The Creator (2023)

Gareth Edwards has taken his sweet time between movies.  He can afford to since he got scooped up by Disney to make Rogue One: A Star Wars Story after the success of his own independent film, Monsters and a financially successful kickoff to Legendary's Monsterverse with Godzilla.  He was one of the few success stories as the record for independent directors going immediately into large-budget Hollywood films is not good.  Most of them have the project taken away from them at some point and the whole thing reshot and re-edited with their name left on it so that their career suffers the consequences.  It's almost as if there is an organized effort to quell independent filmmakers before they get popular.

Edwards bucked this trend, although everything after Monsters had been an pre-existing property.  The Creator is the first original work of Edwards since his debut and he opted to film it similarly to how he did Monsters, which was going to locations and doing guerilla filming when needed.  This included shooting in a good part of southeast Asia as well as Indonesia to get the specific look he wanted for the movie, doing the initial work with minimal green screens and adding many of the effects that weren't in-camera after filming was complete.  The result is a movie made up of stunning visuals that is undercut by an all-too-predictable story.

After an atomic blast in Los Angeles is blamed on artificial intelligence terrorists, AI is banned in America and the government attempts to wipe it out worldwide.  To that end they run frequent operations in New Asia, a conglomerate of former southeast Asian countries that remain friendly to AI and those that wish to co-exist with them.  Joshua (John David Washington) is an undercover operative sent to locate Nirmata, or the Creator, who is responsible for the continued proliferation of AI outside of the U.S.  A premature invasion results in his cover being blown and his wife Maya (Gemma Chan), who is also his source, being killed.

Five years later he is recruited by General Andrews (Ralph Ineson) and Colonel Howell (Allison Janney) to return to infiltrate Nirmata's lab and find a weapon that has been developed that would destroy NOMAD, a large U.S. military platform used in tracking and destroying AI bases, thus leaving the U.S. defenseless.  He is tempted with reports that his wife may be alive and discovers that the weapon is in fact a robot designed to look like a young child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles).  After NOMAD attacks the lab, the child, who Joshua renames Alphie, tries to find Nirmata and eventually Joshua agrees to help as he begins to realize that he may have been fighting for the wrong side the entire time. 

This is a beautiful film, with the location filming and CGI blending throughout.  There are many memorable shots, lots of world building to show what this world of 2065 is all about, with much of it based on a logical progression of current technology.  The different cities do have a bit of a sameness about them, whether it be the rebuilt Los Angeles or the provincial capital where Joshua seeks more information on what Alphie is, but so do modern cities when it comes down to it.  They look livable, and lived-in, without resorting to copying Blade Runner or some of the more outrageous 20th century ideas of what the future would look like.  

Where it stumbles is that the story Edwards wrote for this world has few, if any, surprises.  One can easily guess who Nirmata is before the first 40 minutes are up, many of the turning points in Joshua's story are quite obvious before he even accepts Colonel Howell's offer to return to New Asia and his eventually conversion is no real surprise.  There is a bit of a shock when it is revealed what the AI have in store for the West once NOMAD is destroyed, but the revelation of how the bombing took place is also predictable.  Edwards has borrowed from so many different science fiction and messiah tropes that he could have made a more interesting movie if he decided not to slavishly follow them, but rather took the path of least resistance.  

What is disappointing is that it does a disservice to the rest of the movie.  Many of Edwards's movies have revolved around getting from one place to another, overcoming difficult tasks and reaching that goal through sacrifice or by finding enlightenment, or both.  In the past he has been able to make the story fit the film, but here it seems that it was secondary to the world he wanted to build.  It would have served the future society he created better if he made this a faux documentary about the period and those who fought on both sides, as he was more interested in exploring his idea of 2065 than he was in presenting any ideas that haven't been present in so many similar movies of the past. 

The Creator (2023)
Time: 133 minutes
Starring: John David Washington, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, Allison Janney, Gemma Chan
Director: Gareth Edwards



  1. I liked it but agree the Nimrata thing was predictable. I figured out his connection to Alphie pretty quick too. It does look great. I joked that I wished the giant tank thing would have turned into a robot or something; it would have been an awesome Transformer.


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