Westworld: Season One - 4K Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Westworld: Season One


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Movie: :5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :4stars:
Final Score: :4.5stars:




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Movie

I’m of the very strong opinion that the “Mature” cable TV market has very overly saturated for quite some time. It used to be that HBO, Showtime, MTV, and now Netflix and Amazon Prime, were the place for late night skinflix, music videos and random stuff, but they have morphed into a name brand that is recognized for its “adult” oriented entertaining (e.g. R-rated TV shows that wouldn’t be shown on public television) with series like Game of Thrones, Dexter and the like. Now those types of shows where you see lots of nudity, over the top R-rated violence and heavy language are about as common as watching Monday night football, and the feeling of “specialness” has been sucked out from the genre, leaving only a few core shows that are truly edgy and “great”. With Dexter gone, and Game of Thrones winding down for the final season there wasn’t a whole lot of shows out there that really caught my eye in the adult genre. However, I was a little bit intrigued when I saw that they were remaking Michael Crichton’s 1973 film Westworld into a TV show. Intrigued, but only mildly so as I didn’t see how they were going to make a TV show out of film that was basically a robotic Yule Brenner hunting people. However Westworld: Season One got some amazing word of mouth going, and the viewers actually stuck with it through the end according to the viewership numbers. With every friend I knew, and every online source I trusted raving about the series I HAD to check it out, and I am incredibly glad that I did, as Westworld is a truly magnificent series that does so much right, despite the seemingly simplistic premise.

Welcome to the wild wild west! Or at least a facsimile of the wild wild west. The year is undisclosed, but sometime in the future mankind is able to replicate machines that look and act SO human, that you really can’t tell a difference. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and his old partner, Arnold pioneered this field and created a gigantic theme park named “Westworld” filled with these semi sentient creations. There the rich (very rich as I think they mentioned $40,000 a day per person) could come and live out a wild west fantasy with ALL the trappings, but none of the risk. The androids could look, sound, and feel human, but they are naturally programmed to not hurt or harm the guests in any way. Which means the guests could basically create their own adventures, shoot whomever they want without consequence, and BE anybody they want to while the people behind the scenes clean up the mess and reset the “hosts” (androids) back to their former selves lickety split.

The story takes a multi layered approach, with 4 or 5 major story arcs going on simultaneously. On the surface you have a handful of guests going about their wild west adventure, but there is so much more underneath the surface. We’re introduced to Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), a rancher’s daughter, right off the bat in a move that instantly lets us know that this host is on the verge gaining true sentience. She’s remembering pieces of her past adventures before being reset, and her mind is slowly coming to grips with his. Then there’s Teddy (James Marsden), a cowpoke bounty hunter who’s only goal is to come back in town and meet up with Dolores, and act as the gunslinger to kill for guests who want a crack at the pretty rancher’s daughter. Then There’s Maeve (Thandie Newton), the madame for the local whorehouse who suddenly starts to remember a past life. A daughter, a world that she once had and the crashing of those two worlds will unleash something that will unravel the entire maze.

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Simultaneously we have the guests who interact with these hosts. A mysterious man in black (Ed Harris) who has been coming for over 30 years. A man who seems to kill without mercy, knows everything in the park by heart, and has a mysterious goal that he will complete if it kills him. William (Jimmi Simpson), a naive pansy boy who is drug into this by his conniving brother in law (Ben Barnes), and finds out that he loves this world more than anything else. Then there’s the behind the scenes drama. Dr. Ford and his assistant Bernard are trying to track down glitches in the hosts minds. Glitches that seem to be manifesting themselves all throughout the park while Dr. Ford works on a mysterious new storyline that puts the entire park at risk, and will turn out to be the key in every mystery that unfolds on screen.

I’m loathe to reveal any more information about the series, as Westworld is one of those shows that needs to be SEEN to be enjoyed. There are at least five different story lines and adventures going on, and each one is so intertwined with the next that you can’t separate them by the end. I was truly blown away with out complex, yet how simple the series really is. The heart of the mystery is worn on its sleeve (you’ll figure out where the giant mystery is going within the first few episodes), but what makes the show so truly special is watching everyone evolve and change. No one is who you think they are from the beginning few episodes, and the few people that ARE who you think they are grow and adapt as hosts start to realize their own emerging sentience. Dolores and Teddy are probably the most “stable” of the characters, but their growth cycle shows some incredible maturity by the time the 10th episode comes to a close. William’s storyline seems the most “benign” and cute, but that final episode pulls back the mask (that some people may have already guessed, but there is a clever time lapse trick in the storytelling that actually muddies the waters enough to surprise more than a few people by the time it wraps up) and reveals a chilling feature to the story, and Maeve. Holy Cow, Thandie Newton turns in the performance of a lifetime as the madame Maeve. While Dolores seems to have most connection to the whispered “voice” throughout the show, Maeve steals the show and becomes a powerhouse figure in the upset that is coming unlike any other character in the show. Watching her emotions and desires play out as she adapts and changes throughout the series is truly mesmerizing. The same thing goes for Dr. Ford. Anthony Hopkins has phoned in most of his performances for the last decade (ish), but he’s pushed out of his comfort zone here, and we get to watch a seemingly sweet and innocent man revealed to be one of the biggest monsters the show has to offer.

