The Creator (Rated PG-13)
By: Adam Freed
With his devastating and visually arresting science fiction epic The Creator, British science fiction impresario Gareth Edwards (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) lays bare the potential result of mankind’s insistence on damning itself with the false digital god that is AI. Despite compelling blood stained prior warnings from sci-fi royalty James Cameron (The Terminator) and Alex Garland (Ex Machina) there remain those convinced that salvation awaits in the form of the artificial mind. Edwards’ courage is on full display as he deliberately chooses to explore the path less traveled and poses questions rarely pondered in his futuristic rendering of the battle between mankind and its worst creation.
Despite being credited as both director and co-writer of the film, Edwards’ greatest contribution is his addition of Academy Award winning cinematographer Greig Fraser (Dune, The Batman) who captures the goliath scale of the futuristic landscape gloriously. What sets this postcard perfect natural world apart from genre competitors is that it lives and breathes closely enough to a world audiences will recognize. This level of visual creation will prompt both a curious recognition at the not so distant future, as well as a natural protective instinct to protect what was once recognizable. It is due to the extraordinary visual appeal of this film that casual moviegoers will be able to survive a first act that takes its time in finding its footing. For those not overly burdened by how deeply science fiction the film presents, their patience will pay off exponentially with a third act harrowing enough to warrant repeat viewings.
Thematically all preconceived notions need be set aside as Edwards shows no fear of tackling the religious connotations of a future riddled with, as the title would suggest, a newfound form of creationist lore. One of the steepest historic hills to climb for sci-fi films has been to earn emotional resonance from viewers. The Creator’s success or failure in this endeavor may prove to be the division between the film’s heralds and detractors. Gareth Edwards courageously stages a robotic Sophie’s Choice for which he should be celebrated, as most of his contemporaries follow story arcs far more predictable and far less appealing.
What shouldn’t be lost in the ongoing battle between man and machine are the meaningful relationships that have formed in the forty years since lifelike AI became part of human society. Numerous noteworthy performances lift The Creator, possibly none more emotionally provocative than from newcomer Madeline Yuna Voyles, who as Alphie, a childlike rendition of AI's perfection, becomes the film’s emotional lynchpin and plot catalyst. Ken Watanabe (Inception) also commands calloused moviegoers to invest in his humanoid Harun. The Creator’s central character Joshua, on the nose biblical reference aside, is played by John David Washington (Tenet, Blakkklansman) who continues to gain momentum as a leading man, and delivers another almost there performance. In fairness to Washington, The Creator is not intended to be a vehicle in which a lead character chews through complex monologues. Rather, Washington provides a worthy physical prowess that the film desperately needs. There is a high likelihood that The Creator will become a genre cult classic as it dares to ask meaningful questions about the future of mankind and the pivotal role it will play in determining its own demise or salvation.
Target Score: 7/10. In many ways The Creator is a genre best in class. At the forefront is the almost certain Oscar nomination for cinematography. Viewers passionate about deep science fiction films may have found their favorite of 2023. More casual viewers will have to overcome feeling forced uphill by a grinding early pace and a reliance on a type of emotional connection that some may be unwilling to make.