Folks, it’s time to rustle up some grub and sit your keester down by the fire. HBO’s hotly anticipated new sci-fi western series has finally arrived (almost). We at Paste have it on good authority that there’s a strong chance this show will be your next TV addiction, but you’ll need to be prepared for this strange, new world. Here are five things you should know before watching Westworld.
Because there are none! Unlike Game of Thrones, Westworld isn’t based on over 4000 pages of intricately detailed novels. This Home Box Office property is loosely based on the premise of the 1973 directorial debut of Michael Crichton. Nevermind a series, there isn’t even one novelized version of his premise of a theme park, where the attractions go wild and terrorize the guests. Well, not with cowboys anyway.
Fun fact: despite being an accomplished science fiction writer, he did not want his first film to be a work of science fiction. But according to Crichton, “That’s the only way I could get the studio to let me direct. People think I’m good at it I guess.” Even directors get typecast.
And he was good at it, by the way. If you haven’t seen the original, I recommend watching it. It’s got Yul Brynner, all the 1970s technology you could ask for and ground-breaking special effects.
Despite filming delays, you can expect the same high production values from any other HBO product. Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan’s brother, is a writer and producer. His writing credits include Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and Interstellar. In other words, he knows how to tell a great story.
Lisa Joy (Nolan’s wife) is also on board as a writer and producer. Her credits include Pushing Daisies (perhaps the most unfortunate victim of the writer’s strike) and Burn Notice (one of the most underrated cable shows of all-time). Expect a sharp, dry wit to be pervasive in the series.
In addition to the Nolan team, Ramin Djawadi, the composer for Game of Thrones, is at the helm for the show’s music composition. If that doesn’t get you excited, you might be a permanent resident of the theme park.
Why do I say “finally?” Despite the fact that Sir Anthony Hopkins is one of the greatest actors of our time, his recent films haven’t matched his talent. A look at his filmography in Rotten Tomatoes reveals that he hasn’t been in a movie with a rating of over 80% since 2005—that film being The World’s Fastest Indian. I’m so glad to see that Hopkins has been taken in by the warm embrace of HBO. The network was a key factor in the The McConaissance, and I think Westworld can do similar things for a man who won an Oscar, despite being on screen in Silence of the Lambs for only 15 minutes.
Westworld was supposed to premiere in 2015. However, there were serious delays in production, and people became unsure as to whether or not the project would survive at all. The good news is that executive producer JJ Abrams halted filming because the team behind this show wants to get every detail right.
That break allowed the showrunners to plan out a five-season arc. And theoretically, they already know how it will end. This is encouraging in part because we’ve seen far too many shows paint themselves into a corner and struggle to get out. I’m looking at you, Dexter.
The fact that JJ Abrams is an executive producer might have some worried, especially those who still feel burned after the Lost finale. If you watch the original 1973 film, you learn right from the start this is a theme park that exists in reality.
And from what we’ve seen from the trailers, it appears that the same is true for this new series. No purgatory or afterlife to worry about here. It’s just an excessively detailed recreation of 1880s frontier America populated by life-like, possibly sentient, robots. So… nothing weird.
Craig Carter is the host of Westworld The Podcast