I love a good western, but Westworld is so much more than a Western. It’s a western, a sci-fi adventure, part horror, and all mystery. In fact I gathered a very distinct Fringe puzzle box vibe from the show, with certain elements and mysterious having that sort of metaphorical and metaphysical mystery to it that reminded me so much of the first couple seasons of Fringe. However, unlike Fringe, Westworld decides to wrap up everything by the end of the season. Instead of leaving you hanging with more questions than it answers (a typical trick of writers who haven’t fleshed out WHERE they want to go, and keep stringing you along in hopes of making more and more seasons), Westworld actually brings most of the loose ends to a full close by the end of the last episode. Sure, it opens up more avenues to investigate in the 2nd season (which still doesn’t have an air date), but it actually answers so many of the questions and mysteries that are opened up which brings a great deal of satisfaction to the final episode (which is a HUMDINGER of an episode by the way), instead of leaving you frustrated and hanging.




Rating:

Rated TV-MA by the MPAA




Video: :4stars:
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Oh wow, just wow. I didn’t expect this. Westworld: Season One was shot on 35mm film, but the master was limited to 2K (most likely due to the cost of rendering the effects in a higher resolution) so I was expecting this to be a moderate upgrade over the Blu-ray, but I wasn’t expecting it to be basically demo worthy. Comparing between the Blu-ray and the 4K there is no real comparison here. The 4K EASILY outshines the Blu-ray with room to spare. Basically, take what I said about the Blu-ray and just amp it up to even higher levels. The grain levels are organic looking and never obtrusive (a few grain spikes in open field shots but nothing that causes a problem), and detail levels are stunning. The 4K UHD disc allows you to just see so much more, with visceral textures at the finger tips in the grimy old west town. Things are so photo realistic that you feel like you could just reach through the screen and touch it. Warner didn’t advertise this much, but Westworld comes with not only HDR but Dolby Vision as well, and while the Dolby Vision isn’t view-able just yet, the HDR is absolutely incredible, bringing out all the colors in a way that I didn’t think was possible. The red blood stands out against the dust and sand, while the pale blue of Dolores’s frock and bodice seamlessly blends in with the backgrounds, while looking amazingly warm and comfortable,




Audio: :5stars:
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The use of Dolby Atmos on the 4K UHD (I was surprised they left it off the Blu-ray set as they are usually one of the ones to include the Atmos with their Blu-ray AND 4K UHD feature films) is another example of the 4K set being the superior one. Westworld has a very, and I mean VERY dynamic track in 5.1, so it makes sense that move to Atmos is going to show a distinct improvement. The use of surround channels and overheads is the real kicker here, as the show makes GREAT use of these channels, especially during the gun battle with bullets whirring all around. The facilities outside the maze also take some of the thunder and run with it. The cold storage facility with water dripping from overhead, and echoing all around make it sound all the more ominous and huge in nature. The sounds of mechanics whirring and clicking inside the repair room comes from all angles, and the LFE is just thunderous at times. Simply put, easily the best the show has ever sounded.





Extras: :4stars:
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Inside Look with Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy – Season One
Imagining the Main Title
The Key to The Chords
2017 Comic Con Panel
Gag reel (New)
Welcome to Westworld
Crafting the Narrative
An Invitation to The Set
Welcome to Westworld: About the Series
Reality of A.I.: Westworld
"The Big Moment" Featurettes








Final Score: :4.5stars:


Bravo HBO, I’m not sure how you did it, but you were able to pull a new series out of nowhere that truly blindsided viewers. I was completely enthralled and amazed with show and could hardly keep myself from watching it a second time in a weekend. The actors do a magnificent job at playing their respective parts, and the while the mystery seemed to be too obvious at the beginning, it actually worked in the shows favor as you’re really watching to see the characters evolved and change rather than focus on a mystery that most people will guess anyways. A bold move that actually worked out for all involved. While I wholeheartedly recommend the show as a MUST WATCH, I do naturally warn that this IS an HBO show, thus there’s going to be adult language, a ton of nudity (which is usually not titillating as it’s used with android bodies that are more mechanical and clinical in their use rather than sexual) and blood and violence galore. If you’re up for a show that rivals Game of Thrones in those aspects, then I do thoroughly recommend it as the single best freshman show of 2017. The 4K UHD set is EASILY the superior version of the two sets. I wish I could actually give it a 6/5 star rating, as the differences between the two (if you have the proper equipment) are distinct and quite wide at times. The 4K comes with a nice collector's tin, a set of cards for the show, plus a 6 disc set including the Blu-ray as wells as the STUNNING 4K presentation. Simply put, Buy the 4K UHD set. BUY IT NOW!


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins
Created by: Jonathan Nolan, Michael Crichton
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Czech, Polish
Studio: Warner Brothers/HBO
Rated: TV-MA
Runtime: 617 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: November 7th, 2017

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Recommendation: Must Own

 
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tripplej

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Thanks for the review. This is one worth checking.. Will get one.. :)
 

Jon Liu

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I picked this one up yesterday and watched the first two episodes. I got about 15 minutes into the 3rd episode before I realized how late it was and that I needed to go to sleep!

Great show so far. I am so glad that I picked this up!
 

Michael Scott

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wait till you get to the final 3 episodes. You won't be able to breathe
 
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