In the sea of recognizable IP, franchises, sequels and prequels, there rarely comes an original idea that people flock to. The discourse being ‘Hollywood doesn’t make original films anymore’. Hollywood does at a higher rate than the former, no one gives the originality a chance to truly flourish and succeed. That much is true within the genres, especially science fiction where the same ideas, themes and tropes are present, recycled for the next big film that will supposedly change the landscape going forward. The Creator has all of the appeal of an original idea, but the make-up of the films DNA has been done before, countless times, just with a fresh coat of paint and new characters to follow.
Set in the near future in a dystopian 2065, artificial intelligence has been around for decades, making life easier and more convenient for humans to exist. A nuclear attack on the city of Los Angeles at the command of A.I sets the events in motion where humans are thrust into a war to eradicate it and its creator from existence. After that brief introduction, we’re introduced to Joshua Taylor (John David Washington), a victim of the LA explosion who possesses two artificial limbs, now works undercover for the U.S Army. Married to Maya (Gemma Chan), the supposed Nirmata and daughter of the creator, Joshua is instructed to lead the fight against New Asia who praise the advancements A.I brings to the world.
I’d be lying if I said that was the entire plot. As science fiction films go, the full story is more bogged down by convolution so keeping track of every fine detail is a hard ask. Joshua’s journey quickly shifts its effort when its discovered that the technology A.I created to destroy the USS NOMAD (North American Orbital Mobile Aerospace Defense) is a little girl he nicknames Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles). Thus Joshua takes on the role of the reluctant father figure – one of the more common tropes seen in the sci-fi genre.
Co-written and directed by Gareth Edwards (Rogue One, Godzilla), The Creator is packed with aesthetically pleasing and sometimes ruggedly guerrilla visuals that make up this not too distant world. Capturing them on screen are cinematographer’s Oren Soffer and Greg Fraser (Rogue One, The Batman) who put the camera in prime positions to make the spectacle feel larger than it is. Without the restrictions of being in a Star Wars or Kaiju universe, Edwards has enough room to comfortably put his vision on screen at a fraction of the cost, boasting the big budget a blockbuster usually gets tagged with but making every visual detail as tight as can be.
The Creator’s main beat of A.I, its resourcefulness and its use with how it can shape the future is something we in 2023 are struggling to comprehend back in the present. Whether its within music or film, the use of A.I has caused a ripple effect of untapped destruction with no end in sight or solution to the potential questions the technology poses.
While its themes and tropes have all been tested and familiarized by the point of a finger, The Creator’s true strength lies within the performances by its co-leads. John David Washington is a spitting representation of his father, but the last name is all that should be made in comparison to. Washington has quickly turned out performance after performance which showcases his range as a thespian and its within Edward’s script that he adds nuance to a formulaic character build.
Opposite Washington is newcomer Madeleine Yuna Voyles who soaks up all of the spotlight from her reluctant father figure. What Voyles accomplishes in her debut with her timing and natural instincts is nothing short of remarkable – Voyles is the beating heart and soul of Edwards film, and I cannot wait to see more from this young actress.
Last year, the horror film Smile had a killer marketing push that greatly benefitted the film’s box office results. If you remember, during certain baseball games, a select number of people were placed behind home plate dawning the creepy signature smile and looking directly into the camera, without blinking. As disturbing as it was, the tactic worked. The Creator did something similar beyond the usual marketing tactics of putting out plain trailers, featurette’s and tv spots (the SAG-AFTRA strike preventing the stars promoting the film even more) , dressing ordinary people up as simulants and placing them at sporting events to promote the film. A brilliant idea for sure but the box office yield has yet to match the horror film’s success. Only time will tell.
At 133 minutes, Gareth Edwards and co-writer Chris Weitz’s script creates a fascinating world through minimal exposition that paces well in the first act. Once the shine wears off to reveal , The Creator struggles to keep its footing steady, often falling behind its convoluted plot by introducing new characters that aren’t given much to accomplish or resolve within the grand scope. Gemma Chan completely disappears into a forgettable role and Ken Watanabe as a stimulant soldier for New Asia isn’t given the actors usual emotional weight to carry.
Somewhere within The Creator is a more tightly edited and more emotionally captivating human film. Hans Zimmer score has the appeal of the dystopian world making up in storytelling that falls by the wayside. Action sequences are filled with tension and will keep you engaged along with the performances of Washington and Voyles. Despite taking inspiration from a number of other films and molding it into one amalgamation, more original sci-fi is needed and welcomed to keep the conversation of humanity and where we’re headed going. The topic of A.I and its integration in pop culture is just getting started, the trick is utilizing it in a way that hasn’t been explored before.
Story By: Gareth Edwards
Screenplay By: Chris Weitz & Gareth Edwards
Directed By: Gareth Edwards
Music By: Haz Zimmer
Cinematography: Oren Soffer & Greg Fraser
Starring: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Ken Watanabe, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, Allison Janney, Sturgill Simpson, Ralph Ineson
Edited By: Hank Corwin, Joe Walker & Scott Morris
Release Date: September 29, 2023
Running Time: 2 Hours 13 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%