The Creator features visually stunning visuals but the new Gareth Edwards sci-fi thriller gets into very familiar territory. Spoiler warning: some spoilers may follow.
Five years after his wife’s–Maya (Gemma Chan)–disappearance, Joshua (John David Washington) gets brought in by Colonel Jean Howell (Allison Janney) to find and kill the Creator. Supposedly, Maya is still alive. You see, the Creator is behind the advanced AI technology with the capability to end the war. There’s a war for many years between humans and AI. Following a terrible AI attack on Los Angeles, America responds by banning it. Meanwhile, New Asia embraced the technology, further evolving AI to where they can appear in human form. Things become complicated when Joshua learns that this weapon is actually a child–Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles)–or appears as one.
The idea of war between humans and AI is not new. It’s been done before and much better in some classic Terminator films. The fact the on-screen war is between America and New Asia lends it a Vietnam War allegory. West vs. East. By referring to it as New Asia, it more or less bunches every Asian together. Are they all really the same? This is an area that I don’t feel qualified to answer so I’ll let my Asian and Asian-American colleagues take the lead on the criticism about that.
I love a good sci-fi film, don’t get me wrong. Rogue One is the best Star Wars prequel by far! Of course, I have my own own issues with Godzilla but that just goes without saying. Some of my favorite movies are among the greatest sci-fi films ever made. I think Gareth Edwards is looking to do the same here. However, it falls a bit short in its execution. You’re mileage may vary, of course. Films in which humans face off against AI need to bring something new to the story and and despite its stunning visuals, this is where The Creator falls short–the terrible use of tropes do not help. Make no mistake that there are some stunning visual effects but visual effects alone do not make sci-fi movies a classic.
In watching The Creator, you go into the film thinking the Americans are the good guys. But as we watch the film in its two-hour-plus run time, it’s not hard to find yourself thinking that maybe the Americans have it wrong. Joshua feels this complication. That he turns on his orders isn’t surprising especially if it means seeing Maya again. But again, there is something in the film’s execution that just didn’t work with me.
DIRECTOR: Gareth Edwards
SCREENWRITERS: Gareth Edwards and Chris Weitz
CAST: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Ken Watanabe, Sturgill Simpson, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, and Allison Janney