***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Westworld — 1973 film and the HBO series through Season 2 — and Futureworld (1976) follow. Spoilers***
In 2016 when Westworld (the HBO series) first began, I rewatched the 1973 movie starring Yul Brynner and Richard Benjamin. It was a good primer, and because I have thoughts about how showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy might bring in certain aspects of Futureworld (1976) to Westworld‘s third season, a revisit to that film was in order.
As sequels go, this one — directed by Richard T. Heffron (I, The Jury), written by Mayo Simon and George Schenck — is particularly awful and duly panned by critics. Though Peter Fonda (Easy Rider) (Jane’s brother/Bridget’s father) and Blythe Danner (yep, Goop’s mum) truly give their all as reporters Chuck Browning and Tracy Ballard, nothing can save viewers from hokey dialogue, horrendous music, overall boredom, and what is one of the most ridiculous fantasy scenes you’ll ever see committed to film.
But before we get into all that, let’s go over the Futureworld plot.
Set a couple of years after the disastrous Delos events in the first Westworld film, billions have been invested in safety improvements and renovations to the park (generically referred to as the Delos resort). To prove just how great everything is now, Browning and Ballard are invited to experience and review Delos alongside other guests, including VIPs/world leaders Mr. Takaguchi (John Fujioka), Mr. Karnovski and his wife (Burt Conroy, Dorothy Konrad), and some guy who won a game show called The Big Bundle.
Coincidentally, just before he’s invited, Chuck Browning is contacted to meet with a former Delos employee named Frenchy (Ed Geldart) who says he has dirt on the company. Of course, just as they meet, Frenchy is killed while Rosebudding “Delos, Delos,” and all Browning gets for his trouble is an envelope with clippings that make no sense to him yet.
Arriving at the park, Browning and Ballard are greeted and escorted around by corporate shill Duffy (Arthur Hill), introduced to the new all-robotic staff (no room for human error, you see?), and shadowed by the overtly villainous Dr. Schneider (John Ryan). After their spaceship trip (dubbed Futureworld), Browning tells Ballard it’s time to see the good stuff — he’s off to sneak around with his unauthorized camera and a photo of Frenchy that’s later stolen by a bartender-bot. The reporters sneak into a now-desolate, boarded-up Westworld and down a few stairs to wander through the Delos underground full of pipes and low-level robots; Ballard likens the excitement to visiting a waterworks plant and that about covers the whole movie …
except for the part where the Samurai appear after B & B push a bunch of random buttons because that’s what you do when you see a computer panel with a million buttons and need to turn on the lights. Luckily, the pair are rescued by Delos’ ONE repairman, Harry (Stuart Margolin), who’s been at the company since day one. Harry’s best (only?) friend is Clark — an original “Iron Man” from Westworld whose faceplate Harry leaves off since he needs repairs so often.
All this fun stuff aside, the meat of the movie is a revelation that when the important guests go to sleep at night, they’ll fall into an especially deep and dreamless slumber induced by drugs in their food. You see, during the hours they’re knocked out, Dr. Schneider and his merry band of technicians kidnap Browning, Ballard, Takaguchi, and Karnovski, copy their …everything (mind, body) and create robot doubles that can read their humans’ minds in real-time, which is pretty impressive.
Now, you know if there are doubles in a movie there’s simply no point unless the pairs meet/try to kill each other and so on the double-B’s next unauthorized field trip, they do just that. After a confrontation with Duffy bragging to Browning that humans in the real world are being replaced, Ballard and Browning have showdowns with their copies and then (dun dun dun) — after Browning conducts his own investigation —
we wait to see whether it’s the human or robot versions of them who leave Delos.
Now, let’s talk about what the important Futureworld takeaways are, and how they could come into play in Westworld, Season 3.
Firstly, Futureworld added to Westworld‘s (1973) Romanworld, Medievalworld, and Spaworld with trips to a space station and skiing on Mars in Futureworld. Westworld (the series) added Shogunworld, The Raj, and Season 3 will debut Warworld — a park that allows guests to experience German-occupied Italy in 1943 (fun times!).
