Oct 302017
 

Westworld: Season One: The Maze isn’t perfect with some stretches meandering at times, but more than making up for it are some excellent performances from the likes of Hopkins, Harris, Newton and others.

 

 

Westworld: Season One: The Maze
(2016)

Genre(s): Science Fiction, Drama, Western, Action
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment | NR – 619 min. – $64.99 | November 7, 2017

Date Published: 10/30/2017 | Author: The Movieman

 


SEASON INFO:
Directed by: Jonathan Nolan, Neill Marshal, et al
Writer(s): Michael Crichton (based on the film written by); Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy (created for television)
Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden, Ben Barnes, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Clifton Collins Jr., Luke Hemsworth, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Simon Quarterman, Rodrigo Santoro, Angela Sarafyan, Jimmi Simpson, Tessa Thompson, Shannon Woodward, Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins

DISC INFO:
Features: Featurettes, Gag Reel
Digital Copy: Yes
Formats Included: 4K, Blu-ray
Number of Discs: 6
Audio (4K): English (Dolby Atmos), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Audio (BD): English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video (4K): 2160p/Widescreen 1.78
Video (BD): 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Dynamic Range: HDR10, Dolby Vision
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Codecs: HEVC / H.265 (4K), MPEG-4 AVC (BD)
Region(s): A, B, C

 


THE SEASON — 4.25/5


Note: This review contains many spoilers, some major, so readers beware.

Westworld is based upon the 1973 film written and directed by the late Michael Crichton and has had a decent following over the 40+ years since its release. I’ve only seen the movie once and felt it was alright but nothing all too inspiring nor have given it much thought since and now comes the television series, an awe-inspiring first season with ebbs and flows but finishes on a high note.

The HBO series comes to us from executive producers Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams, the former even directing a couple episodes as well as writing and is set in an unnamed future at an extravagant park where the rich can pay to roam through the wild west, fulfilling their deepest and oft darkest fantasies from shootouts to an old fashioned visit to the ladies of the night. Those they kill and/or f**k are known as hosts, basically robots who bleed but are only there to serve in a storyline loop.

There are many focuses the show follows and I’ll outlay them briefly as possible without revealing too many spoilers:

  • Park Director and Co-Creator Dr. Robert Ford (ANTHONY HOPKINS) with a, let’s say, complicated past
  • Bernard Lowe (JEFFREY WRIGHT) is the Programming Division Head and programs the A.I. software
  • Theresa Cullen (SIDSE BABETT KNUDSEN) is the Operations Leader having a tryst with Lowe
  • Charlotte Hale (TESSA THOMPSON) is a member of the Delos corporation board intent on removing Ford
  • Dolores (EVAN RACHEL WOOD) is a host whose story finds her time and again crossing paths with another host, and love interest in her story, Teddy (JAMES MARSTEN)
  • The Man in Black (ED HARRIS) is an older man making his way through the vast Westworld wild lands with an objective in mind, revealed throughout the season
  • Maeve Millay (THANDIE NEWTON) is the residential host Madame making sure the guests are well satisfied
  • We also follow park guests William (JIMMI SIMPSON) and his soon-to-be brother-in-law Logan (BEN BARNES), a regular park member with William falling for Dolores, much to Logan’s annoyance and dismay

There are a variety of other minor, yet important characters like the head of security played by Luke Hemsworth, Clementine portrayed by Angela Sarafyan; a host prostitute, outlaw Lawrence (CLIFTON COLLINS JR.), a host helping out guests; and Elsie Hughes (SHANNON WOODWARD) who works alongside Lowe.

The first two episodes of Westworld were absolutely fantastic. The world build-up is skillfully done and introductions to characters, both human and robot, that are nicely set-up and incredibly, and realistically, flawed to the point where there were some episodes where you question if there were any good ones outside perhaps Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores.

But while those episodes were excellent, episodes 3 through 7, were less so and tended to meander at times, mainly saved due to some marvelous and intense performances by Ed Harris as a true SOB and then some, the always insightful Jeffrey Wright and last but not least, Anthony Hopkins. However, as slowly plotted as these episodes were, there was a twist that made one worthwhile and a season finale that brought everything together that, looking back, makes the journey meaningful.

Outside of the slow episodes, however, I did find one glaring issue: for all the technology the facility has, their security isn’t worth shit. Now, we’re going major spoiler territory here, but when Maeve becomes aware and gets one of the techies on her side, and blackmails another, they seem to be able to converse at will and even roam the hallways on floors they have no right to be on without hindrance, all in spite of, presumably, cameras everywhere and only windows so anyone walking by can see what is happening. For such an integral part of the season plot, that, to me, is a conspicuous plot hole.

