Monday, December 11, 2023

Movie Review: ‘The Creator’ Reveals a Doomed Future in Our Present

Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Gareth Edwards and Chris Weitz
Stars: John David Washington, Ken Watanabe, Gemma Chan

Synopsis: Against the backdrop of a war between humans and robots with artificial intelligence, a former soldier finds the secret weapon, a robot in the form of a young child.

Let’s get some housecleaning out of the way immediately. The Creator is not the original film that many outlets have claimed it to be. Let’s face it; it’s the classic cliche, most notably lifted from Dances with Wolves, where a member of the powerful military trades sides for the greater good. And that’s not to say Gareth Edwards’s visionary science fiction epic isn’t worthy of its praise. It’s bold and affecting, emotional, and even profoundly spiritual. Ultimately, it’s an action-packed movie with more on its mind than meets the eye. 

In the sometime-distant future, an uprising of artificial intelligence will form a rebellion against the world. Mainly, it’s against the United States after the AI soldiers set off a bomb, killing thousands and leaving a crater the size of SoFi Stadium teeming with a deadly amount of radiation. Of course, the government powers cannot look themselves in the mirror, taking responsibility for their hand in the civil war and choosing to blame China for its blatant disregard for AI and the overproduction of robots worldwide.

That’s where Joshua (John David Washington), an undercover special forces agent, comes into play. He’s been tasked with locating the mysterious architect known as The Creator, who, rumor has it, is developing a war to end humankind, leaving Earth to itself. After infiltrating one of the leaders of the uprising, Harun (Ken Watanabe), complicating matters is Joshua’s relationship with Maya (Gemma Chan), a human whom the AI race took in when she was a child (sound familiar?). Complicating things even further, Maya and Joshua are married and are expecting a child.

Yes, we’re pretty sure that’s against protocol. Still, this plot device gives the script its juice because Joshua’s cover is blown. The military begins peppering the rebel compound with a weapon called “Heaven,” which drops military-grade weapons from space, leaving Joshua with emotional scars that run deeper than his physical pain.

However, Joshua gets a second chance at happiness when military officers Andrews (Ralph Ineson) and Howell (a terrific Allison Janney) show a recording that holds special meaning to him and ask his help in infiltrating the facility, holding the weapon everyone is searching for.

Edwards wrote the script with his Rogue One scribe, Chris Weitz, an Academy Award nominee for About a Boy. Their focus is on a girl, an AI named Alphie, whom Joshua locates and who is the secret weapon. (The trailer reveals this within the first minute.) The plot is well-crafted, allowing the viewer to invest in the universal story of lost love, with Joshua going rogue with Alphie because he may have been the last person to see Maya alive. 

Janney’s Howell leads the chase and plays a ruthless badass (she has one of the film’s most poignant moments talking about her sons), making tough business decisions and continuously putting her soldiers in harm’s way. Her character is easily one of the best villains of the year. Ken Watanabe continues to bring his usual brand of gravitas to the role. His character is the moral counterpoint to Howell, but he has no qualms about doing what needs to be done. Both these performances further enrich the poignant nature of the film’s underlying subject matter.

While The Creator cannot truly be called original, the plot is essentially rebranded for issues today. However, the script’s basic structure is borrowed from past movies but now feels fresh and new because it taps into timeless themes that, unfortunately, have not changed. These themes revolve around the spawning of oppression leading to conflict and a lack of cultural understanding and tolerance. All of this is wrapped in an enthralling sci-fi saga elevated by the ideals of a mindful heart.

None of this would be possible without John David Washington’s enthralling portrayal of Joshua. It’s a performance that resonates deeply and can be felt, as Washington possesses his uber-famous father’s soulful gaze, enhancing the high-stakes relationship with Alphie. It’s a performance that may be underappreciated, but Washington has the charisma and ability to connect with the audience that few possess, which is often considered the nature of stardom.

The Creator is stunning, a beautiful piece of escapist cinema. It’s a visionary epic that relates more to our current world than any doomed future because we are already there.

Grade: A-

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