HBO’s highly anticipated sci-fi/western Westworld finally debuts tonight. The trailers and story details we’ve seen and heard have been very intriguing, and with a high-profile cast that includes Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris, Westworld seems like it could be HBO’s next hit.
Critics have now published their reviews for the first four episodes of Season 1 and we’ve collected samples from them here to help you get a sense of the show’s critical reaction. The network has also put out a sizzle reel, containing some new footage, that shows off some of the positive things critics have said about the show so far.
HBO’s hour-long Westworld is based on the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name. In addition to Hopkins and Harris, it stars Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright.
Westworld is the name of a highly sophisticated simulated world that was created by Hopkins’ character, Dr. Ford. The world is inhabited by lifelike androids called Hosts. People can pay to visit Westworld, where they can live out their fantasies without consequence–whatever they may be. Trailers for the show have depicted sex and violence, among other things.
The show was made for TV by the husband-and-wife team of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. Jonathan Nolan is the brother of director Christopher Nolan; the brothers wrote the Christopher Nolan-directed movies The Dark Knight and Interstellar. Star Wars director JJ Abrams is a producer on Westworld.
For more on the critical reaction to Westworld‘s first episodes, go to GameSpot sister site Metacritic. The Season 1 debut airs tonight at 9 PM ET on HBO.
The New York Times
“What keeps Westworld interesting in its early going, despite its flat patches and flights of pretentiousness, is its willingness to think big. Is there a difference between simulated and actual consciousness? Are we pushing our entertainments to be brutal, or are those entertainments pushing us to be? In the end, Westworld asks the same question of us that it asks about Dr. Ford’s creations: Are we nothing more than creatures of our programming?” — James Poniewozik [Full review]
“A beautifully restored old train deposits visitors in Sweetwater, a manufactured Old West town and the central settlement within Westworld the role-playing resort in which paying customers can bring their most elaborate fantasies to life, setting out on frontier adventures or staying in the saloons to whoop it up. But like a train, this drama runs on predictable tracks, and no matter how luxurious the trappings of the journey, the destination is obvious from miles away. Westworld looks terrific; its directors have shot its Western locations to stunning effect. But its warmly saturated outdoor scenes and its surface slickness aren’t enough to mask the indecision, condescension, and hollowness at its core.” — Maureen Ryan [Full review]
The Hollywood Reporter
“Westworld as a series is a big idea with more mythology than a handful of episodes truly uncover–which is a positive sign. It’s better to be difficult than to be flimsy and disappointingly easy to figure out. The challenges in Westworld make it worth the investment.” — Tim Goodman [Full review]
“Westworld’s vastness, its sprawl of characters and plot lines, could easily be unwieldy and confusing. But instead it’s rather carefully, thoughtfully crafted–despite a reportedly troubled production. Well, beyond the first episode, anyway. Once the show’s two halves fuse together–the dark Western yarn marrying the pensive, eerie futurist science-fiction–the series becomes something beguiling.
“It’s beautifully acted and intricately written, frightening and probing and provocative. I am perhaps taking it on a good deal of privileged faith that the series will continue to interrogate the gender disparity intrinsic in its premise; if it does, it will be well worth watching. I don’t think this is going to set the globe aflame like Game of Thrones did. But Westworld could at least assert itself as a rare kind of truly transporting television–what we might have once called must-see.” — Richard Lawson [Full review]
“A show depicting the creation of synthetic humans rises or falls on the quality of its bots, and to watch Dolores undergo programming is to see Wood’s virtuosity at work. She shifts between affects and accents as Lowe grills her, but never loses some fundamental sweetness. Whether it’s her coding or an inexplicable soul within her machinery is the mystery Westworld fearlessly sets out to explore.” — Daniel D’Addario [Full review]
“For anyone who loves coherent science fiction, beautifully shot vistas, artfully constructed mysteries, and compelling stellar performances, it’s money well spent. You may, however, need more than one hour to reach that conclusion. Like most premium-cable dramas, which don’t face the fast-out-of-the-gate ratings pressure that broadcast series do, Westworld takes time creating its universe. Visitors to this futuristic Old West theme park are given no guidebook upon their arrival and offered no way to tell the human ‘guests’ from the robot ‘hosts’–and neither are we.” — Robert Bianco [Full review]
The AV Club
“To endure as a TV series, Westworld will need to bridge the gap between its fascinating ideas and the blank canvases they’re projected upon. Fortunately, it’s not so lost in its thoughts to forget that a robot-cowboy show ought to have the occasional shootout, heist, or daring escape. And while it’s never as plainly satirical as the original film, it still exhibits a sense of humor. Now it just needs to provide compelling reasons to care whether these characters live, die, or wake up to the truth of their reality. Otherwise, they’ll just be so many lawyers sitting on toilets, getting munched by one Tyrannosaurus rex after another.” — Erik Adams [Full review]