Seeking out the

5000 greatest films

in a century of cinema

The Creator

Directed by Gareth Edwards
Produced by Arnon Milchan, Gareth Edwards, Kiri Hart, and Jim Spencer
With: John David Washington, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, Gemma Chan, Allison Janney, Ken Watanabe, Sturgill Simpson, Amar Chadha-Patel, Marc Menchaca, Robbie Tann, Ralph Ineson, Michael Esper, Van Veronica Ngo, Ian Verdun, Daniel Ray Rodriguez, Rad Pereira, Syd Skidmore, and Karen Aldridge
Cinematography: Greig Fraser and Oren Soffer
Editing: Joe Walker, Hank Corwin, and Scott Morris
Music: Hans Zimmer
Runtime: 133 min
Release Date: 29 September 2023
Aspect Ratio: 2.76 : 1
Color: Color

What a sad commentary on the current state of blockbuster cinema when this piece of recycled dogshit is acclaimed by so many as the sci-fi event of the year. Director Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) and his co-writer Chris Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy, Robert Zemeckis' Pinocchio) deliver a bloated hodgepodge of well-trod sci-fi elements. The Creator takes stale tropes fromBlade Runner, Predator, Avatar, A.I., District Nine, a dozen or so Star Trek episodes, and Edwards' and Weitz's own Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and blends them with stale tropes from a half dozen Vietnam movies to tell this story of a 2055 Earth in which the US is fighting a war against artificial intelligence. The twist here is that these are not the type of murderous interconnected operating systems that most dystopian future fiction predict; here, the robots and synthetic organisms are asking, "Can't we all just get along?"

The picture features a whole lot of world-building, none of which stands up to even the most basic scrutiny. The US has been at war with all artificial intelligence since the systems we developed nuked Los Angeles. However, the nation of "New Asia" did not declare AI illegal; therefore, humans in New Asia live side by side with cyborgs. Or maybe they harbor cyborgs the way Vietnamese farmers hid the Vietcong? (That's what I thought at first, but then the story moves from jungles and villages to cities where humans and humanoids, called simulants, seem to coexist without fear of reprisal.) The US has developed a giant orbiting weapons and research platform called NOMAD capable of wiping out entire villages with massive projectiles that make Agent Orange look like a cherry bomb. Despite being at war with the AI, NOMAD doesn't wipe every robot and simulant off the planet because the US isn't at war with New Asia. So we're expected to believe that after the first five or six entire villages get entirely wiped out by this giant Death Star that roams around scanning the face of the Earth and must be visible for hundreds of miles, the US wouldn't be at war with the country it was doing this to? Did China, Japan, India, Korea, and all the other Asian countries dismantle their militaries and regress a century or two between now and when this movie takes place?

John David Washington stars as Joshua Taylor, an ex-special forces officer recruited to hunt down the titular Creator who has developed a new weapon with the power to destroy mankind. Joshua's superiors don't use the exact quote "terminate with extreme prejudice," but they might as well. Of course, this doomsday weapon is not what we assume it is, and the people who send our hero on his mission might not be the good guys. The story becomes more contrived and ridiculous with each plot point, flashback, and reveal. My favorite part is when Joshua reconnects with an old army buddy who looks inside the "weapon" for about 10 seconds with what appears to be one of those screwdrivers one would use to tighten eyeglasses, then turns to Joshua to say, "Oh my God, do you know what this is?!" and then he lays out for him (and us) exactly what it is. This guy must have a real knack for understanding technology no one has ever seen before! 

It all builds to a ludicrous climax that dares to assume we're emotionally invested in any of the characters by that point. Maybe it's just me, but I couldn’t care less about the feelings of robots. It's the same issue I had with Speilburg's A.I.—no matter how cute a robot kid might be, if they're a robot, I don't give a shit about them as a character. I also don't get emotionally invested in the feelings and fates of simulants, even if they have a face as expressive as Ken Watanabe's. Of course, the moral of The Creator is not that we should all open our hearts to artificial intelligence because they're people too. This is all metaphor for the evils of drone warfare, cultural othering, and how nationalism can turn humans into mindless killing machines—all potentially good subtext for a great sci-fi movie. But subtext plays laughably inept when there's no engaging story to weave these ideas and themes into and no characters we can identify with.

The cast of The Creator is even harder to invest in than the narrative. Washington is almost as bland here as he was in Tenet, though only an actual AI actor could achieve that. Gemma Chan gets a fair amount of screen time, but she's playing a narrative device rather than a character. Ralph Ineson plays a deep voice, Allison Janney plays a failed experiment in casting against type, and there are a couple of other military guys, too, I think. It's hard to tell because Edwards and his two cinematographers Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty, Lion, Rogue One, Dune, The Batman) and Oren Soffer (a DP I'm unfamiliar with), shoot everything in the typical dark, muddy style I should by now expect of contemporary blockbusters but I’m still shocked that paying customers find acceptable. Since the film is photographed in anamorphic widescreen and 90% of audiences will see it in a multiplex with no masking curtains, it will look ever muddier and washed out because of the light emanating from the "black" bars on the top and bottom of the screen. I should note that all Fraser's films I listed above do not have this muddy look, even the absurdly dark The Batman. But if what saves The Creator is its distinctive visuals, as many seem to claim, it's just more proof that the art of cinematography was long since surrendered to the computers.

Twitter Capsule:

Gareth Edwards's dystopian future action picture set during a war between the human race and the forces of artificial intelligence is one of the most unoriginal "original" sci-fi blockbusters in recent memory.