The Creator : Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on September 28, 2023 in / No Comments


Rated PG-13 by the MPA for violence, some bloody images and strong language. Running time: 133 minutes. Released by 20th Century Studios.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, The Creator, 20th Century FoxThe advances made in artificial intelligence (AI) in our present have generated probably as many questions for its use as it has created workable solutions. As of this writing, the Writer’s Guild Strike of 2023 is coming to an end, with the SAG-AFTRA strike hopefully ending soon as well – strikes motivated by the encroaching use of AI for writing and filmmaking. The use of ChatGPT has caused significant concern in the business world as it threatens to supplant human work.

In the midst of all the furor about AI, here comes The Creator, a film set in a future where AI-driven, humanoid robots live and work alongside regular homo sapiens, at least until a catastrophic event halts the United States’ reliance on AI. Director/co-writer Gareth Edwards trains his solemn eye on this divided world where the US military polices and invades other countries for developing and using these robots. They’re not just on a mission to destroy AI; they’ve declared full-on war on the people responsible for its continuing propagation, lest another one goes haywire.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, The Creator, 20th Century FoxBut the robots are generally shown to be peaceful and caring, almost superior to humans in their understanding and intelligence. However, they aren’t bound by any of Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics (not even the Zeroeth Law); they are capable of defending themselves freely, using any means at their disposal. And in one of these AI societies, Joshua (John David Washington) and pregnant wife Maya (Gemma Chan) seem to be living in harmony with themselves and the robots surrounding them… until a US strike team zeroes in on their location and blows everything to hell – including Maya – in search of a secret AI weapon that could spell the end of humanity as we know it.

The Creator confronts our preconceived notions head-on, whether they be about heroes versus villains, the purpose of this film’s robots or humans, or enemies within or without. At this film’s ferociously beating heart lies the weapon incarnate: Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), a robot child with the power to affect any electrical system in her proximity. Having been tasked with this weapon’s destruction, Joshua faces the dilemma of killing a robot who looks and acts like a child (no matter how much he tells himself “It’s just programming”) or defying his orders to help Alphie – who may have information about Maya and her current whereabouts – evade capture and bring her to her creator.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, The Creator, 20th Century FoxIt’s a heavy movie lifted by sprawling visuals, effective performances, immersive photography, and one of Hans Zimmer’s best scores binding everything together. This isn’t one of his one-note, BWAAAANG kind of scores; Zimmer’s orchestrations run the gamut between playful and brutal, creating a lush musical background which drives both action sequences and quieter passages with beautiful strength. Yes, we find him using his preferred D-minor key, but he doesn’t stay static on it as usual, opting to move out of it to provide lift and life to the action on screen.

Displayed at the Ultra Panavision 70 aspect ratio of 2.76:1 (a large format most recently used by Quentin Tarantino for The Hateful Eight), this film’s wartime imagery both haunts and moves us emotionally, enveloping men, women, and robots in conflict and savagery. Cinematographers Greig Fraser and Oren Soffer (the latter taking over after Fraser took up duties on Dune: Part Two) find a perfect balance between intimacy and large-scale photography, staying close to Joshua and Alphie while allowing us space to appreciate the film’s epic grandeur. The resulting look is defined by a sharp contrast between the green and brown natural beauty of its Asian locations mixed with computer-generated sci-fi elements (assault vehicles, AI laboratories, etc.).

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, The Creator, 20th Century FoxLikewise, the camera’s human subjects are given similar care, with only the rear of the skull differentiating AI from organics. Because of this multilayered blend of nature and artifice, the film allows us to lean hard into believing that the robots are on equal footing as their human counterparts. The lines between them are blurred, with only prejudice making the difference. At the outset, Joshua’s loyalties are already hazy; while he relies on robotic prostheses, he treats these AI robots with the same disdain he gives the military for killing his wife and unborn child, cementing the dualism inside him that eventually comes to light.

As Joshua, John David Washington evinces a different, more fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of character than his usual rock-steady portrayals. He makes Joshua’s earned military courage battle with the fear of losing what’s in front of him, whether it’s the members of his squad or Alphie herself. It’s a hard feat, but Washington creates and portrays this internal struggle with power, intensely commanding the screen and those with him, notably newcomer Madeleine Yuna Voyles. She lights up the screen as his opposite in both stature and nature, transitioning Alphie from a silent, wide-eyed kid into a battle-hardened accomplice, believably using the courage Joshua imparts to her over the course of their time together.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, The Creator, 20th Century FoxThese two – both as actors and characters – nail us completely to The Creator. It’s not just their performances; their histories and rapport form the soul of this film, similar to how Gareth Edwards treated Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor in his previous film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Instead of adding depth to an established space opera, he and co-writer Chris Weitz (who’s come a long way from American Pie) employ science fiction to expose our own humanity and weaknesses, with all the alternating kindness and horror we espouse in the name of belief. There’s no meaningless action here, no filler; there’s a weight given to every trigger pulled, every explosion, and every death, whether robot or not.

It’s not excessive in any way, staying more in tune with the characters than worrying about creating action movie largeness. Even though the big booms and widescreen vistas are present, they all serve Edwards’ storytelling purposes; they aren’t just there to excite. There hasn’t been a film quite like The Creator, and there won’t be another like it for a long time. It asks us to run headlong with Joshua and Alphie into this war, and they have no problem extending their hands to us; thanks to Edwards and company, we have no problem accepting. This is sci-fi and cinema at their finest, commenting on our current state of affairs while going for maximum blowout impact.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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