By Ben Konuch
“We are this close to winning the war. Execute her, or we go extinct.”
When I first watched Gareth Edwards’ “Rogue One” in a cinema in the Philippines in 2016, what blew me away the most was how Edwards told a story with heart and excitement that was magnified by a scale and cinematography that I hadn’t seen in a sci-fi film in quite some time. I remember walking out of that cinema wishing to have that same kind of experience again someday. That’s exactly what Edwards delivered with his new film “The Creator.”
“The Creator” is written and directed by Gareth Edwards and stars John David Washington as Joshua, a grizzled soldier in the near future. An original sci-fi film with no ties to any pre-existing franchise, the film takes place in a future where AI has developed sentience and humanity has declared war on them due to an unspeakable disaster. After Joshua has lost everything in the fight against them, he is recruited for one last strike deep into the heart of enemy territory where the AI have developed a weapon that can bring about the extinction of humanity. When Joshua discovers that this weapon is the first ever child AI, what he believes about the machines and the war against them will change everything.
I won’t beat around the bush, the story of “The Creator” is not its strongest element. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable film and the story is perfectly fine, although a deep analysis of its themes or story beats will reveal that it’s not the most creative. “The Creator” borrows generously from other stories of its kind, but brings these potentially familiar story beats in a different and unexpected way. If you’ve seen “Logan” or “The Last of Us” you might be familiar with the trope of a grizzled fighter slowly being softened by love for a daughter figure, but “The Creator” delivers this trope layered within nuance and new spins to give something that feels fresh while perhaps never fully its own.
What Gareth does deliver best with “The Creator” is similar to what made “Rogue One” so special – its scale. The film isn’t entirely action, yet every action scene is tense, hard-hitting and sometimes unflinchingly brutal. The film is PG-13, yet it stretches that rating to the breaking point, not in the graphicness of what is shown but simply the bleakness of this world and the war in it.
These scenes of action are magnified by a directing style and visual effects that make the world seem remarkably vast. Most of the film takes place in a futuristic yet distinctly old vision of Asia, where new technology meets old tradition to craft a world like I’ve never seen before in a science fiction film. The art direction and design for new machines, weaponry and the synthetic AI themselves are all top-notch here, and marks “The Creator” as a standout in the all too small subgenre of gritty, grounded science fiction. There’s no other way to say it, but the film is absolutely beautiful to look at, and the beauty of its landscapes and small elements alike conflict with the darkness of its tone and its violence in a very effective way.
The performances of the main cast members keep the film from being just empty beauty. While the story may not be revolutionarily deep, John David Washington brings weight and emotional complexity to a lead character who could have all too easily become bland. There are also not enough words to praise the performance of the young actress Madeleine Yuna Voyles who portrays the young AI child. She showed such a genuine eagerness and earnestness on screen for such a young actress that it’s almost impossible to not feel attached to her. Supporting roles from Gemma Chan, Ken Watanabe and a surprising guest appearance from country artist Sturgill Simpson also fill this world with color and complexity.
Without spoiling much of the film, it also deserves to be noted that “The Creator” has some fascinating philosophical and theological discussion points. It does allude to Christianity and Buddhism in many ways, using loosely many Christian motifs in ways that can start some very fascinating discussions on personhood, sacrifice and salvation.
In short, “The Creator” is an exciting, beautiful, emotionally charged action-drama that serves as an entertaining spectacle even if it doesn’t really bring anything new to the science fiction table. Yet, Gareth Edwards has proven that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make it roll. If anything, “The Creator” is worth a watch simply for its spectacle and performances alone – and it doesn’t hurt that it’s also a blast to watch.
I give “The Creator” an 8/10
“The Creator” is now showing in theaters
Ben Konuch is a junior Strategic Communication student and an A&E writer for Cedars. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games and swing dancing in the rain.
Images courtesy of 20th Century Studios