'The Creator' Review
September 27, 2023
The Creator is the return of original science-fiction on the big screen… but only if you’ve never seen a Star Wars film, Blade Runner, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Avatar, or A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Honestly, it wouldn’t be a shocking revelation to learn that The Creator was spawned from an early draft for director Gareth Edwards’ follow-up to his Star Wars entry Rogue One. It’s a disappointing fact given the hard road Edwards has been on since that 2016 galactic actioner, but it’s also not enough to derail this epic film, which offers enough dosages of spectacle to keep it steady.
“It’s not real, just programming” is a line said multiple times by Joshua (John David Washington). He’s part of the population that doesn’t see anything human inside the A.I. citizens within 2065 society. But there are others, most of them in Asia, that see these androids as the next step in evolution. Any robot that wears a hood to cover up the holes where its ears should be is indistinguishable from any meat-based lifeform. This difference in ideology reached a tipping point when a nuclear bomb was detonated in Los Angeles, an event the United States government blamed on the A.I. War soon broke out, with many of the androids fleeing to the refuge of New Asia.
Joshua is part of a task force to find and terminate the A.I. leader, who has reportedly built a weapon great enough to destroy NOMAD, the American space station that fires a giant laser down on the planet (sound familiar?). But this weapon is not a thing, it’s a robot child that can control electronics with her mind. Joshua may disregard robot life, but he’s not monstrous enough to kill a child, which makes him a fugitive to his CO (Allison Janney) and the rest of the human military.
If the plot summary of “grizzled man begrudgingly escorts kid who is special but slowly grows attached to them and has a change of heart” sounds familiar to you then that means you’ve watched/played any combination of Logan, The Mandalorian, The Last of Us, God of War, or The Witcher over the past few years. The Lone Wolf and Cub trope is barebones here as Joshua and Alfie (the name given to the child) don’t share a strong enough connection throughout much of their journey. Washington and newcomer Madeleine Yuna Voyles are delightful actors, but Edwards and co-writer Chris Weitz offer little comradery outside of poorly placed jokes and overly sentimental exchanges about what it means to be human.
There’s also little introspection given to the subject of human vs. artificial intelligence. All the robots are noble and peaceful, and all humans are violent and selfish. The Vietnam War parallels aren’t subtle, only this time “Fortunate Son” has been replaced by “Everything In Its Right Place.” There isn’t much room for debate nor fully compelling characters when everything is binary.
Edwards remains an extreme talent as a director, crafting set pieces that incite realistic terror and spectacle within extraordinary events. He’s assembled much of the Dune team including cinematographer Greig Fraser, editor Joe Walker, and composer Hans Zimmer, each of them adding gravitas to this vision of our future. The widescreen imagery is impressively grand, begging to be projected on the biggest IMAX screen possible. The fact this only cost $80 million unofficially confirms that many Hollywood tentpoles that cost three times as much are money laundering schemes.
The Creator is always on the verge of being a good movie, but just can’t ever string together the consistency needed to make the leap. One thing that is certain is that we can’t afford to let Edwards slip away into hibernation again. Somewhere out there is a killer script that needs a visionary captain. And when that time comes, blockbuster filmmaking will be forever changed for the better.