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MOVIES: The Creator - Review

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The Creator's big ideas fall short thanks to a weak script that fails to take flight. The cinematography, made for an incredible $80m budget in comparison to its big blockbuster counterparts, is testament to the fact that Gareth Edwards’ work has always been amazing in terms of visuals; dating back to his early film Monsters he made the effects for that film essentially in his house. Since then – he’s gone onto make the memorable Godzilla and the less so Rogue One, but freed from the confines of source material he turns himself to an original story for the first time since Star Wars, but I’m using the word original in a very loose way.

The Creator opens with an introduction to a world that contains quite a bit of lore: the AI was created ahead of schedule and went rogue; the same system that was designed to protect humanity failed and blew up most of Los Angeles with a Nuclear Bomb. In the hollow ruins America and most of the West has declared a war against the AI with the help of a NOMAD flying superweapon; and Asia is where their targets lie – for the East has rejected the West’s condemnation of AI. It’s a pretty impressive statement to make a film that’s so blatantly anti American imperialism it wears it on its sleeve; but then again – it would be even better if the film had teeth and substance to back it up and unfortunately The Creator has none of these; it’s threadbare at its best. Everything feels geared and set up to evoke memories of films like Apocalypse Now, AI: Artificial Intelligence and even Edwards’ own Rogue One, but without the knowledge of why these films worked: the depth. It’s all surface level.

John David Washington’s protagonist Joshua is living undercover with his wife Maya (Gemma Chan), when we first meet him but that tranquillity is disrupted when special forces believe they’ve found the ringleader of the AI forces in the fight for humanity; and Maya is killed. Flashforward to several years later, Joshua is pulled back into the war to find an AI superweapon tasked with eliminating humanity and kill it before it wipes mankind out. However – things aren’t as straightforward as they first seem and Joshua soon finds himself on the run with a small child; who holds the planet’s future in its hands. So far, very AI. But also Elysium. But also: Alita: Battle Angel. And I'm not the only one to say that even NOMAD calls back to Captain Scarlet.

But also every science fiction movie that tackles with AI ever made. The script lacks focus with its approach and doesn’t run smoothly – Joshua needs to tell the audience that he remembers watching videos of him and his wife rather than just showing us, and the little things where the script needs to overstate its objective leads to a hollow feeling. There’s a constant need to create purpose without the sense of giving us that – the film makes the Americans the bad guys but doesn’t go deep enough, and any film coming out when it does – in the middle of a Hollywood battle vs artificial intelligence any film taking the side of artificial intelligence better give us a compelling reason, and The Creator doesn’t really do anything more than what we’ve seen before. Its most emotional lines; where Joshua tells the AI child he’s protecting that he won’t make it into heaven because it’s reserved for good people and neither will Madeline Yuna Voyles’ Alphie, she says, because she’s not a person – act as a core payoff but beyond that, there’s nothing truly present that elevates the script. Maybe giving the film to Chris Weitz, writer of the doomed The Golden Compass and Disney+’s Pinocchio, wasn’t such a good idea.

The Creator's tailor made appeal to a largely Reddit fanbase lacks the staying power to back it up: the script doesn’t offer any surprise and tries to lure you into a false sense of security of twists and turns, but the actual identity of the creator is a mystery that you can figure out an hour or so before the characters to, and not enough depth is given to any character beyond painting them with the broad stroke of humanity being the invader. Joshua gets the most development but more time on say, Colonel Howell (Allison Janney) or anyone else would’ve been nice, the Marines who he ends up working for are given vague caricatures designed to evoke James Cameron’s Aliens, but again: that’s all the film’s designed to do. Evoke, imitate. It feels like a script written by an AI to prove that AI isn’t soulless. Maybe a better performance from Washington could have given the heart that this thing needs but a blank slate is very much something that Washington’s good at bringing to the role: unexplored as much of the spiritual attitude of some of the AI’s beliefs and ideas; we see those wearing religious iconography but beyond a few shots of peaceful protestors being gunned down – it’s all surface level.

And that’s a shame. Because there are some good ideas at the heart of The Creator. There are those with soul and heart; and had there been a better screenplay and a more convincing performance from its lead actor, there would’ve been life here. But despite the commendable visual efforts from the always innovative Gareth Edwards and a bid to inject some new life into the stale Hollywood IP-backed world, The Creator falls short of expectations. That said: you may like this one more than I do, and I can’t not encourage seeking out a rare opportunity to see a film in cinemas on this scale that isn’t part of an established franchise!

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