Produced on a modest budget of $1.25 million by MGM Westworld was one of the most commercially successful science-fiction films in the age before Star Wars (1977). It marked the debut to feature filmmaking of Michael Crichton, who in the 1970’s contributed (either as writer or director) a number of interesting pictures within the ‘Revolt of Technology’ subgenre. The first was The Andromeda Strain (1971) which was based upon his novel of the same name and saw an alien virus come to earth due to technological efficiency. Also of note is an adaptation of his novel The Terminal Man (1974) which charts the effects of a microchip placed in a scientists' brain in order to control his violent seizures. Another major contribution was Coma (1978) which he also directed, and combined elements of the paranoid thriller with technological unease. But for me Westworld eclipses all of these efforts by some distance. It was Crichton’s clearest and most efficient distillation of his techno-phobic themes, but also displayed a brilliantly self aware attitude to genre which was never replicated in Crichton’s later career. Crichton’s awareness of icons, conventions, and expectations makes Westworld both fun and incredibly chilling.
© Shaun Anderson 2010