I was not looking forward to seeing The Creator.
As a writer, I feel like AI threatens my very existence. In multiple fields, whether that’s screenwriting or covering and reviewing films. The technology is frightening. Thankfully, The Creator doesn’t capitalize on that fear. It presents one of the most human stories out there. There’s AI in the film, but they’re presented more like any of us are. They just want to exist, thrive, and live. It’s very much like the classic stories of Avatar, Dances With Wolves, or any other people fighting an oppressive war-mongering regime. It’s that fact and the masterstroke of writing from Director Gareth Edwards and Chris Weitz.
Here’s a refresher for people who might need one on the plot for The Creator:
Amid a future war between the human race and the forces of artificial intelligence, Joshua, a hardened ex-special forces agent grieving the disappearance of his wife, is recruited to hunt down and kill the Creator, the elusive architect of advanced AI who has developed a mysterious weapon with the power to end the war-and mankind itself.
Like all good stories, The Creator takes and picks from the best of the best of sci-fi. You get a little Blade Runner, something from Terminator 2: Judgement Day, some from something like Dances With Wolves, and then you get things from various myths and religious texts as well. It’s that special sort of movie you know is made up of the best elements of other pieces, but it doesn’t matter because it’s presented in a fantastic way. That’s really the operative word with The Creator, fantastic.
There are three reasons in particular that The Creator really shines, though.
1. Absolutely Beautiful Visuals
I hate mentioning budgets when it comes to films, but when a studio film like this uses every dollar of an $80 million budget and looks this good, it makes waves. The way they shot The Creator was almost a miracle when it comes to filmmaking. They shot all the scenes like they normally would, and then filled it in with digital things like the huge US tanks or other background scenery. But the important thing is that they shot on location. This isn’t with the volume or green screen a majority of the time. It’s that combined with the story that makes The Creator feel so genuine. It’s a throwback style of moviemaking that relies on actual locations and people rather than digitized monstrosities.
That’s not to say there aren’t digital effects in The Creator, but they all look and feel real. The AI robots are all based on tech that is “futurized”, so the designs are from ’90s tech like Walkman or VHS players, and aged up to look more futuristic. Or it’s current tech, that is designed to look slightly older. It’s a masterstroke of design that makes things feel contemporary but also in the near-future. Fans of the Fallout games might really enjoy how things look here in The Creator.
The visuals never overpower the story though. They work in tandem to elevate the material. Sometimes these types of sci-fi films get overcome with visuals and it becomes distracting from what’s going on, on-screen. Everything works together to deliver the best possible experience for the audience. If you have an IMAX theater showing The Creator, make sure to see it in the biggest possible format.
2. The Performances
While it might seem like The Creator has a huge cast, the principle players do the majority of the heavy lifting. John David Washington, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, Gemma Chan, Allison Janney, Ken Watanabe, and Marc Menchaca get the majority to do here. In the case of Janney and Menchaca, they’re so delightfully and devilishly evil, it just makes the movie even better. Janney is a little more subtle with her role, but Menchaca looks like he’s reveling in some of the acts he does. In a movie like this, having a villain that skirts the line between hero and villain would water it down.
John David Washington’s turn as Joshua would normally be the best performance in any film. However, he has the show completely stolen from him by Madeleine Yuna Voyles as Alphie. She gives one of the best child-actor performances in recent memory. She’s a master and in-command of every scene she’s in. Her performance is a large part why this movie is so special. She brings a human element to a character and the performance shines through.
Gemma Chan has limited time in the film, but her role is pretty important to the narrative. Ken Watanabe, once again, smashes as Harun. In a movie where the AI feel more human than the humans, Watanabe’s character is the key to everything. He gives a speech to Joshua near the middle of the film that flips the entire narrative on its head. Watanabe is a master of his craft and shows it even more here.
3. Gareth Edwards’ Direction And Script
The Creator is over two hours long. It clocks in at two hours and 13 minutes. However, thanks to director Gareth Edwards’s excellent script and pacing, it feels like it’s an 80-minute movie. The script is tight and features some real levity during the journey. And that’s what describes this movie the best. It’s a journey across humanity, this new landscape of New Asia, and our own issues. The Creator doesn’t set out to make AI into our enemy. It’s an interesting take, considering how much it threatens certain industries. Throughout the first half of The Creator, I considered calling this movie “haunting.”
Then, at a certain point, the script flips. It no longer feels like a scary look into what AI could become. It becomes a look into what humanity could become. That’s what makes The Creator feel so special. It’s not a bait and switch, it’s just a revelation that humans are still in fact the ones that are capable of evil and destruction.
I mentioned Ken Watanabe’s speech to Joshua in the middle of the film, which flipped the entire movie for me. I don’t want to spoil any of the revelations, but it’s something that’ll make you think long after the movie is finished. On top of all that human emotion, the action in The Creator gives it an extra bit of oomph. Everything feels like it was shot guerilla-style but then there are sweeping shots of the battlefield that’ll take your breath away. At points, this feels almost like a documentary. It’s that real feeling.
I can’t think of many things that detract from The Creator. This is and should end up as one of the most important science fiction films ever made. It’s the perfect blend of telling us to beware of the future and beware of ourselves. Throughout the course of human history, the greatest enemy we’ve always faced has been ourselves. The Creator, quite simply, is science-fiction perfection on film.
The Creator releases in theaters on September 29th, 2023.
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