The Creator review: A visually stunning, yet deeply shallow, AI epic

Equal parts Terminator, The Golden Child and The Matrix prequel, The Creator is yet another sci-fi epic about a war between humans and AI, one told by someone who just can’t shut up about their time backpacking across Asia. Director Gareth Edwards clearly understands the power of scale and spectacle, something he demonstrated with his indie knockout Monsters, as well as his big-budget efforts, Godzilla and Rogue One. But The Creator, like those films, also suffers from a disjointed narrative, weak characters and a surprisingly shallow exploration of its (potentially interesting!) themes. It’s a shame — at times, the film also proves he can be a genuine visual poet. 

The Creator stars John David Washington, fresh off of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, as Joshua, an American soldier embedded among a group of AI rebels as a double-agent. When an operation goes wrong early on, he loses his rebel wife Maya (Gemma Chan) and the will to keep fighting the war between the anti-AI West and the AI-loving country of New Asia. (Yes, this is a film where the many people, cultures and languages throughout Asia are flattened into a single nation.)

Photo by 20th Century Studios

Through a series of clunky newsreels that open the film, we see the rise of artificial intelligence as a potential boon for mankind, as well as the creation of Simulants, AI-powered beings with human-like bodies and skin. When a nuclear bomb hits Los Angeles, obliterating millions in seconds, the US and other Western countries blame AI and ban its use. And so begins the war with New Asia, where people live alongside AI and support their rebellion against the West. Naturally, the US ends up building a killer, trillion-dollar weapon: Nomad, an enormous spaceship that can obliterate any location on Earth.

In a last-ditch effort to win the war, Joshua is tasked with finding a powerful new AI weapon and destroying it. Surprise! It’s an adorable AI child (portrayed by the achingly sweet Madeleine Yuna Voyles). Joshua doesn’t have the heart to kill the kid, who he calls Alfie (based on her original designation, “Alpha Omega”). The pair then set off on a Lone Wolf and Cub journey together, as often happens when a grizzled warrior is paired with an innocent child.

If you’re getting shades of Star Wars here — an evil Empire creates a massive space-based weapon to put down rebels — you’re not alone. While The Creator is technically an original property, it lifts so much from existing fiction that it still ends up feeling like a visually lush facsimile. It’s as if ChatGPT remixed your sci-fi faves and delivered the world’s best screensaver.

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