The Creator is set in the near future, artificial intelligence (AI) has become part of normal day to day life and robots help humans with everything. But when a nuclear bomb is dropped on Los Angeles, the AI is blamed and subsequently banned by America and the Western countries. However in New Asia, they refuse to conform and it becomes the last remaining place on earth where AI is accepted and permitted to exist.
As tensions mount and distrust of AI keeps rising, the American military is alerted to rumours of a new weapon that could take down their mammoth aerial spaceship war machine NOMAD and be the end of the human race. Former sergeant Joshua (John David Washington) gets pulled back into the war against AI to find the weapon and destroy it. What he discovers is the next step in revolutionary technology, a simulant child Alpha Omega (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) who can learn and grow. Joshua is then torn between his mission, and his personal connection to this child and a chance to reconnect one more time with his wife Maya (Gemma Chan).
Gareth Edwards, known for previous blockbusters Godzilla and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, directs and co-writes this sci-fi action drama. Unlike those films, The Creator is neither developed from existing intellectual property or part of a franchise. Edwards and his co-writer Chris Weitz (About A Boy) have crafted an original story that thematically delves into criticism of the United States war machine, xenophobia, and whether AI truly is a technological monster.
Whilst we are presently debating over the ethics and morality of AI and its place in current society, this film prefers to take a more humanist view of the technology. Depicting these robots as more than just serving us but becoming part of our families. Raising us, protecting us and going beyond simple programming.
Visually there are similarities to other war movies like Apocalypse Now. Or there’s sci-fi alien displacement themes like District 9. Or child saviour motifs like The Golden Child. But Edwards crafts enough of his own designs to make this world feel and look unique, but also be just near enough to the present day to not feel completely detached. It might seem cliche but this is definitely a beautiful and grandiose film which is surprising considering the modest $80million budget.
The action and pacing is pretty quick so the 2 hour run time never lags. The sound design is intense and overwhelming at all the right moments. The song choices and music are intentionally otherworldly or jarring, again to feel slightly disconcerting and not quite aligned with our present day.
Where the film may struggle to win audiences over is the very obvious West vs East allegory and the Vietnam War references. It can be uncomfortable watching the excessive American war machine NOMAD literally rain down bombs on small Asian villages. Collateral damage is high, and most of them are innocent civilians and robots just trying to get by.
The performance from John David Washington is sufficient enough, if at times a little confusing. Mainly because so much of his character’s motivation is driven by grief so his choices and actions seem haphazard. Madeleine Yuna Voyles has more weight to carry as the small robo-child we have to empathise with, as she learns about humans whilst gradually gaining more powers. But as our two leads, both feel a little simplistic and bland with limited chemistry. Alison Janney gets to be a fun antagonist as Colonel Howell, Sergeant Joshua’s commanding officer, dropping some quippy evil one liners.
The Creator may look like a sci-fi film on the outside, but at its core it’s a movie about humanity and what it is that makes us human. The visuals, sound design and story makes for an entertaining film to watch that may leave you contemplating our future with artificial intelligence. With every new day there are ongoing technological advances and it’s up to us as their creators to make them a tool for good. The only way we can ensure our survival is to learn to live with the artificial genie that we’ve let out of the bottle.