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‘The Creator’: Beautiful, vapid sci-fi

| Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Anna Falk | The Observer

“The Creator” is a film that shouldn’t be such a rarity, but it is in our current Hollywood landscape. A mid-budget original sci-fi film released in theaters is something worth celebrating. But is it something worth watching? The latest film from Gareth Edwards, director of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Godzilla,” is beautifully crafted with some wonderful world-building and action, but its poorly executed themes and shallow script weaken the film’s quality.

“The Creator” takes place in a near future where robots and artificial intelligence have rapidly advanced, giving birth to “simulants” or very human-like robots. Our main protagonist is Joshua, played by John David Washington, a jaded American soldier whom the U.S. sends to pro-AI New Asia to capture and destroy the AI’s newest weapon, a simulant child powerful enough to defeat the U.S. and win the war between them single-handedly.

The greatest strength of the “The Creator” is its direction and VFX. The film quickly engrosses you in its world, as the costumes, props and set design combine for some very effective world-building. Edwards and the crew’s decision to shoot most of the movie in real locations in Thailand adds a lot of weight and immersion to the movie. Furthermore, the VFX is outstanding, especially considering the $80 million budget. This film’s VFX adeptly manages to have humans, simulants and robots all on-screen simultaneously, interacting with each other in an authentic, seamless manner. All the action scenes with their futuristic laser guns and large explosions are also beautifully rendered and shot. I was never once taken out of the film because of bad CGI and I don’t remember the last time I felt that way watching a movie.

The biggest problems with the film lie with its story and script. I want to preface this by saying that, despite my strong opposition to AI, I am not opposed to pro-AI films, which “The Creator” confidently is. In fact, “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” Steven Spielberg’s heartbreaking masterpiece that empathically and intelligently explores the implications of humanlike AI, is one of my favorite films of all time. However, “The Creator” is very careless and unconcerned about making a compelling argument about why we should value AI the same as humans. It characterizes the AI robots as being the same as humans, yet never takes the time to delve into the feelings and traits of any of the AI characters, which ironically deprives them of the humanity the movie argues they have. Moreover, it ignores any possible issues with their existence beyond the war they’re facing. It’s a cowardly, lazy move and robs the film’s pro-AI theme of any weight.

The film’s characters are also underdeveloped and lack depth. Joshua’s character arc from an AI-hating U.S. soldier to an AI ally dedicated to defeating the U.S. government is barely justified or elaborated on. He meets the AI’s secret weapon, which happens to be an endearing little kid named Alphie and, suddenly, all his bigotry against AI disappears after one road trip montage with the kid. It’s such a cop-out and leads to the film’s central relationship between Alphie and Joshua feeling incredibly rushed, which subsequently removes a lot of stakes in the film’s narrative.

There is no questioning that “The Creator” is exceptionally directed and crafted. Its visuals are gorgeous and I respect the audacity of “The Creator” to have such a pro-AI message at a time when there is so much, in my opinion, valid concern and worry about the continued proliferation of AI However, it never justifies this message due to shallow character development and a lack of meaningful depth and insight into AI, ultimately preventing the film from being great. I’m happy Edwards made a film that will leave him spared when AI inevitably rises up and conquers us, but he left me no choice but to write a review that will condemn me to be their prisoner.

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