HBO's Westworld: 5 Ways It Improves In The Original Movie (And 5 Ways It Doesn't)

As of this writing, Westworld is just a few months away from releasing its third season, which promises to shake things up even more. The upcoming follow-up is sure to answer some lingering questions while raising new ones, giving fans exactly what they expect from the dark Science-Fiction mystery.

What some may not know is that the series is based on a movie that was released in 1973. Though a cult favorite, the original Westworld isn’t without its flaws. HBO’s premiere series has gone out of its way to correct some of these errors while building upon the foundations. Here are five ways that HBO’s series improves on the original movie and five ways it fails to do so.

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10 Improvement: The New Parks Are Creative

The new Westworld isn’t the only themed park that Guests can indulge themselves in, with Shogun World—the most prominent additioN—existing for those who want a more hardcore experience and The Raj opening its doors to those who just want to relax in a safari.

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HBO may have dropped Medieval World and Rome World but its new parks are still just as fun and creative. It’s implied that there are more themed locations out there or are currently in the works, and they’ll make for entertaining places for the remaining characters to travel to and explore.

9 Drawback: The Series Moves Out Of The Park

While the first season is primarily set in the titular Western-themed park, the series slowly but surely goes out of the park to show what happens behind the scenes and the world as a whole.

This isn’t a bad creative decision, but it breaks the feeling of isolation and dread that made the series’ best moments entertainingly unnerving. The original movie also had multiple parks but its characters gradually went there instead of constantly jumping between areas and timelines to discover exposition, making its escalating tension feel more natural and earned.

8 Improvement: HBO’s Westworld Is Better

The titular cowboy-themed park of Westworld was an intriguing futuristic concept in 1973, but it’s fully realized and improved upon in HBO’s series. Instead of just being a cowboy town with killer robots, the new Westworld is now a character of its own.

Every nook and cranny that makes Westworld possible is explored and shown onscreen including the Host’s factory, the writers who create their storylines, and the shareholders who bankroll everything. Ford’s designs and true motives made the park more than just a rich Guest’s playground, and it’s a sight to behold.

7 Drawback: The Parks’ Real Purpose Is Underwhelming

HBO’s series has always been hinting at Westworld’s real purpose and it was finally revealed in its second season: the parks are the testing grounds for rich peoples’ attempts at achieving immortality.

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The bigger picture is uninspired, to say the least. Not only is it a basic sci-fi trope about an amoral elite using scientific advancements for their own benefit, but it’s a simple twist whose implied depth was overblown. The reveal itself isn’t terrible, though it’s an overused idea that leaves a lot to be desired in terms of execution.

6 Improvement: HBO Has Better Characters

The most obvious advantage HBO has over the 1973 cult movie is its huge roster of well-rounded characters. From Guests to Hosts and even the parks’ menial staff, HBO’s Westworld boasts many characters portrayed by some of the most talented people in the business.

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In contrast, the movie has a disposable line-up of cannon fodder who are typically found in B-grade horror movies. The only memorable character is the Gunslinger (Yul Brynner), a malfunctioning Host that turns into a cowboy version of The Terminator. It should be noted that the Gunslinger also doesn’t have that many lines.

5 Drawback: The Characters Are Ideologues

HBO’s series tackles themes of existentialism that the movie never even bothered with, and this is best exemplified through its characters who discuss the essence of mortality among themselves more than once.

Problem is, their philosophical discussions rarely feel organic and overtake actual characterization. The series tends to stop the episode’s events so its characters could berate audiences about morality. For comparison’s sake, both Blade Runner movies—which had heavier ideas—analyzed their themes in a nuanced and meditative manner, whereas Westworld spoon-feeds viewers with big questions in an unsubtle manner, not unlike a beginner’s philosophy class.

4 Improvement: The Man in Black Is A Character

One of the biggest changes HBO implements on Westworld is that of the antagonistic Man in Black. If he was a malfunctioning Host in the movie, the series turns him into a fully-fledged character with an arc.

The Man in Black aka William (Ed Harris) is a major driving force in the series, and it’s his existentialist quest that kicks the plot into motion. He’s also an intimidating presence, being a sadistic Guest who does whatever he wants to the Hosts in the name of finding a higher purpose he believes is hidden within the parks’ labyrinthine design.

3 Drawback: HBO’s Man in Black Isn’t That Threatening

By changing everything about the Man in Black, HBO’s Westworld loses the simple effectivity of the murderous Host. If William is a sadist with issues, the first Gunslinger was an unfathomable and unstoppable force of nature.

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The new Man in Black suffers from the usual slasher villains’ dilemma: the more that’s known about them, the less intimidating they become. As his motives and backstory are gradually revealed, the Man in Black slowly turned into William—an aging CEO suffering an existential crisis—while the Gunslinger remained a foreboding presence throughout the entire movie.

2 Improvement: HBO Added World-Building

The original Westworld works well as a cult-favorite thriller with a gimmick, and HBO improved upon its concept by taking the idea of killer robot cowboys seriously. The series doesn’t just update the titular park but it expands its setting’s horizons.

Even with its robots and advanced A.I., the world that the Delos Corporation’s parks exist in feels as lived in and human as our own. From the smallest details such as park security to the big ideas like machines come to terms with self-awareness, HBO’s Westworld is a reboot of an old property done conceptually right.

1 Drawback: HBO Overcomplicated A Simple Premise

On the other hand, HBO’s series turned an otherwise barebones sci-fi slasher movie into a convoluted multi-episode lecture. Part of the original movie’s charm is its brutal simplicity — a trait that the HBO show seems desperate to needlessly correct.

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For all of its posturing and self-importance, Westworld’s execution feels more like overcompensation than anything else. Westworld is the kind of show that pays lip service to its thought-provoking ideas and thinks it’s deeper than it really is, but no amount of college-level navel-gazing can beat the original’s no-nonsense efficiency. As an old adage once said, less is more.

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