Saturday 30 September 2023

The Creator (Movie Review)

With the summer movie season now in our rearview mirrors, moviegoers are no doubt on the lookout for the next big thing. This is especially true following recent delays from the likes of Kraven the Hunter and Dune: Part Two, brought on by the combined weight of the writers' and actors' strikes. And like a beacon of hope amidst the ongoing drought, Gareth Edwards steps in with his latest science fiction offering. But does the movie compare favorably with his previous outings or does it perhaps fall short of its lofty ambitions?

In The Creator, humankind is once again at war with AI-powered machines. But before you roll your eyes and declare this yet another Terminator ripoff, at least consider that it attempts to throw a few twists into the mix of its well-worn formula. John David Washington plays Joshua Taylor, a former special forces agent who is brought back for a mission to destroy a war-ending weapon created by the machines. But when that weapon turns out to be a humanlike girl, he finds himself torn between carrying out his directive or protecting her from those who would like to see her and her kind made extinct.

As simple as its premise appears at first glance, The Creator is a film that explores some very interesting ideas. Chief among them is the question of whether or not mankind could truly ever hope to co-exist with another intelligent species, even one of its own making. Its high-concept depiction of AI is one where robots are given almost humanlike qualities, making their integration into certain aspects of society all the more compelling, at least from a visual standpoint.

And that is one area where the movie truly excels, in its production values. Its near-future world is brought to life through some truly impressive set designs and special effects. And with a reported budget of around $80 million, it immediately puts to shame other films with three times that amount and nothing to show for it. The various robots at the heart of its narrative were always captivating to look at, especially how they had taken on a diverse range of human qualities.

Some of it didn't exactly make much practical sense though, like how they'd adopted our need for clothes or even the way we walk or need to go to bed at night. A good chunk of it reminded me of the robots in the video game, Stray, except those had a strong narrative reason for adopting our ways while these seemed mostly that way for aesthetic reasons. Either way, they added to a lot of the film's personality, along with the futuristic cities and beautiful countrysides they reside in.

I'd be remiss if I didn't also acknowledge how the movie's visuals were complimented by yet another stellar score from Hans Zimmer as well as some clever use of licensed music. I immediately cracked a smile when Radiohead's "Everything in its Right Place" started to play as the Kid A opener and its underlying themes of existential dread perfectly mirror the journey our two leads are on.

Speaking of leads, John David Washington was more than serviceable in the role of the reluctant father figure. It was also nice seeing Ken Watanabe in another Gareth Edwards production following their work together in Godzilla (2014). The director also proves once again why he is a force to be reckoned with in the science fiction realm, as much like Rogue One, his new film is helped by cool, new takes on preexisting concepts. But the area where I think the film suffers a bit is in its writing.

There were a number of plot contrivances as quite a few character actions seemed beholden to the demands of the plot rather than any organic reasoning on the characters' parts. The final act in particular was plagued by too many of such instances for my liking, resulting in a manufactured and somewhat unsatisfying ending. And while that in itself isn't enough to truly mar the overall package, I still feel it ends up preventing it from achieving true greatness.

The Creator is the exact type of film that the science fiction genre needs more of. It is an original IP that boasts an intriguing depiction of our future driven by a strong, creative vision. Some of it did tend to feel derivative of other works in the genre though, and for all of its gorgeous visuals and interesting concepts, it was still let down by a script that felt lacking in places. That said, the film should still satisfy genre fans looking for their next sci-fi fix, at least until Dune: Part Two resurfaces next spring.