“The Creator” stars John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Ken Watanabe, Sturgill Simpson, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, and Allison Janney. Released on September 29, 2023, the film has an ex-special forces agent tracking down the architect of advanced AI.
The film was directed by Gareth Edwards, who also directed “Monsters”, “Godzilla”, and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”. Artificial intelligence has continued to grow and has recently made its way into people’s artwork. Based on what’s occurring now, we could see it make its way into the art of filmmaking sooner than later. Soon enough, we could wind up fighting for our lives against AI terminators from Skynet. Unsurprisingly, there’s no better time to have a movie depicting the possible war between humanity and robots than now. No, I’m not talking about another “Terminator” film because we’re not getting that for a really long time. I’m talking about a different type of human-vs-robot movie that’s highly original and influential. In a sea of IP-based science fiction blockbusters, it’s nice that we get something new from the genre for once, let alone one made for modern audiences. But does its originality compute to a good movie? Let’s find out.
The movie takes place in the future, where humanity is at war with the forces of artificial intelligence when the latter supposedly detonates a nuclear warhead over Los Angeles. Joshua Taylor (Washington) is an ex-special forces agent grieving the loss of his wife, Maya (Chan), after a mission went awry. He is then recruited by a team of elite operatives for a special mission that could finally end the war. They’re tasked to find and kill “Nirmata”, a chief architect who has developed a powerful weapon known as “Alpha 0” that could turn the tide of the war for the AI. After journeying across enemy lines, Joshua finds Nirmata’s world-ending weapon, only to discover that it’s a robotic “simulant” in the form of a young girl (Voyles). This resulted in Joshua racing against time to end the war while discovering more secrets involving Alpha 0.
You’re probably wondering why it took me this long to get to this film. Well, for starters, I was on a week-long vacation with my family. Considering how much time I spent working on my reviews and everything else, it was the right moment to cool my head and just enjoy life. You never know how much time you have left until your life gets taken over by artificial intelligence. Now that I had rested, I was all set to catch up on the movies I had missed during my absence. Of course, I decided to start with “The Creator” since it’s been a while since I’ve seen anything original, and I enjoyed Gareth Edwards’s previous works in the sci-fi genre. It certainly has the makings of a sci-fi blockbuster based on the marketing, including the action and stunning visuals, but do these things equate to a solid experience? I think it does, although it may not have all the correct programming needed to deliver the next sci-fi classic.
Inspired by other sci-fi and war movies like “Apocalypse Now”, “Blade Runner”, and “E.T.”, “The Creator” offers a story that many of us may be familiar with, especially the relationship between an adult and a child, or in this case, an AI child. It also takes several cues from the classic Japanese films since most of the movie takes place in New Asia. The film depicts Joshua’s quest to protect the child, which he named “Alphie”, amid humanity’s long-term struggle. However, there’s actually more to this basic premise than your average science fiction blockbuster. “The Creator” also serves as a timely reflection of war and how people’s hatred blindly led them to commit war against AI and others who stand by the droids. More importantly, it’s a soulful depiction of humanity, acceptance, and love amid the violence and bloodshed that catapulted Joshua’s conflict. These themes make “The Creator” another example of a modern blockbuster that carries a brain amid the extravagant fireworks.
But the important question is whether its storytelling is compelling enough to make its thought-provoking commentary worthwhile. Based on my experience, the film has plenty of good intentions in its narrative regarding its emotional core, plot, and scope. However, it also has a few moments where it struggled to provide anything unique in its artificial formula. Gareth Edwards may be known for creating visual splendor in ways recent blockbusters struggle to accomplish, but he should also be recognized for his storytelling and direction. Edwards is another filmmaker who understands that the characters come first before bombarding audiences with action scenes and explosions. He does so in a way that’s emotionally compelling and soulfully gratifying despite the bleak and depressing presentation. “The Creator” is no exception, as Edwards took advantage of some of its messages and immersive scope to deliver a mildly thoughtful and thrilling experience that’s worth the big-screen treatment. While it’s far from his best work, he did give me another reason to appreciate his visionary talents.
Edwards’s direction is something to admire from a filmmaking perspective. However, some of his narrative choices may leave much to be desired, especially the ending, which I thought was okay compared to the rest of the movie. In addition to directing, Edwards took charge of the screenplay, which he co-wrote with Chris Weitz. Weitz previously worked with Edwards on “Rogue One”, but he’s also been hit-and-miss with his other writing credits, so I was curious about where this film would land in his filmography. The screenplay for “The Creator” has some serviceable moments regarding the characters and world-building, even though its tropes are less effective than others. However, it also has a couple of surprisingly comical scenes that felt a tad off-putting regarding its tone despite giving me a good laugh. The screenplay is far from perfect, but it works in exploring some of its futuristic settings and generating emotion in its tropes.
The film also benefited from its cast of well-acted stars, both familiar and new, including John David Washington. Thanks to his superb performance as Joshua, Washington continues to shine in his acting career, joining his father, Denzel, as a can’t-miss father/son cinematic duo. Gemma Chan also did well as Maya, and Allison Janney was captivating as the heartless Colonel Howell. Madeleine Yuna Voyles makes her film debut as “Alphie”, a simulant that can control technology remotely, and I thought she did a great job with her performance. She provided an engaging showcase that reflects Alphie’s AI personality and the human soul built within her.
Finally, we have the movie’s visual effects, the primary source of its programming. It’s easy to admit that the visuals are some of the best I’ve seen this year, which is impressive for a movie that costs $80 million compared to the other recent blockbusters with beefy budgets. Everything involving its cinematography, production value, robot designs, and scope has the cinematic beauty that many classic blockbusters are known for. One such example is the U.S. military space station, NOMAD, for its unique design and scale, especially when viewing it on the biggest screen imaginable. I saw the movie at a recently opened ScreenX auditorium at a New Berlin cinema, which provided a 270-degree screen, and it was indeed a gorgeous sight to behold. It shows that a smaller budget and lots of effort and time in the visual effects department can make a difference in the cinematic experience. I would also say that this is a strong contender for the Best Visual Effects Oscar race unless “Oppenheimer” pulls off a surprising upset.
Overall, “The Creator” functions as a mildly thoughtful and engaging piece of sci-fi originality whose visual magnificence periodically bypasses its fundamental narrative coding. Its familiar tropes and story choices are far from extraordinary, given the timely themes involving war and AI. Regardless, it’s another suitable showcase for Gareth Edwards’s talents as a visionary artist and a confident storyteller, even if it doesn’t top his previous works. Thanks to its cast, Edwards’s direction, compelling yet flawed story, and fantastic visuals, the movie delivers a soul that’s more real than a piece of AI-generated art. If you enjoyed Edwards’s previous films and desired something original amid the year’s sea of sequels and reboots, this film is worth checking out, especially on the largest screen.