Film Review – The Creator
The Creator (2023) lived on my radar since the first trailer was released, and the footage shown at San Diego Comic-Con only increased the anticipation. With Dune: Part Two abandoning 2023 for next year, The Creator may be the only major science fiction film in the latter half of 2023 to satiate sci-fi fans. At SDCC, I listened to director and co-screenwriter Gareth Edwards talk about the film while another film director, Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, Fast X), basically had heart eyes listening to Edwards and could not contain his excitement for how The Creator was shot. Going into the The Creator screening, it is an understatement to say I was hyped to see it.
Born from an original story idea by Gareth Edwards and written by Edwards and Chris Weitz (the same team who brought you Rogue One), The Creator tries to wrestle with the ethics and emotions that are brought to a destructive fruition by artificial intelligence robots that have become independent and sentient. The film takes place in the future, but not so distant, to make it seem comparable to our present. However, in this film’s world, robots have been implemented earlier historically to help humankind and have advanced beyond what we currently have in ours. The triggering event is that AI is accused of dropping an atomic bomb on Los Angeles. That led the United States to outlaw AI and declare war on it (or is it “them”) and any nation that currently allows AI to exist and thrive. The focus of this plot is New Asia, a country that very much still embraces AI and still invests in its future.
The film’s central character is Joshua (John David Washington), who has gone undercover in New Asia, trying to find the “Nimrata,” who is essentially the god or creator of the current AI. Joshua falls in love and gets married to one of his assets, Maya (Gemma Chan), and she is pregnant. Unbeknownst to Joshua, a strike is ordered in his area, which leads to Joshua being found out. Maya, along with her friends, try to escape, but the US’s new space weapon, “Nomad,” drops an atomic bomb on them, killing them all supposedly. The aftermath of this attack is what drives Joshua and what unfolds in the rest of the film.
The secondary central character is Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), an alpha omega AI robot who is the first of her kind and resembles a little girl, developed as a secret weapon. “Weapon” should be used loosely with Alphie as it depends on which side of this war you are on and what you believe a weapon can do. Joshua is again recruited to acquire this secret weapon and destroy it. Unfortunately, given its childlike appearance and limited knowledge of what it can do, Joshua strives to save Alphie, especially after learning about Maya’s connection to her.
It is truly remarkable to see robots being essentially treated like human beings, at least in New Asia. They have thoughts and feelings and strive for the betterment of their kind and those who support them. Contrasted with that is how the US has demonized robots after their supposed attack on LA. However, hypocrisy reeks from the US, which still uses AI and robots for the betterment of their lives, just on their own terms. Case in point: Joshua’s robotic arm and leg that replaced the ones he lost, the implementation of robotic bombs that walk and talk to kill for the US, and the “Nomad,” which functions with AI technology.
There are some confusing actions in the film, namely, the police in New Asia helping to hunt down Joshua and Alphie while the nation seemingly approves of AI and promotes and depends on its use everywhere. The backstory or history of this world and its development of AI and robots could have been fleshed out. The audience gets very little information save for a newsreel at the film’s beginning. Edwards and Weitz wanted to move onto the meat of their story, but some background on the development of these robots and how they got so advanced could have been interesting. If this film somehow gets a sequel or prequel, not that the film is set up in this way, fleshing out the history of this world would be informative about motivations and hostilities in this film.
Being as excited for this film, it did not hit emotionally as much as I expected, especially since the relationship between Joshua and Alphie developed into a quasi-father-daughter relationship. There is so much extra noise in the film that is grabbing your attention that the Joshua and Alphie relationship suffers from the lack of intimacy shown between them. There aren’t any quiet moments where I could identify a burgeoning connection between them that would make me emotional in the story’s climax.
Not many films in recent memory make the US the villain or the enemy. It’s an interesting perspective to employ when the US is usually portrayed as the world’s saving grace. It is wholly the opposite in The Creator, even if the US thinks their motivations are defendable. There is only one line in the film that casts doubt on the US’s motivations after the bombing of LA, but it rightly shifts the perspective of the audience immediately if they had not been on New Asia’s side already.
What is intriguing about The Creator is that it is an original science fiction story, not based on some creative property that already exists. Yes, it may remind you of other films. Still, coming from someone who will pretty much devour any science fiction film, it is a breath of fresh air to see the creativity of the story and ingenuity displayed in the film, whether it’s the costumes, the sets, and the settings, how the film was shot, or the CGI. It says something about the film industry when just having an original story is enough to get people in seats, let alone with the resumé of Gareth Edwards and Chris Weitz to back it up. Hopefully, The Creator will succeed (please see it) and reinforce that audiences are starving for original ideas in major films.