Article 4896 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Michael Crichton
Featuring Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin
What it is: Machinery runs amok
Several vacationers visit the resort of Delos, which has a series of themed fantasy getaways (the old west, Roman times and medieval times) inhabited by lifelike robots, in which vacationers can indulge in their violent and hedonistic fantasies without fear of hurting someone or being hurt themselves. And, of course, nothing could possibly go worng….
Though I wouldn’t call it the best of the Michael Crichton movies, this is perhaps the most quintessential one in that it defines what we’ve come to expect from Michael Crichton; the catchphrase for the movie is certainly definitive. Storywise, it’s not only archetypal; it’s also fairly bare-bones, but from what I gather, the movie was edited down from a much longer cut that Crichton thought was too dull. Even at that, there are scenes here that feel like filler or padding; the barroom fight is silly and pointless, and the scene where a woman is rescued from the dungeon of the medieval world feels like a stall. Still, there are some clever touches here; I like that some of the robots are of animals as well as humans, and I do like how they at least address the possibility of guests potentially hurting each other. Nevertheless, it does seem to me the height of foolishness to have the robots packing loaded guns. For me, the best thing about the movie is Yul Brynner’s performance as the Gunslinger; it’s modeled off of the character he played in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, but he does such an effective job of playing an unstoppable non-human character that he more than anything else sells the last third of the movie. Apparently, his character was the inspiration for the Michael Myers character in the HALLOWEEN movies, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance in THE TERMINATOR.