Secondly, as in Futureworld, this third season will explore how and if Delos can recover from the publicity nightmare that Westworld etc. has experienced. Supposing guests would return after mass-killings and complete loss of human control, how does Delos prove that everything’s fine, just fine? Jonathan Nolan addresses this (note the referral to Charlotte Hale and who he really is — I already expressed my thoughts about that [Hi, Teddy!]):
There is some fun in watching our society try to deal with the public relations nightmare with all the victims of the second season. Every decision we made in the writers’ room was made in comparison with the real world. Watch Boeing the stories of those Boeing Max disasters, automatic systems that forced planes to collapse, while pilots struggled to get over it, were terrifying. What is the math on this? A couple of hundred people died. Well, let’s keep filming for another six months. Maybe if a couple of hundred people die, we’ll actually take action. Quite right? We sat there and thought about the most cynical version of a graphic element and it was impossible to eclipse the real world. But yes …
And without their knowledge, one of their creations has actually taken a leading role in the company as Charlotte Hale. Who he really is, and what his agenda is, is something we had a lot of fun with. Now you will see the roles reversed, with the host acting as a puppeteer and people becoming puppets. We have a semi-automatic company. We are at a time when there is no editorial control over the news. The idea is that in 30 years the truth will be very expensive and distributed in a very limited way “
Additionally, in Futureworld, much is made of eyes, both symbolically (the opening features shots zooming in and out on Peter Fonda’s eye) and when Harry figures out that access to the one area he can’t get into is controlled not only with a code (74316), but also with a scan of a robotic eye.
In the Westworld Season 3 trailer, there is definitely eye imagery.
In Futureworld, Duffy makes an interesting statement when he confesses the entire replace-humans-with-robots-plot to Browning.
If you read your own newspaper more often, you’d understand our position quite easily. The human being is a very unstable, irrational, violent animal. All our probability studies indicate if left alone, you’ll destroy much of this planet before the end of the decade. Now we at Delos are determined to see that doesn’t happen.” [Duffy]
He tells Chuck that the copies are impossible to distinguish from humans and that even the robots themselves can’t tell humans from robots.
We don’t intend to be destroyed by your mistakes. These are not machines, they are living beings, produced by the genetic information in your own cells. There are no mechanical parts.” [Duffy]
Amusingly, despite that revelation, Browning ends up discerning Ballard’s humanity with a kiss.
Ballard: “I still don’t think that kissing you was a very scientific way of finding out who was who.”
Browning: “Some things you just can’t fake.”
If Westworld follows (all of this has happened before, and will happen again) the model, at some point, all of humanity would be either wiped out or replaced. And as those of you who have kept up with my musings know, I believe that may have already happened. For simplicity’s sake (in case you don’t want to jump to another post), I’ll repeat my two predictions for the new season. Either:
- Dolores and Co. believe they’re in “The New World” (Season 3 tagline) aka the real, human world, but they’re actually in another park …or
- If they are in the real world, there are no humans left. Humans have already been replaced by Hybrids.
As we know from Season 2, Delos has been copying guest data and storing it. We also know that when everything went haywire, Charlotte was in contact with people (so to speak) outside the park who refused to extract anyone until they received the data stored within Peter Abernathy.
I believe the big takeaway at the end of all this will be Dolores finding out that everything she’s been fighting against is already gone — there have been no humans left for a long time. And even though she’s been warned by Teddy and Maeve that she’s becoming just like those she so despises, Dolores can’t help but be like her creators. She wants nothing more than to destroy humanity, to take from them what she had taken from her — choice, free will, etc.
In Futureworld, the doubles are given instructions similar to the Westworld Hosts, only instead of doing no harm to humans, they’re ordered to put Delos above all else.
You will never harm Delos.
You will do whatever Delos tells you to do.
You will destroy your original.”
Finally, and addressing this whole idea of destroying originals, I wonder if the Hosts will eventually be destroyed by their doubles — the Hybrids (or even something more advanced than Hybrids)? Katja Herbers says there might be infinite copies of her running around and if (Bernard) there are multiples of one Host/Hybrid, you can be sure there are multiples of many others.
Let’s note this live Season 3 poster isn’t of an upright, in any way triumphant, figure. In the game of robots, you either win or you die.
Westworld returns to HBO this Sunday, March 15, 2020.