Robots vs Zombies

I have a new piece on Vice about Westworld. It’s a new show coming from HBO and could be pretty awesome. Or, it could just re-tread the “robots become sentient” stuff from Battlestar Galactica and Humans and Ex Machina and whatever.

Here’s my hope:

Because Westworld is set in an amusement park, the movie deliberately invokes clichés. You might roll your eyes if a show presented a duel at high noon or a tavern brawl replete with a body sliding down the bar, but that’s precisely the point here. The tourists want to participate within those clichés: stabbing Caesar, playing poker with Wild Bill Hickok, or commanding armies in a great medieval siege. HBO, via Rome, Deadwood, and Game of Thrones has been providing its own takes on these archetypal events and settings, so Westworld has the chance to get very meta.

My fear is that it’ll drag into endless repetitions of other stories about robots. That’s not actually what’s interesting about the film. What I liked so much is the commentary on genre, then the twists on genre when the robots don’t play their parts “correctly” anymore.

Then again, I’m a genre nerd, go figure.

I also started watching Humans as I begin my own particular robot revolution television binge. Zombies are fine, I guess, but in Zombie shows, the interesting protagonists are all humans dealing with the collapse of their world. In Robot shows, on the other hand, you have the potential for more interesting interaction on both sides of the human-nonhuman line (rather than an implacable hungry deadite).

I am Legend (the book and one of the alternate movie endings) is interesting precisely because the “zombie/vampire/things” clearly are developing culture and identity, rendering them not identity, and turning the protagonist into the “monster.” Just as a counter example.

Also, in any battle between robots vs zombies, robots win.

Leave a Reply