Review: The Creator

A solid science fiction vision; we need more movies like this.

Ex-special forces officer Joshua is called back into action in a war against simulants, artificial intelligent lifeforms who co-exist with humans, as a new weapon to end the war has been created.

Director Gareth Edwards has shown huge growth and masses of potential with The Creator. Cutting his teeth with the indie hit Monsters (this reviewer thought that was quite dull) then escalating with Godzilla 2014 (hit-and-miss) before delivering Disney’s only good Star Wars entry: Rogue One. 2023’s entry to his filmography not only shows tremendous ambition but also a visual attention to detail and willingness to write compelling stories and worlds.

Starring John David Washington (Tenet), the always reliable Ken Watanabe, The Creator is a great science fiction ride which attempts to provide something for everyone.

The world is divided. Set in 2065, the film opens with an alternate history, showing robotics advancing much faster and escalating to them living among us as equals. But when a nuclear explosion wipes out millions of lives in Los Angeles, the western countries outright ban AI entities, to the point of exterminating them. Eastern countries, however, still live with and even protect AI, which has led to the West (namely America) creating Nomad; a colossal space station that hovers in low orbit, seeking out high populations of AI and systematically destroying them.

The plot thickens as the Americans catch wind of AI creating a weapon to destroy Nomad. Our protagonist, Joshua, had a previous mission and personal connection to someone working on this weapon. He is reluctant to be a part of continued wars, but the chance to maybe find the love of his life is too strong…

Joshua wonders why he bothered bringing the kid to the cinema in the first place…

Perhaps to get the small issues out of the way first. The Creator is not a perfect movie. Like many stories about AI and the singularity of its advancement beyond us, they stand on the shoulders of giants: Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, etc. Edwards’ movie juggles a lot of concepts and ideas, some with reverence, some too fleeting to really land smoothly.

The second act is bumpy with this; with some character arcs and dramas not really hitting with as much gravity as they should… purely because there wasn’t time to develop them. There is also an odd desire to inject some humour into the film, which feels a little misplaced. In a world introduced to us with robotic life being tortured, gunned down without sympathy, making us feel terrible for them, it is weird to have a scene were “a dog carries a grenade to blow up robots, and we see them comically walk around without heads”. It… doesn’t land.

It isn’t a painting. This film is too pretty for its own good!

But that is the only major gripe. The film has phenomenal creativity everywhere else. The world building is phenomenal; reminiscent of Neil Blomkamp’s fantastic District 9, we immediately grasp the situation. There are many moments of eerie subtext to our current global situation, as well as the obvious portents of the future in regards to AI. One wonders how this film will age when… let’s be honest… it inevitably occurs.

Visually, the film is gorgeous. Edwards does enjoy filming action, and the The Creator has some fantastic combat and action choreography throughout, but he also knows when to slow things down. Seminal cyberpunk media always know when to slow down, to build mood and atmosphere. This film is on the faster pace, but we have gorgeous vistas and excellent world-building moments. From neon-draped cityscapes to rusted towns and facilities deep inside jungles. I never thought I’d see a sweatshop that builds androids… It all has a weight and practicality to it, while also having distinct design motifs throughout.

Characters are excellent. Washington plays the part well of a reluctant man thrown into a situation he doesn’t want to be a part of. His arc is heartfelt and realized. Allison Janney plays a ruthless military colonel who audiences can quickly love to hate.
Ultimately, everyone has a role to play, and the story evolves with a neat and effective mystery. Is it a barn-storming story? Is it the most original story ever written? It doesn’t have to be; it is the correct amount of intrigue for everything else that the film wants to deliver.

If you enjoy science fiction, or even have a passing interest in the film from the trailer, you should go see it. Movies like this don’t come around often enough; a unique genre story and setting told with a robust budget and from passionate minds.

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