Almost all of Michael Crichtons science-fiction is dominated by the theme of technology running amok of complex systems going afoul due to unforeseen accidents or basic human error. This theme runs through The Andromeda Strain where a dazzling high tech biological containment facility is nearly destroyed by something as small as a jammed ticker-tape printer; The Terminal Man (1974) where attempts to pacify an epileptic with wires in the head cause him to become addicted to the shocks and run amok; and Jurassic Park (1993) where genetically recreated dinosaurs get loose when a greedy employee shuts the security system down. Westworld came with a highly-attention grabbing advertising poster and byline Welcome to Westworld where nothing can go worng, a line that sums up Michael Crichtons recurrent techno-fear preoccupations perfectly.
One of the ingenuities about Westworld is that not only is it about the idea of an android theme park but there is another level to it where the film is deflating all the macho images about the Western. In one hilarious scene, Richard Benjamin enters the saloon and orders a vodka martini rather than a whisky to derisive looks from the rest of the patrons. In an ingenious piece of casting, Michael Crichton managed to cast Yul Brynner in the role of the mechanical gunslinger, where Brynner gives a wonderfully cold and surly performance. Crichton has Yul Brynner dressed as the same character he played in The Magnificent Seven (1960). It is a piece of casting that allows Crichton to make it pointedly clear that this is the Hollywood version of the West we are seeing, not an historical one.
Michael Crichton does a more-than-creditable job in the directors chair, particularly when it comes to the chase scenes with the mechanical gunslinger and its relentless never-varying pursuit of Richard Benjamin. Crichton also demonstrates a considerable dry wit in his direction, something that never emerged in any of his subsequent films. In the background of the control-room scenes, he drolly contrasts the detached chatter as various scenarios are enacted with technicians trying to find their laundry and the like. Similarly amusing is the mixture of modern colloquialisms and mediaeval dialogue dropped alongside one another in the brief visit to Romanworld. Crichton fascinatingly cuts back and forth between the illusion and what is going on behind the scenes panning through the laboratory showing horses and snakes, gunfighters and hookers lying with their mechanical guts exposed or images like a van incongruously driving into the Western street to pick up the dead bodies and the fountains suddenly coming on and wagon trains starting to roll as morning comes.
The one big hole in the script is that Michael Crichton fails to explain the nature of the malfunction what causes the androids to go amok, exactly why the androids dislike humans and how the androids override the safety feature on their guns that prevent them from hurting humans. There is only the vague notion of machines having become too complex and decided they dont like us. The business of being able to detect the androids because the technicians have not gotten the hands right seems improbable if they can make the androids indistinguishable from humans, even to the point that one can have sex with them, it seems unlikely they an unable to do something relatively simple like get the hands right.
Westworld was made on a surprisingly low $1.25 million, yet looks ten times that. Cost cutting was achieved through shooting on standing Western sets on the MGM backlot and the use of simple optical tricks such as cut-action shots to substitute actors faces and mechanical mockups as technicians pass in front of the camera.
Futureworld (1976) was a disappointingly poor sequel. This was followed by a tv series Beyond Westworld (1980), which featured people trying to stop a mad scientists plans to use the Delos androids to take over the world and only lasted six episodes. The theme of the Western simulation and the android amusement park has been borrowed in other films such as Welcome to Blood City (1977) and The Outsider (1996). A remake of Westworld has been announced for much of the 00s, passing through various directors.
Michael Crichtons subsequent films as director were the medical conspiracy thriller Coma (1978); the non-genre The Great Train Robbery (1979) about a Victorian heist; Looker (1981) about virtual models; Runaway (1984) about a police squad dealing with amok robots; and the courtroom thriller Physical Evidence (1989). The latter was a flop and Crichton retired from directing and returned to writing novels. In the 1990s, Steven Spielberg gave a huge second wind to Michael Crichtons career all over again with the runaway success of Jurassic Park (1993), adapted from Crichtons 1990 novel about genetically-reengineered dinosaurs. Crichton became a best-selling novelist again and all of his novels were snapped up as film properties. There were numerous other adaptations of his books: Rising Sun (1993), a thriller from Crichtons alarmingly racist novel about Japanese business practice; Disclosure (1994), a thriller about workplace sexual harassment; Congo (1995), a modern lost world quest; Twister (1996) from a Crichton original screenplay about tornado chasers; The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997); Sphere (1998) about the investigation of a crashed UFO underwater; The 13th Warrior (1999) from Crichtons novel Eaters of the Dead (1976), a retelling of the legend of Beowulf with Neanderthals; Timeline (2003) based on Crichtons novel about time travel; and the tv mini-series remake of The Andromeda Strain (2008). Crichton also created the hit tv medical drama ER (1996-2009).