This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. We stand with the SAG-AFTRA. Without them, the movies and television shows we cover would not exist.
Movies and television shows have been warning us about artificial intelligence for years. There’s a lot of science fiction built around what happens when machines start thinking and acting for themselves. And it’s almost always bad. The Creator aims to do something different, and while the story is only okay, the film looks incredible.
Gareth Edwards directs The Creator and he also co-wrote it with Chris Weitz. The film takes place in 2065, after a nuclear attack by A.I. has destroyed Los Angeles. The West has shut down all A.I. and is at war with New Asia, where they still use A.I. Against this backdrop, Joshua (John David Washington) is a military officer undercover searching for the unknown creator of the advanced weapon which A.I. could use to destroy humanity. America pursues the extermination of A.I. relentlessly, and its arsenal includes a frighteningly destructive airship, the USS Nomad. Joshua has many surprising discoveries to make before the struggle between humans and A.I. can be resolved.
What Joshua goes through in The Creator is executed with a script that’s just decent but with beautiful visuals throughout. The story is nothing new or even particularly fresh. However, the cinematography, effects, and performances are worth watching.
“You can’t beat A.I. It is evolution.”
Joshua and all other humans are accustomed to A.I. in the form of robots and simulants. Technology improved so much that some robots eerily resemble humans. These are simulants. While he was undercover in New Asia trying to find the person who created these machines, Joshua fell in love with Maya (Gemma Chan). An unexpected ambush by Joshua’s superiors revealed his identity to her and ended in the death of her and their unborn child.
Washington’s performance is excellent. The emotions he conveys throughout all of this and what follows are thoroughly authentic and memorable. He’s better than the script itself. When the military recruits him to find the weapon, he’s forthright about his feelings for Maya and we believe his determination and his sadness. This film needs the weight of Washington’s performance because the story has room for improvement.
Nearly everything about the narrative, such as the plot concepts or dramatic conflicts, feels familiar. We’ve seen them elsewhere. They’re typical action or sci-fi stuff. For example, since the Western world stopped using artificial intelligence, they don’t know what this new weapon is exactly but it turns out to be a simulant in the form of a child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles). Alpha Zero was the weapon’s designation so Joshua calls her Alphie. Voyles gives a remarkable child performance. But a protagonist protecting an important person against their own colleagues is a well-worn trope.
“Am I going to heaven?”
The writing of this film has other flaws as well. There are other details late in the film that feel like they were done more for the emotion they would manipulate out of the audience instead of any better reason. Them there’s the flimsy basis for the war itself. Simulant Harun (Ken Watanabe) tells Joshua that a simple human error caused the glitch that launched the nuclear attack on Los Angeles. The A.I. wasn’t responsible. With all this advanced tech, wouldn’t there be a way to prove that? I’m side-eyeing that writing choice.
What I can’t find too much fault with is the way this film looks. Greig Fraser and Oren Soffer produce wonderful cinematography. It’s a true pleasure for the eyes. The design of things like the simulants and the Nomad are oustanding as well, and distinctive to the world of the film. They feel like designs that could eventually exist if carried on logically from what we know today. Related to this, the visual effects are seamless.
The viewer wishes the story was a sturdier foundation for all this successful imagery. That’s not to say the writing is without its recommendations. There are moments when the action is exciting or the emotions do work. It’s just that the aesthetics of this film are more consistent. The visuals are what elevate The Creator above average, and the performances play their part as well. The sci-fi genre is a good place to take chances with timely stories, even imperfect ones.
3 1/2 stars out of 5
The Creator is now in theaters.