wildest dreams interacting with lifelike, artificially intelligent androids in recreations of historical periods. In the film, something malfunctions and they become deadly, but there appears to be much more going on here. They’re going to explore big ideas like what it means to be human, the relationship between man and technology, and many, many more. It’s fertile ground to root around in to be sure.

Nolans said:

People who come into this place are looking for — and this is the irony of it — the authentic experience. They’re looking for not the virtual version, but the real version, the tactile version. Interestingly we’ve arrived at what [the original film] created—fully immersible virtual worlds. Look at ‘Grand Theft Auto’ or any of these wholly imagined open-world video game. They are beautiful. They’re perfectly immersive and brilliant and filled with narrative turns.

In this version, we will also see what the world looks like beyond the confines of the theme park, and deal with how we interact with these emerging, artificially intelligent beings. Nolans said:

[P]icture your neurosis. Picture the things that keep you up at night—human behavior, artificial intelligence—any of those things that trouble you, worry you. That is exactly what the show is about. We are hoping to exploit all of those anxieties.

There is so much potential in Westworld, we can’t imagine we won’t see it fairly soon. The producers include Nolan, Joy, J.J. Abrams, and Jerry Weintraub, and the cast features all stars like Harris, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Miranda Otto, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Woodward, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, and more.