Director, Producer, and Co-Writer (with Chris Weitz) Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) has been working on his idea for an original science fiction tale involving human interaction with advanced AI child for many years. Now that The Creator is finally reaching the screen I would say it is more like science fact, or at least a plausible facsimile. With recent warnings from Silcon Valley leaders about imminent dangers with the alarming speed of AI progress, and all the talk (especially with the guild strikes) about the threat of AI technology invading and possibly even shifting out of our control in frightening ways, Edwards has cooked up a hell of a story in which AI just might be the good guys – or robots as it were – in a world where humans could be losing the upper hand.
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What The Creator is really about is what it means to be human, our fading connections to each other, and perhaps the need to create “beings” of the robotic variety that might stand in for the lack of empathy we have with our own species. A perfect metaphor for the divisiveness of the current political climate, it is also about trust, bonding, grief, and hope in a future that is dicey at best. Most of all, whether by intention or accident, this is as timely a movie entertainment as they get with a scenario that seems all too possible in the not-so-far off future. It is one of the most thought-provoking movies in some time, one to which attention must be paid.
Storywise it is the near future as a montage of scenes illustrate. AI robots have become an increasingly important, and seemingly friendly part of our lives, until somehow a nuclear bomb is set off by AI and virtually destroys Los Angeles. All bets are off and the western governments including the U.S. declare war on the bots, while the Eastern goverments continue to develop the technology to the point where they almost appear human, and maybe superior. It is a war between east and west that could be the last stand for the human race against their own creation.
Early on we meet Joshua (John David Washington) an American soldier now living in Asia who is separated from his wife Maya (Gemma Chan) when big bombs go off and they are attacked, with Joshua presuming Maya has been killed. Cut to five years later, still lost in grief, Joshua is approached by U.S. military honchos including take-no-prisioners and no-nonsense Col Jean Howell ( Allison Janney) who needs him to track down what they now believe is the beating heart of AI, a world-ending weapon that could win the war for the East, and in return she offers hope and some proof that they believe Maya is alive and they can facilitate a reunion. That becomes his driving force as he ventures deep into the heart of the AI center of action, across enemy lines, only to discover that the AI “weapon” is really a 6 year old girl named Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) who is highly advanced and being groomed to control everything. All Howell cares about is taking out this enemy and ending the threat, but Joshua finds conflict within himself as he bonds with this young AI girl and goes on the run with her, both now with a key to saving – or destroying – both sides.
Edwards has made a stunning visually sumptuous film that was basically shot in reverse, a highly unusual but cost-saving approach in which the look of this future world is basically created during post-production. All the acting and scripted dialogue and scenes were done first with no sets or green screen. It was all, for lack of a better description, painted in later when the filmmakers would create the many visuals, much of this in collaboration with production designer James Clyne who with a first rate team, many Oscar winners, are the true creators of The Creator along with Edwards. Shout outs go to Cinematographers Grieg Fraser and Oren Soffer; editors Hank Corwin, Joe Walker, and Scott Morris; sound designers Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van Der Ryn; and visual effects supervisor Julian Levi, as well as the wizards at ILM. Hans Zimmer did the music score and it not only matches the ever-changing action perfectly, but ranks with the very best of this veteran composer.
Washington delivers his finest work since Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, but manages also to traverse both the necessary action and emotion needed to make complex Joshua tick. Chan is excellent as the mysterious Maya, and Janney shows she can play badass with the best of ’em. Ken Watanabe also is all pro as AI Simulant Harun determined to capture Alphie, and Sturgill Simpson lends much needed reality to the role of Drew, Joshua’s old war buddy now living a more serene life making robots. However the film is stolen lock stock and barrel by 7 year old newcomer Madeleine Yuna Voyles who is an ethereal wonder as Alphie, an astonishing performance for an actor of any age, but one she delivers with so much heart and soul and natural talent you might just think someone just created her for the part. Voyles and Washington become a screen team you won’t soon forget.
Filmed in numerous locations including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Japan, Indonesia , U.K. and U.S,, Edwards says his cinematic inspirations included Apocalypse Now and its source material Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness, but also movies from Blade Runner to E.T. among others. You can see the bones of past film classics in here but this that rare sci-fi original these days that builds a world uniquely all its own that is not only highly entertaining and relevant but, in a word, breathtaking.
Producers of the 20th Century Studios, New Regency, and Entertainment One production with Edwards are Kiri Hart, Jim Spencer, and Arnon Milchan.
Title: The Creator
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Release Date: September 29, 2023
Director: Gareth Edwards
Screenplay: Gareth Edwards and Chris Weitz
Cast: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Ken Watanabe, Sturgill Simpson, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, Allison Janney
Running Time: 2 hours and 13 minutes
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