The Creator is one of the most original and thought-provoking pieces of science fiction as it relates to artificial intelligence and the reality of human nature. Rather than just creating something that’s stands as a visual spectacle, director and writer Gareth Edwards embeds you in this near-present society and crafts a future that feels lived-in and incredibly believable. Everyone is always worried about the advancement of AI and the robots we program to take over our tasks, but we often forget that it’s fallible humans that program the AI that could turn against us. We are responsible for what we create, and The Creator is a fantastic exploration of the consequences we face as a country and species because of our triumphs and failures.
Throughout human history we’ve relied on tools to help advance our society and in this world, robots have lived side by side with humans, taking over roles and responsibilities in the workplace and at home. After a nuclear warhead is detonated in Los Angeles at the hands of AI, the United States works to create a weapon to destroy the remaining AI strongholds across the world in an effort to save humanity. Joshua (John David Washington) is close to the cause and is tasked to go undercover to find and eliminate the AI’s secret weapon that threatens all they’ve worked for.
Gareth Edwards has three massively impressive films under his belt after The Creator, embedding thrilling moments of fresh sci-fi from his time working on Godzilla and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. His approach to the genre starts and ends with the characters and doesn’t get too caught up with trying to dazzle you with spectacle. That’s not to say that The Creator isn’t one of the best looking and sounding film in years (it is), but it works even better the more time we spend understanding this world where so many people treat the Simulants (Robots bestowed with our human likeness in face and personality) as if they’re as real as any other human. This divided world that fears that which they don’t understand makes for an incredibly intriguing premise, spending lots of time focused on how the world perceives the US Military actions.
John David Washington continues to surprise me as an actor, finding moments of his father Denzel in the more serious moments, but carving out his own legacy with his humor and charisma. His character Joshua is the perfect balance of someone who has been adversely affected by the AI, but also has close ties to simulants whom he knows aren’t actually real people. As we saw with AI centric films like Ex Machina, if we program a robot to think and feel like a person, are they wrong to believe that they feel alive like us? When we put memories and personality into them, aren’t they closer to humans than they are to robots? These questions push the narrative forward while giving the audience lots to ponder as they naturally begin to take sides.
The Creator was everything I was hoping for and so much more in terms of its approach to telling a complex story involving AI. With high tech machinery and weaponry reminiscent of the US Military tech from Avatar and an approach to robots and labor like Neil Blomkamp took with Chappie and Elysium, this film feels like it inhabits a shared world with all the best works in its genre. It takes its time fleshing out backstory and letting the audience see firsthand how many roles these robots can occupy in our world and just how human-like most of them really are. This is a thinking-mans movie that asks incredible questions and holds a mirror up to us, reflecting the idea that we control how AI will behave for better or for worse.
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