Gareth Edwards has created a bold sci-fi epic with The Creator, and it seems likely to launch him into the upper echelon of genre directors.
PLOT: In a future world devastated by a war between humanity and AI, a soldier is sent to destroy a weapon that can potentially end the war.
REVIEW: It’s pretty rare these days that we get bold, original sci-fi fare. The fact that Gareth Edwards was able to get this made on a grand scale – by Disney no less (through 20th Century Studios) – is something to celebrate. While it’s not quite the sci-fi masterpiece some have hailed it as following the early screenings, it’s still one of the better science-fiction movies to come along in the last few years and should elevate Edwards’ status as one of the best genre directors in the biz.
John David Washington has a tailor-made part as a soldier named Joshua, whose parents were killed in a nuclear blast allegedly instigated by machines against humankind. The blast cost him an arm and a leg – literally – but cybernetic implants have made him a deadly soldier, with the movie kicking off with him embedded in a terrorist cell of humans working with machines. His loyalties are divided, with his wife, Gemma Chan’s Maya, loyal to the machines and unaware that he’s an undercover agent, with a big action sequence leading to a violent tragedy that leaves Joshua shattered.
Years later, he’s recruited by Allison Janney’s tough-as-nails Howell to infiltrate an AI base and destroy a weapon, but when it turns out to be a child-like “simulant” (robots with human faces), he starts to question whether he’s on the right side. While the premise is relatively simple and not unlike James Cameron’s Avatar, it’s the execution and aesthetic that makes The Creator such a must-see.
Edwards, working with two DP’s (Grieg Fraser and Oren Soffer), has made a lavish-looking sci-fi epic, shot in 2:76:1 (the aspect ratio used in Ben-Hur) that, incredibly, supposedly only cost $80 million, but is far more technologically sophisticated and expensive looking that Marvel or DC epics that cost three times as much. Edwards has created a whole world, with it seemingly set on an alternate earth where technology advanced differently. The production design is terrific, with exciting touches that include widescreen TVs that use tube technology rather than LED. The robots in the film are more human than most of the flesh and blood characters, with the entire movie feeling like an allegory for the Vietnam War. Most of it is set in Southeast Asia, and includes many scenes of American soldiers threatening civilians at gunpoint, with a few of the massacre’s deliberately bringing to mind My Lai and other atrocities. The whole film was apparently shot on location, and you can tell. The imagery is incredible.
The Creator offers John David Washington another strong showcase with him, making Jericho an emotional, relatable lead. While some took issue with his Tenet performance, saying he was too cold, this is another beast, with him more of an everyman, and the paternal relationship that springs up between him and the robotic child, Alfie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) gives the movie its heart. He’s also not presented as a superhero, with the action sequences more modest than you’d expect in a film like this, making the movie more of a thriller/ drama than an all-out actioner.
He’s well supported by young Yuna Voyles, who doesn’t deliver too precocious of a performance, which is a fine line with child actors sometimes. Singer Sturgill Simpson has an excellent role as one of Joshua’s compatriots, who finds his loyalties similarly divided. Gemma Chan’s role is more minor, with her primarily present only at the start of the film or in flashbacks, being more of an idealized figure that drives Washington forward than anything else. The one who impresses outside of Washington is Janney, the hard-as-nails soldier with a legitimate reason to despise robots. While the third act turns her into more of a stock character, for much of the film, she’s surprisingly layered and proves to be a brilliant piece of casting by Edwards.
My big problem with The Creator is that the script hasn’t been as carefully assembled as the visual aspects. Some of the dialogue is clunky, and the plot twists, such as the identity of the titular character, are easy to figure out. The third act also seems rushed, with the movie ending a touch abruptly. While powerful towards the end, the Hans Zimmer score isn’t given enough of a focus in the movie’s first half, with Edwards using a few too many needle drops. Like in Godzilla, he also can’t help but reference 2001: A Space Odyssey in the final action sequence, which felt extraneous as the movie had been doing nicely doing its own thing up to this point.
Minor gripes aside, The Creator is bold, original sci-fi and deserves to be a significant hit. There’s something to be said about movies that have a definitive ending and aren’t trying to launch franchises. The Creator is a very effective piece of science-fiction filmmaking, and hopefully, it will be enjoyed by the same audiences that made Barbie and Oppenheimer a hit. If we want to keep getting distinctive, original work like this, we must support it. Go see The Creator!
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/the-creator-review/