Before author and filmmaker Michael Crichton filled a theme park with dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, he created Westworld, the 1971 film about an interactive amusement park filled with androids so lifelike visitors felt like they were actually in the time periods they visited. Now Jonathan Nolan (creator of Person Of Interest and Christopher Nolan’s brother) is remaking the film into a new series for HBO. With the release of a full trailer, the Westworld series looks to evoke the same brand of salacious science fiction we’ve come to love from the works of Michael Crichton. So before you go full robot cowboy this fall when the series premieres, here are five other Michael Crichton adaptations worth revisiting.
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
A satellite falls from the sky and suddenly almost everyone in a small New Mexico town dies without warning. Now it’s a race against time as a group of scientists must determine the cause before whatever is on that satellite spreads to the greater United States and then the world. The Andromeda Strain, directed by Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Star Trek: The Motion Picture), has all the hallmarks of late 60s/early 70s science fiction including beautiful effects by special effects supervisor Douglass Trumball (2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind). In-between the stillness and sobering pragmatism, there is a quiet terror building and building until it breaks. Still unsettling to this day.
The Terminal Man (1974)
Man, Michael Crichton really hated medical school. The Terminal Man is a clinical thriller that follows the case of Harry Benson (George Segal), a computer programmer suffering from ‘blackouts’ that induce violent behavior. He’s eligible for a procedure to help eliminate his problems, but of course it only makes it worse and that’s when the manhunt for Benson begins! An early look at post-humanist and technological paranoia, the film is an eerie and intriguing look at mind control during the looming digital era. It’s a sun-soaked suburban thriller held together by George Segal’s quiet and creepy performance.
The First Great Train Robbery (1979)
Michael Crichton dived into the wild wild west again in 1979 with The First Great Train Robbery (based off his book by a similar name). A heist adventure starring Sean Connery as dandy-esque master thief Edward Pierce, the film shows Pierce rounding up a crew Avengers-style to rip off a shipment of gold the British made during the Crimean War. Very methodical as far as westerns go, The First Great Train Robbery is far cheekier and funny than anything else Michael Crichton ever wrote or directed. Sean Connery is a delight as the Pierce, playing a more cartoonish version of James Bond.
You guys, I love Congo. Released in 1995, just two years after the smashing success of Jurassic Park, Congo is the spunkier, free-spirited cousin of that dinosaur epic. Dr. Karen Ross (Laura Linney) must return to the jungles for a very useful diamond under the cover of a philanthropic mission to return the talking gorilla named Amy to her home. This movie is all over the place with so many interesting quirks, like a “California Dreamin’” sing along, Tim Curry’s ridiculous “Romanian” accent, an incredible airport attack set piece with Joe Pantoliano wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Did I mention the hippo attack sequence? The Bruce Campbell cameo? I can’t help but be endeared to Congo’s goofy charms.
The 13th Warrior (1999)
From the director of Die Hard (John McTiernan) and the writer of Jurassic Park comes the truth behind the tale of Beowulf through the eyes Arab ambassador Ahmad ibn Fadlan (as played by Antonio Banderas). There’s a lot to soak in with a description like that, but trust me this 90s action-adventure (based on Crichton’s Eaters Of The Dead) is actually a lot of fun. The original idea behind the novel was Crichton’s attempt at reconstructing the “true story” of the events that inspired the ancient epic Beowulf in the form of historical documents. The 13th Warrior bears resemblance to McTiernan’s other works like the aforementioned Die Hard, but also other action flicks like Speed and Lethal Weapon, only with a renaissance fair veneer. If anything, this film feels more like what an adaptation of The Hobbit should look like, a fish out of water story focused on the camaraderie of the company with a big, gooey, macho heart at its center.
Are you looking forward to Westworld? What did you think of the trailer? Did we miss any other great Michael Crichton adaptations? Let us know on the comments below!
Header image credit: HBO
Images credits: Universal, Warner Bros, United Artists, Paramount Pictures, Touchstone Pictures