Westworld gets 22 Emmy Award nominations
New YorkJuly31:If there were ever any doubts about HBO’s hypnotic power over the US entertainment world, last week’s 22 Emmy Award nominations for Westworld, a mediocre and pretentious sufferfest, should put them to rest.
While a case can be made for Evan Rachel Wood, Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton being honoured in the various acting categories, the ponderous series doesn’t belong in the same sentence with Best Drama nominees Better Call Saul (AMC), The Crown (Netflix), The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), Stranger Things (Netflix) or even the somewhat twee This Is Us (NBC). (Somehow the badly faded Season 5 of House of Cards also limped in.)
On the face of it, it’s a serviceable vehicle: for reasons best known to themselves, an all-powerful corporation has spent billions upon billions of dollars developing robots so sophisticated they can pass for human, all so they can populate a theme park where the well, heeled can pretend to be gunslingers in America’s ‘old West’. In the original 1973 movie, which had the good fortune to star Yul Brynner, this made more sense, westerns were the most popular movie genre. It was also more fun: think a low-tech version of the Terminator without the time travel (and with Yul Brynner!). Available in India on Hotstar, the modern reboot has, like so many ‘dark’ superhero movies of our era, left the fun out. Watchers of a certain age going into it thinking “who’s doing Yul Brynner” will be disappointed: if anybody is doing Brynner’s role, it’s Ed Harris. Worse still, the character is no longer a robot.
In this weirdly anachronistic take on Michael Crichton’s very silly story, the robots are the good guys, and it’s vicious humans like Harris who are the villains, illustrating how, well, inhumane we can be to creatures we deem to be without equal rights (Ho hum). You’ll be waiting for the robots to rise up from about 15 minutes into the first episode, but fans of a good bloodbath will be better off repeating the oddly homoerotic muscle-bro series Spartacus, because Westworld never delivers the shootout that’s always been this genre’s money shot.
Instead, we get Anthony Hopkins and dimestore philosophy (even Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind gets a nod): those robots living in an endless loop, where life just keeps repeating itself without meaning? Those guys are supposed to be you, the viewer. While the point does hit home, belaboring it over 120 episodes – sorry, 20 episodes – just feels like cruel and unusual punishment.