Artificial intelligence is a high-concept idea that feels closer to reality than the sci-fi films that inspire it. It is this very idea that can either be helpful to humanity or destroy it, which is what The Creator aims to tackle. Gareth Edwards’ latest project puts into question the threat posed by the existence of artificial intelligence in this thought-provoking sci-fi flick that uses stunning visuals to display a not-so-distant future in a war between humans and technology. This topic in sci-fi media has been told time and again, with it being a result of either an amazing or a misfire. The Creator happens to fall in between where it’s close enough to be a masterpiece in filmmaking while also falling a little short in expanding an idea that feels resonant with our times.
Edwards has crafted a world that doesn’t feel as far-fetched as it should, but it does have its spin on the idea of the nature of artificial intelligence. It asks the question of whether AI is a spell of doom for humanity or if it is something that everyone can co-exist with. The building blocks of how the world came to be this way are sprinkled throughout the film where it is shown how the birth of AI sparked a change that led to a devastating event that broke the connection between humans and AI by pitting them against each other. The US decides to declare war on all AI while the remaining AI live in peace in New Asia and plan to keep it this way without any intrusion from the outside world. It is a pretty good setup for a modern sci-fi film, but once it tackles the main story, the tone shifts into a conventional action movie that doesn’t feel like we are watching the same thing.
Much of the story tends to focus on Joshua (John David Washington), a soldier who is assigned a mission to prevent a war with the AI by going undercover in New Asia to locate a scientist known as the Creator who originally birthed AI. His assignment leads him to the scientist’s daughter, Maya (Gemma Chan), who ends up falling in love with her. After his team launches a sneak attack on the mainland causing him to lose Maya, he abandons the fight. After many years, Joshua is recruited by General Howell (Allison Janney) to head back east to locate and destroy a weapon that the AI created that could change the tide of war in their favor. He discovers that the link to the ultimate weapon lies with a young AI child named Alfie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles).
There are many influences in The Creator from other classic sci-fi films that it tends to borrow like James Cameron’s The Terminator and Steven Spielberg’s A.I. The search for the child also draws from The Golden Child as well as Apocalypse Now, which are hugely influential when drawing comparisons with the movie. Once Joshua decides to protect the child from his superiors, it is reminiscent of similar plots involving a disillusioned protagonist who ends up forging a bond with an innocent child during their journey. Despite taking many classic sci-fi fare as inspirations, the film does craft a meaningful story that is well presented to the audience. There are aspects of the story that are worth exploring, perhaps the benefit of a longer runtime would’ve been enough to flesh out the story a little more.
The VFX in this film is nothing short of incredible when they are shot in the gorgeous landscape. With a budget of $80 million, it is a feat how Edwards can deliver something so beautiful compared to big blockbuster films that cost even more than that to make. It is quite clear that Edwards and his team have managed to create something gorgeous with the money the studio gave them without breaking the bank. After coming off of Rogue One, Edwards seems to know what he is doing when it comes to science fiction stories and the way he wants them to be told. Shot almost entirely in Thailand, he was able to use the location to showcase the lovely locales of East Asia in a possible future filled with AI that looks almost like they are natives to this country. The designs of the AI are very unique and the use of the US military ship Nomad is leaps ahead of what we see in sci-fi films. These are some of the things that The Creator excels at.
The cast of the film is outstanding, but the true standout is the young actress who plays Alfie, Madeleine Yuna Voyles. She brings a genuineness to her character despite being a synthetic character. Voyles has that innocence about her that brings the character of Alfie to life and offers a more human story when connecting with Washington’s character Joshua. She has great chemistry with Washington on screen, close to a father-daughter bond that genuinely is at the heart of the story. Washington’s character is portrayed as a hardened soldier, but when we see him with Alfie, there’s some personality that helps the audience understand him. Volyles brings the best out of everyone, especially when sharing scenes with the likes of Allison Janney and Ken Watanabe. Voyles holds her own and has a bright future ahead of her as an actress.
The Creator tackles the questions we ask ourselves on the pros and cons of having AI, exploring a world where AI has a conscience, blurring the lines of what makes a person human. Even if the film doesn’t truly embrace that aspect of the story in favor of a traditional sci-fi plot, there is a lot to love about Edward’s latest feature. The movie is epic in scale with dazzling visuals that bring this world to life and at the center of it is Madeline Yuna Voyles’ great performance. It is a thought-provoking piece that also manifests as a sci-fi blockbuster in the making. Its unique depiction of AI will have people talking as everyone starts to embrace this new age in technology.
The Creator is currently playing in theaters everywhere.