The Creator (2023)
The Creator (2023)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 13 min.

Release Date: September 29th, 2023 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Gareth Edwards Actors: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Allison Janney, Ken Watanabe, Sturgill Simpson, Amar Chadha-Patel, Marc Menchaca, Madeleine Yuna Voyles

 


 

A

fter a nuclear device detonated in Los Angeles, killing millions, the struggles between mankind and artificial intelligence become all-out war. Most of the Western world abandons the advanced robots and “simulants” they now fear, but New Asia remains a haven for both humans and androids to coexist. When Sergeant Joshua Taylor (John David Washington) agrees to go undercover to infiltrate a camp in New Asia, he thinks the mission will end with the capture of the “Nirmata,” the god-like creator of A.I. Instead, it ends with him falling in love. After tragedy strikes, Taylor distances himself from the military and drifts listlessly through several years working with an L.A. ground-zero cleanup crew. When Colonel Howell (Allison Janney) approaches the anguished soldier with video footage of someone from his past, he’s brought back to the frontlines with a new task: stop the Nirmata’s creation of a weapon so powerful it will change the very tides of battle.

“They’re not real, okay?” The film’s setup is a timely cautionary tale for A.I. run amok, thanks to mankind’s overdependence on it, as well as the creation’s pervasiveness and supremacy, very much along the lines of “The Terminator.” There’s also a touch of superspy adventure, as the authorities use elite agents to infiltrate enemy organizations. Additionally in the mix is the familiar notion of how to treat humanoid automatons, especially when they look and behave almost indistinguishably from actual people; can users so easily shut off the life-giving electricity supply to an entity that can display the full array of human emotions? These are, of course, all themes explored in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” though the mood here is less of camaraderie and adolescent fantasies and action set pieces than it is of governmental overreach, regardless of a youthful character becoming a major contrasting piece to the ensemble.

Curiously, however, a love story emerges as the driving factor for Joshua, which takes the massive amount of world-building and sci-fi embellishments and reduces them to one of lesser consequence – akin to a dominating theme in “Blade Runner.” Though it minimizes the vexation of single items serving as standalone solutions to enormous predicaments – here, the orbiting Nomad station is a last resort, an apparently un-duplicatable weapon, like the flimsy plot devices of a memory unit or flash drive that harbors information inexplicably contained nowhere else – it tends to do a discernible disservice to the efforts taken to establish sci-fi environments and sets. Expectedly, the heroes find opportunities to exploit weaknesses in systems that should possess substantially greater protections. “There will never be another like her.”

From a design standpoint, “The Creator” boasts an engaging blend of ultra high-tech inventions and realistically minimal advancements – occasionally bordering on a steampunk aesthetic while introducing periodically farfetched instruments. Vehicles are both old and upgraded; villages are rural yet brimming with modernity; medical options are conveniently limited or breathtakingly miraculous; and weaponry includes smoke grenades and energy-field projectiles. It’s a wise decision to place the bulk of the picture on Earth, where less-futuristic components ease up the pressure on the suspension of disbelief, allowing audiences to invest in the grounded politics of the struggle; like in “I, Robot,” “Impostor,” “Demolition Man,” or “Extinction,” there’s a question as to who exactly is providing the biggest source of villainy – the humans or the perceived robotic opposition?

The look of the film is generally impressive, but it’s entirely evident just how many other properties played an influential role. At times, “The Creator” nods – or merely takes – ideas from “Tenet,” “Elysium,” “Lucy,” “Alita: Battle Angel” (and other manga/anime adaptations), “Waterworld,” “Pacific Rim,” “District 9,” “Avatar,” the “Star Wars” series (director Gareth Edwards helmed is own canon entry with “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”), and too many more to list. Perhaps it doesn’t have a single scene of genuine originality in it. Nevertheless, it brings up topical issues on likenesses/identity, surveillance, and military domination, as well as emotional notes on existence, death, morality, religion, and free will, all while action-packed sequences of CG-augmented destruction keep the plot moving.

Unfortunately, the simplicity of the love story is eventually put aside for unnecessary resolutions to essentially unsolvable problems, turning the third act into a conceptually overstuffed time-crunch. The protagonists learn about Nirmata’s weapon’s capabilities (or nonsensically spell them out for the sake of informing viewers) and spontaneous shortcomings far too quickly, hurrying things along to a finale that changes locations with an absurd disregard for geography, logistics, and the passing of time. “I can’t open it. The door’s broken!” exclaims a character who previously, astoundingly manipulated all sorts of intricate machinery. Everything is accomplished just in the nick of time and with such a ridiculous ease, as if physical limitations are nonexistent and security forces never operate in the spaces the heroes occupy. It’s so rushed and inorganic and unmanageable (at one point, a bomb is set for ten minutes, even though it would probably take thirty just to spacewalk from one side of a structure to the other, let alone run from one room to another, since there are visually-established fields and corridors and lobbies to cross) that it threatens to undermine everything that came before it. “The Creator” isn’t without some exciting moments and entertaining visuals, but it can’t quite build an identity of its own, nor can it tell its tale in a way that feels judicious, that flows like a sci-fi epic with a confidence in its plotting and formulation.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10