Star Rating:

The Creator

Director: Gareth Edwards

Actors: Ralph Ineson, Allison Janney, Gemma Chan, John David Washington

Release Date: Thursday 28th September 2023

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama

Running time: 133 minutes

Following a devastating nuclear assault on Los Angeles by a rogue AI in the 2050s, the US has outlawed all robotics, AI, and human simulants within its borders and is now waging a decade-long war in the Republic of New Asia to destroy the robots and the AI they harbour and treat as equals. Joshua Taylor (John David Washington), a former undercover special forces agent who lost his wife (Gemma Chan) in a botched US raid in New Asia, is sent back years later with a squad led by a ruthless army officer (Allison Janney) to hunt down a supposed super-weapon in the form of a child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), created by a mysterious, illusive mastermind called Nirmata...

It's surprising to watch a movie like 'The Creator', that is so blatant about how the US is not a championing force for good in the world, with a sizeable budget, recognisable actors, and a real sense of scale and style. Right from the get-go, it's made clear that the American flag and the soldiers who march underneath it spread blood and terror without remorse or compassion. While other sci-fi blockbusters, namely 'Avatar', have been circumspect about this, Gareth Edwards' direction and the script he co-wrote with Chris Weitz shouts it out with its full chest. There's a handful of scenes early on in the movie that immediately call to mind the likes of Oliver Stone's 'Platoon', with a squad of American soldiers terrorising a village to look for the entrance to an underground base. Even Allison Janney's prosthetic scars recall Tom Berenger's permanent grimace as Sgt. Barnes.

Much of 'The Creator' follows John David Washington and Madeleine Yuna Voyles on the run from both Janney's murderous military machine behind enemy lines and the robots and simulants - that's robots with human faces that have been programmed to mimic emotions and speech - who are trying to stop them. For his part, Washington is more than capable of layering his performances with years of angst and anguish, while Janney's dead-eyed dedication makes her one of the most compelling villains of the year. Equally, Ralph Ineson's gravelly tones are perfect as the stone-faced general who doesn't think twice about bombing an entire city to stop one person.

As with 'Rogue One' and the lesser 'Godzilla', Gareth Edwards has a strong command of visuals. Edwards and the visual effects team conjure up incredible sci-fi vistas that have a real sense of tangibility to them, like the giant flying fortress painting a cross-hair on a sleepy countryside in the middle of the night. The production design is equally layered with all kinds of funky, tactile moments - from the cyberpunk-adjacent cars they drive around in, to the function-over-form design of the robots and simultants that populate New Asia. Likewise, the pacing of the movie is intense, blasting past weighty exposition and world-building and smartly favouring character development and plot momentum.

Even though it's a movie concerned with the rise of AI and robotics, 'The Creator' has much more in common with 'Blade Runner' than it does with anything in the current discourse surrounding AI. Indeed, there's a distinct reference to that movie in the opening credits that's impossible to ignore. Some could argue that it's not saying anything that hasn't been said before, be it in 'Blade Runner' or the revamped 'Battlestar Galactica', but it's still just as powerful and meaningful. 'The Creator' may have some composite parts to it, but it's a bold, refreshingly original movie in a genre and on a scale that is sadly dominated by existing franchises that cranks out product on an assembly line. Here, there's something unique that's made with care that demands your attention.