The performances overall were all well done. I already mentioned Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris, each holding their own and a treat to see them in, as far as I recall, two scenes together; but not to be ignored, Jeffrey Wright is perfect as an insightful and thoughtful character, Evan Rachel Wood has some good, emotional scenes alongside Jimmi Simpson and James Marsden, the former a respectable character actor; and perhaps the highlight, and maybe most brave, goes to Thandie Newton not only for appearing nude in several scenes, but has the most range of the host characters, heck arguably more range than the humans…

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the more technical aspects of the series. The costumes and sets are all first-rate and the Utah landscape where Westworld takes place looks absolutely stunning. The music from composer Ramin Djawadi is beautiful, sometimes interjecting some more modern tunes through the bar piano like Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” song.

All in all, Westworld: Season One: The Maze is not quite perfect but pretty damn close excelling with some truly surprising twists, top notch acting from most of its cast and just all around entertaining, enjoyable and thought-provoking storytelling with a theme about just what it means to be human and the darkness within.

 

SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.25/5


The Limited Edition Tin contains a “Corporate Guide Book”, an episode guide and redemption code for the Digital Copy. The 6-disc set (3 UHDs, 3 BDs) comes housed in a black 4K case which is nice for those who want to place the season on a shelf and maybe the tin elsewhere.

I would’ve preferred all the features on a single disc, instead they are spread across the three discs. But all told, there is 90-minutes worth of features.

Disc 1:
About the Series (2:11; HD) – Executive Producers Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy and J.J. Abrams, and Actors Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden ask: What if Westworld really existed?

An Invitation to the Set (2:14; HD) – Nolan, Joy and Abrams and Actors Jeffrey Wright and Wood discuss living without limits.

The Big Moment

  • Teddy Versus the Man in Black (1:58; HD) is a breakdown of the intentions and motivations behind their first face-off.
  • A Host Self-Sabotages (1:53; HD) covers the surprising inspiration behind hosts’ aberrant behavior and Elsie’s dark discovery.

Welcome to Westworld (7:41; HD) – Nolan, Joy and Abrams and Actors Newton, James Marsden and Wood consider immersive fantasy in terms of reality, humanity and technology.

Realizing the Dream: First Week on the Set of Westworld (11:20; HD) – Nolan and Joy offer their unique perspective in this diary.

Imagining the Main Title (14:06; HD) has the show runners dissecting the iconic opening sequence from concept to final execution.

Disc 2:
Reality of A.I.: Westworld (4:29; HD)
– Nolan, Joy and Abrams and Actors Newton and Wood investigate A.I.’s existential threats.

The Big Moment

  • Maeve Gets an Answer (1:36; HD) – A bullet in the belly drives the enigmatic character’s emotions and analytical mind.
  • Bernard Faces an Unlikely Saboteur (1:21; HD) is a featurette on when the character finds out someone close is responsible for the data links.
  • Ford’s Blood Sacrifice (1:36; HD) looks at Ford’s big plan and its meaning for the future.

Gag Reel (1:38; HD) filled with line flubs and on-set whackery.

Disc 3:
The Big Moment

  • The Truth About Bernard (2:21; HD) – Discover the importance of a “memory cornerstone.”
  • Ford’s New Narrative (3:51; HD) – Violent delights beget violent ends.

The Key to the Chords (8:03; HD) explores the player piano as a metaphor and tool for the composer to echo the outside world.

Crafting the Narrative (29:15; HD) – Nolan and Joy review the final episode in terms of memory, mythology and inner monologue.

 


4K VIDEO – 5.0/5, BD VIDEO – 4.75/5


Westworld: Season One is the first, at least in North America, season set to be released in the 4K format and is presented with a 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio as originally televised and given a 2160p high-definition transfer (HEVC/H.265 codec). The video is incredibly impressive with high levels of detail while colors do have some nice pop, especially outside of the western landscape where tones are a bit more muted. There were no noticeable flaws, not even banding which tends to be presented, at least I’ve found, on TV shows.

The 1080p high-definition Blu-ray (MPEG-4 AVC codec) meanwhile also looks great with good detail level and equally is without major instances of any major drawbacks.

4K AUDIO – 5.0/5, BD AUDIO – 4.5/5


The 4K discs come equipped with an incredible and resounding Dolby Atmos track which outputs crystal clear dialogue but more remarkable, there is some excellent depth during the numerous Western gun battles or even the slight humming within the factory setting. I found this to be a great aural experience.

Well, those having not gone with the 4K format, it would appear the studio has joined the ranks of Fox and Sony. The Blu-ray discs have DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks for some reason, but even though Warner didn’t port over the Atmos format, this is still a nice sounding lossless track with clear dialogue levels and good surrounds with the action-centric scenes.

 


OVERALL – 4.5/5


Overall, Westworld: Season One: The Maze isn’t perfect with some stretches meandering at times, but more than making up for it are some excellent performances from the likes of Hopkins, Harris, Newton and others. This 4K release from Warner Brothers offers amazing video and audio transfers and an expansive amount of bonus features.

 

 

 

 

Check out some more 1080p screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.

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