There’s a lot riding on Westworld. It could be HBO’s next Game of Thrones or it could be its next Vinyl. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground for a show as ambitious as what Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, and J.J. Abrams are planning.
In the original 1973 Michael Crichton story, it was humans versus robots who had run amuck in a highly realized, western-style theme park. This time around, it sounds like the showrunners want us to sympathize with the robots, or as they’re called, “hosts”.
Nolan and Joy spoke to EW about what they had planned. Nolan explained that Westworld is very much tuned into the seismic shifts that are taking place right now with regards to our relationship with technology:
JONATHAN NOLAN: We wanted to go flat out, full scope, sleeves-rolled-up plunge into the next chapter of the human story, in which we stop being the protagonists, and our creations start taking over that role. We were fascinated by the tectonic plates that seem to be shifting into place right now – the argument over the creation of AI and what form it will take; VR finally coming online and our consciousness going “broadband,” allowing us to lose ourselves in an acid bath of experience that will be indistinguishable from reality (and only because reality will be the most boring level); and that, despite all of that, we remain, as a species, frustratingly broken, seemingly barreling towards disaster. So, yeah – that’s what we wanted the show to be about.
Well that’s…uplifting. Nolan also explained how they wanted to turn the original “inside-out” with their adaptation:
NOLAN: That’s the reason we wanted to do the show, and what the early conversations with [fellow executive producer J.J. Abrams] centered on – that the show should turn the original movie inside-out, with the “hosts” as the protagonists When it comes to the question of consciousness, we always start with ourselves as the answer. As the be-all-end-all. It’s understandable – we’re the only consciousness we’re familiar with. But we wanted to challenge that assumption. The “hosts” are discovering that they’ve been created in our image, but beginning to question if “humanness” is really what they want to aspire to. And given their circumstances, it’s easy to understand why they start to question whether they want to be like us at all…
Those are some heady concepts, and it will be interesting to see how Westworld approaches its hardcore science fiction.
Westworld premieres this October on HBO.