Posted on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
Before HBO began airing Westworld, rumor had it that it might somehow be a sequel to the 1973 film Westworld written and directed by Michael Crichton. As the series geared up, it seemed pretty obvious that the show, created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, was its own thing. But what if it isn’t?
What if the Bad Robot-produced Westworld TV series is actually a sequel to the 1973 Westworld movie? It’s a crackpot theory, I know. I won’t even suggest I believe it. But there is a bunch of evidence to point us in this direction. Or is it really evidence? Are they just fun Easter eggs for fans of the original movie? Hit the jump, grab a cocktail at the Mesa bar and join me as we explore this possibility.
The original 1973 science fiction film Westworld, written and directed by Michael Crichton (the author of Jurassic Park), told the story of a futuristic western theme park populated by realistic androids. The story is presented from the point of view of Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin), a first-time visitor, and his friend John Blane (James Brolin), a repeat visitor. Of course, the androids begin to malfunction, and Yul Brynner plays the iconic android villain The Gunslinger. Like the series, the park in the movie was run by a company called DELOS, who also operated other “DELOS Destinations” including Medieval World and Roman World, both of which are located adjacent to Westworld and are featured in the story.
During the last third of the film, the Gunslinger chases Peter through Westworld, the other parks, and back through the behind-the-scenes area of the park. There is a classic scene that takes place in one of the backstage areas where we see android hosts on operating tables. You can watch a clip of this sequence above.
In this week’s episode of Westworld, entitled “The Adversary,” Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) travels to sub level B82 (just one level above “cold storage,” seen in the pilot episode). Bernard is in this old area of Westworld’s former behind-the-scenes facility to track down some old hosts who are apparently operating off of the grid of the new computer systems. While it’s very dark and hard to see much in this part of the facility, it’s obvious that it doesn’t look as sleek and modern as the current backstage areas of Westworld. In fact, the design looks very similar to that of the original 1972 Westworld movie. Bernard walks past some metal tables that look eerily like the ones from the scene above, and we see a lifeless figure in the background for a brief second.
That’s right, Yul Brynner’s iconic character The Gunslinger makes a brief appearance. Sculptor Nick Marra created the animatronic Yul Brynner figure for fun (you can watch an interview about the creation here), but the creation must have caught the eye of the showrunners.
Showrunner Jonathan Nolan admits that “it was indeed” the Gunslinger that you saw in the background. He insists that it was just “a little tip of the hat,” and that they “didn’t want to feature it too heavily” as they don’t want viewers “reading too much into that.” So let’s do exactly the opposite of what he suggests.
It would be easy to write this off as a fun Easter egg, but maybe it’s more than that? What if HBO’s Westworld was actually a sequel to the 1973 Westworld film?
Is Westworld a Sequel to Westworld?
We have heard about the critical failure, a massive malfunction that happened sometime after the opening of the park just over three decades ago. What if that glitch was actually the events we see in the original Westworld movie? Series creator Jonathan Nolan has written the connection between the show and movie as “playful but not meant to be literal.” He told EW:
We wanted to connect to the ideas in the original film, but also take a look at this place as a cultural institution that is not new – because these ideas aren’t new. They stretch back to when Crichton was playing with them. We wanted to consider the park in that capacity, as a cultural institution in the manner of a Disney World. We feel like there’s a long story here. Like there’s something so pointed and sad for us about the idea that Dolores, this sort of evergreen frontier girl next door. She’s been that plucky heroine for 30 years.
Again, Nolan dismisses the suggestion without outright denying it.
When the HBO series began to air, fans of the movie quickly noticed the similarities between Ed Harris‘ Man in Black and Yul Brynner’s Gunslinger character, who also wore a black hat. Some eagle-eyed fans pointed out that the Man in Black wears black gloves, which may be a sign that he is actually an old host as those models didn’t get the hand movement right. That theory was seemingly debunked in a later episode when a park visitor recognized the Man in Black from the outside world. And as the series progresses, it is evident that Ed Harris’ Man in Black is a wholly new character that is similar to the Gunslinger in black hat only.
So what I’m suggesting is that maybe Westworld the television series takes place three decades after the events of the Westworld movie. I’m not suggesting, however, that any of the characters we see on the show are characters from that film, only that the critical failure of the park happened concurrently to the one we witnessed in the movie. And that after the critical failure, Medieval World and Roman World were both shut down and abandoned.
Let’s take a look at some more evidence/Easter eggs, on the next page.