2023 20th Century Studios

‘The Creator’ is a promising sign for sci-fi

The Creator is Gareth Edwards’s first film since Rogue One in 2016, and continues his work in sci-fi, as well as being another personal favourite of mine. It’s set in the near future, where A.I has become a fully intelligent life form. The world is essentially split into the Western world and ‘New Asia’ in the East. After a nuclear attack on Los Angeles, the Western world has declared war on AI, whereas New Asia continues to use it. As such, the West is essentially at war with New Asia. The story follows American Joshua Taylor (John David Washington) who is sent to find and destroy a New Asia weapon supposedly capable of winning the war.

Much of the conversation around The Creator has been centred around its visuals. The special effects and set design are done incredibly well, outdoing many high-budget blockbusters despite being made with budget of only $80 million, a remarkable figure considering films like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania cost $275m. It contains countless stunning shots, and the environments have a level of detail that makes them feel real and lived in, partly due to many scenes being filmed on location where possible.

Fortunately, The Creator succeeds here too, despite some definite imperfections

That being said, a movie needs more than impressive visuals to be a success. Fortunately, The Creator succeeds here too, despite some definite imperfections. A huge strength lies in its two central characters, Joshua and the AI child Alphie. Their gradual bonding over the course of the story is incredibly endearing and occasionally funny, and acts as a powerful vehicle for the film’s themes around the humanity and treatment of AI as sentient life. Furthermore, the action is continually engaging and entertaining, with the brilliant visuals becoming a great tool in portraying the more large-scale battles. Both within and in between these great action scenes are emotional beats that hit hard from the get-go and continue to get more and more effective as the plot continues. This all comes to a head in a brilliantly shot and acted final scene that provided a satisfying conclusion and had multiple members of my screening in tears.

At a time when AI is an increasingly relevant topic of discussion, the film disappointingly fails to add much to the conversation

This isn’t to say that the movie is a perfect one, as it does unfortunately contain flaws that drag it down from being an all-time great.  For one, although Joshua’s arc is well executed and feels relatively organic, it does fall into being quite predictable, with most audience members likely able to predict where it will go from little more than the trailer. Another unfortunately predictable element was the film’s thematic interests around the potential sentience of AI. Again, the theme is well executed and effective at saying that it wants to say, but at a time when AI is an increasingly relevant topic of discussion, the film disappointingly fails to add much to the conversation. There’s little room left for nuance within this theme, with one side of the argument depicted as quite definitively wrong, removing any audience agency and some potential for more engagement with the theme.

Occasional plot contrivances also drag the film down somewhat. Characters sometimes take actions that feel intended to serve the plot, rather than feeling logical or intrinsic to their character. On several occasions Joshua should really be killed but is inexplicably allowed to survive and escape so the plot can go on. When a film simply asks you to turn your brain off and enjoy the action these kinds of contrivances can be ignored, but the movie’s thematic questions around AI seem to be actively inviting the audience to think about the film, whilst elements of its plot require you not to think too hard, putting the film at odds with itself. This was most prominent in the final act, which felt as if the writers had written themselves into a corner and found an unconvincing route out. It results in the beginning of the final act feeling a bit rushed, but thankfully this is mostly forgotten by the aforementioned brilliant final scene.

I don’t mean to drone on about the film’s faults though, because it is overall a remarkable movie with a strong emotional core that I would highly recommend. Furthermore, what it manages to achieve on a significantly lower budget than other Hollywood blockbusters proves that excessive budgets aren’t required to make visually challenging films, a good sign for sci-fi and filmmakers as a whole.


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