Review by Dan Skip Allen
Hollywood has their own personal issues with AI regarding using actors' likenesses in films and television projects without their permission. AI has also been blamed for creating opening credits, taking jobs away from visual effects artists, and writing scripts, which in turn take jobs away from writers. This transpired all before The Creator came out, which will inevitably pour more fuel on the fire of the AI vs. humans debate.
After a devastating nuclear attack on Los Angeles, the United States declared war on all AI entities. Some countries in Asia have banned together to protect AI organisms and even share their likeness so these AI individuals can walk around with human faces. One human Joshua (John David Washington) has infiltrated these AIs and even developed a relationship with their human leader known as Maya (Gemma Chan). When the U.S. government and their special weapon Nomad catch up to them, things go bad and the operation is over. Five years later, he is tasked with finding a secret weapon of the AI, but it's not what he expected. It's a child he dubs Alfie (Madeline Yuna Voyles).
Gareth Edwards, who some may know as the director of Godzilla (2014) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is the brains behind this film with his co-writer Chris Weitz. Together, they have set this story in the near future and have used hot-button topics as plot points. An added part of the story is the setting and how it relates to history. There was a Vietnam War angle to the story, and a layer of overcoming great odds to achieve a goal. Combining these two ideas made for a fascinating story from beginning to end.
One more element of this film that had me overjoyed was the Lone Wolf and Cub aspect. As some might know, Lone Wolf and Cub is a Japanese story of a samurai who is saddled with taking care of this child, and eventually they become attached to him and love each other. That's a major theme of The Creator. Without getting into too much detail, Washington’s character had a child coming with Chan's character, and by a confluence of events, he lost the child. By looking after this child, he feels he can make up for lost time. This was the best part of the film for me, and I'm sure others will like it as well.
I'm not much of a music guy when it comes to film, but when I hear a score or song I like, I sing it to the rooftops. This movie has an exceptional score by Hans Zimmer — one of the best to ever do it. There were some roaring moments and a lot of subtle moments. The slower moments were the ones I gravitated towards the most, during scenes involving Washington‘s character and the little girl. It's a nice mix of bigger roaring sounds and quiet ones, which is similar to the film and goes hand in hand with the story Edwards is trying to tell.
Greig Fraser won an Academy Award for his work in Dune a couple of years ago, and his work on The Batman was impeccable. He has a knack for creating a visual aesthetic in all his films that looks beautiful. With the mix of natural habitats and computer-generated buildings, space stations, and so forth, he helps create a world like no other I've seen. The Earth looked incredible, coming from the creative minds of Edwards, Weitz, and Fraser. They just knew how to bring this story to life visually. This is an amazing-looking film.
This movie will stir up a lot of conversation regarding the title, the whole idea of AI vs. human existence, and how we as humans cause many of the problems we try to prevent, like war and such things. For instance, we brought on the wars we have gotten involved with by trying to be the world's police or persecuted specific races, and when they fought back, we annihilated them. We create a lot of things that we get involved with. The same goes for this film. We as humans created AI, and when it developed sentience, we got upset. Yet we still use computers to destroy the other AI entities. It's a slippery slope we find ourselves in the film, and in the real world.
There is a big cast in this movie, but one member of the ensemble who was a bit annoying was Allison Janney. We all know she can be a bit of a nasty character in some roles, like in I, Tonya. She has a motivation against AI in this movie because of something that happened to her sons in the past. She was a bit of a one-note character. She had this idea and wouldn't let it go even when her life was threatened. I felt Janney was directed to be this nasty one-note character, but in the context of the movie, she felt overzealous. I wasn't supposed to like her, but I really didn't like the performance either.
The Creator was a film I was looking forward to quite a lot. There is an underlying plot thread I was pleased with in the de facto parent aspect of the film. I feel this was the strongest part of the movie, aside from the visual effects and the score. Many television shows like The Last of Us and The Mandalorian have taken this path with storytelling, and it has paid off big time. Edwards and Weitz have also capitalized on a hot-button topic that has taken over Hollywood of AI. This part of the film was also strong for me. The movie has a few characters I wasn't a fan of, but David Washington and young Madeleine Yuna Voyles were captivating. The Creator as a whole is one of the best sci-fi films in a long time, maybe since Edwards’s own Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The Creator hits theaters on September 29.