Alex Ross Spider-Man movie concept art
“Cease all motor functions!”
I am afraid of Westworld. So many times in the past I’ve fallen for shows like Westworld that have these deep, intricate character-driven storylines only to be disappointed in the end. In my heart of hearts I know that with TV series like Westworld the journey is more important than the destination, but I’m always hoping that the series ending will be as good as the road it took to get there. And so far at least, one season in, Westworld has taken one fine, interesting road and has quickly become my favorite thing on TV in the last few months.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Westworld but whatever I was thinking the show might be like isn’t anything as to what it actually was like. Much of the story is told via three groups of characters. The first group is of people like Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) who are trying to keep this massive park running while at the same time making improvements while acting in a sort of god-like way even if some of their changes have started causing glitches in the robots of the park known as the “hosts.” These robots don’t know that they’re robots and awaken each day anew not realizing that they’re all in a story loop and essentially play the same day over and over again. With this robot group are characters like Maeve (Thandie Newton) who’s starting to have memories she shouldn’t have and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) who’s beginning to question the nature of her reality. And then there’s the human visitors of the park like William (Jimmi Simpson) and “The Man in Black” (Ed Harris) who are experiencing the park in very different ways. Harris’ character is convinced that there’s a core story beneath the veneer of Westworld that the rest of the guests experience and wants to uncover this truth, even if it means he has spend 30 years there and cause pain, death and destruction to the hosts to do so. And William, brand new to the park, wants to help Doloris in her quest for self realization but isn’t sure what all is required to do so or the ramifications of.
I think that what works best about Westworld are all the questions that the series creators ask. Like if Dr. Ford is creating these robots, and these robots are self-aware, feel pain and have emotions, has he created life? Even if that life can be changed, controlled and obliterated at the flick of a switch. And for the “hosts” of the show who, if they’re somewhat self-aware now, what happens in the future when they become fully self-aware and want to control their own destinies and futures and not be controlled and tied to the Westworld park as they are now? And what will they do when they realize the people who’ve created them have spent decades abusing them over and over again with no consequences?
I’m also fascinated with how Westworld ties into modern day video games. In those games players come up against characters in the game who they can do what they will with. Though there might be consequences in the game if the players harm these characters, there are no real world consequences if they decide to do so. And this is the same for Westworld where the visitors can do whatever they want to the hosts be it hurt them, rape them or kill them. There’s no consequences since technically you can’t hurt, rape or kill a robot. But what if someday the robots started remembering these terrible things done to them and what if they wanted to fight back?
It’s interesting to imagine just where Westworld will go in future seasons? In my head I’ve got it all mapped out down perfectly to the series sixth season. But if I’m lucky the creators of Westworld will continue to do their own thing and keep creating a surprising show that asks a lot of bit questions about what it’s like to live in the times that we do without providing a lot of easy answers.
“The human race is beginning to evolve.”
“In this world that we live in you have to pick a side.”
“This is my chance to prove myself.”
“All of human history has lead to this moment.”
World War Z + Suicide Squad = The Mummy
The release of the new Doctor Strange movie marks the eleventh movie from Marvel Studios that already includes films for characters like Thor and Captain America. While Marvel’s films have made literally billions upon billions of dollars, there’s a little secret that fans of comics know that most of the movie going public doesn’t — there was a series of films based on Marvel characters that were released in the 1970s that Marvel has wishes everyone would just forget about.
Back then, Marvel licensed several of their characters to studios in an attempt at creating TV properties. The first of these was The Amazing Spider Man in 1978.
Owing to the limitations of 1970s movie technology and smaller budgets for TV, Spider-Man, like all the other Marvel TV properties, began as a movie of the week. The original movie served as an origin story for the character of Peter Parker (Nicholas Hammond), here not a high school teen but instead his 20s, who’s bitten by a radioactive spider and is given superpowers he uses to solve crimes.
The original TV movie was popular enough that it would spawn two seasons of an The Amazing Spider-Man TV series from 1978 to 1979. Either I was too young at the time or I simply didn’t watch, but I have no memory of seeing the Nicholas Hammond version of Spider-Man on TV until the 1990s when, I believe, USA Network would air the series each year around Thanksgiving.
This 1970s costumed Spider-Man isn’t on screen very often since the movie/series mostly focuses on Peter Parker rather than Spidey. At times The Amazing Spider-Man is remarkably dull for a series based on a comic book.
The Incredible Hulk would follow Spider-Man in 1978. Starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, The Incredible Hulk was the most successful of these 1970s Marvel TV series and ran some 80+ episodes as well as having several TV movies afterwards. Seemingly each episode of the series featured Bixby as David Banner always on the run from town to town trying to help some poor soul out of a bind before circumstances out of his control would cause him to Hulk-out (Ferrigno) and wreck some scenery before being forced to move on over dreary music and in the rain to the next town.
In 1979 two Captain America TV movies would debut with Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon. This Steve Rogers (Reb Brown) is, no joke, a body-building artist who drives around in a van who’s given a serum which gives him super-abilities. Reb’s Captain America rides a motorcycle which rockets out of the back of his van and has a semi-transparent shield when he fights the bad guys.
I remember the Captain America TV movies being shown in syndication from time to time and these two movies are available on DVD.
If The Incredible Hulk were extremely popular and Captain America would get two movies, then the Doctor Strange TV movie must’ve drawn the short straw since it’s all but a lost film today.
Starring Peter Hooten in the title role, here Doctor Strange is a hospital psychiatrist who’s called to become the next “Sorcerer Supreme” in a never-ending fight against the evil forces of the universe — here personified by Morgan le Fay played by Jessica Walter later of Arrested Development fame.
It took me years to see Doctor Strange. As far as I can tell the movie only ever aired on TV a few times and while it was released on VHS Doctor Strange has so far never been available on DVD or a more modern format*. I finally saw it on a bootleg VHS tape taken from the official VHS release a few years ago.
And I can see why Doctor Strange wasn’t turned into a series — we spend a lot of time with the good doctor as a hospital physician before we get to Doctor Strange the mastery of the mystical arts. And even when we get to him a lot of the movie features Strange battling le Fay on a black velvet background void that features a soundtrack that’s part disco and part new wave.
I can only imaging the latest incarnation of Doctor Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch will easily outdo the cheesy 1978 version of Doctor Strange and will one day be available on DVD too.