The Creator review: The dangers of AI are explored in this dazzling blockbuster
The Creator couldn’t be more timely, telling as it does a tale of AI turning on humanity, and the war that follows. It’s also a though-provoking drama, and writer-director Gareth Edwards’ best movie since Monsters.
Edwards burst on the film scene with that sci-fi tinged romance in 2010, before going big-budget with Godzilla and Rogue One.
The Creator is also a big movie, with big ideas, and big themes. But thanks to an emotionally-charged script – which Edwards co-wrote with Chris Weitz – and some deeply affecting performances, his new film has more in common with that debut than those more recent blockbusters.
It’s also one of the best sci-fi flicks of the year, telling an important story of where technology might lead us, and the potentially world-ending consequences that could follow.
What is The Creator about?
The Creator kicks off with newsreel footage that gets a bunch of exposition out of the way. In the near-future, robots and simulants live among us, doing chores and manual labour. But then they moved into the Defense sector, and set off a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles, killing millions.
The US bans artificial intelligence so that can never happen again. But ‘New Asia’ continues to use the technology, putting the continents on a collision course. That gives the film interesting things to say about American Imperialism.
The States have put a weapon of mass destruction in the sky – Death Star-style – to destroy all robots. While those on the other side have retaliated by building an all-powerful AI child to turn the conflict in their favor. Meaning America faces a race against time to find the kid and win the war.
Joshua, the man on that mission
The film is split into three sections – titles ‘The Creator,’ ‘The Child,’ and ‘The Mother.’ That first instalment revolves around in a Special Forces team that includes Joshua (John David Washington). Who initially refuses the call, then in good ‘Hero’s Journey’ fashion, changes his mind. Perhaps because Joshua lost his family in the LA incident, as well as an arm and a leg. But also due to the fact that the government has a lead on his wife, whom he presumed was dead.
So still somewhat reluctantly, Joshua joins up with the team of macho marines – under the guidance of a somewhat one-dimensional general – and heads into enemy territory. Joshua finds the weapon in a vault, and immediately starts questioning his orders when he realises it’s a kid.
This is the first of many moral and ethical dilemmas that Joshua faces over the course of the narrative. Which gives The Creator real depth and resonance. But between the bouts of philosophy and existential dread, the film is filled with kick-ass action as Joshua and his young companion go on the run behind enemy lines.
Highlights include a raid presented via security camera footage, a crowd-pleasing sequence involving a dog and an explosive, and a barnstorming finale that’ll have you on the edge of your seat.
Those closing scenes are also likely to have you tearing up. The bond that Joshua forms with the child tugs on the heartstrings in the home strait, with John David Washington giving it his all. While Madeleine Yuna Voyles – who plays the kid in question – has the most expressive eyes imaginable, making it a tough watch whenever she’s in danger. Which is frequently.
There’s also incredible world-building on display, with Edwards and his team of behind-the-scenes technicians presenting a near-future that feels real and lived in, and might well be around our collective corner.
While it deftly presents both sides of the AI issue, with America using force to crush it, while the people of New Asia treat their simulants with love, respect, and even reverence. Meaning the film remains even-handed throughout.
The Creator review score: 5/5
The Creator is bold, passionate, hard sci-fi that grips from intriguing start to devastating finish. It asks tough questions at a time when the dangers of AI are on everyone’s minds. And doesn’t offer any easy answers, the movie journeying to some pretty dark places.
But it’s also a film that’s filled with hope, something that again harks back to Gareth’s first flick, and resulting in his most complex and multilayered movie to date.
The Creator screened at Fantastic Fest, before hitting cinemas on September 29, 2023. You can read more from the festival here, or via the below reviews: