Gareth Edward’s The Creator is an ambitious, timely Sci-Fi epic that packs a punch; a visually stunning triumph that captivates the audience throughout.
Gareth Edwards’ career has shown plenty of signs of promise, from his small-scale debut Monsters in 2010, on which he was also Director of Photography, transitioning to Blockbusters with 2014’s Godzilla and, most memorably, Rogue One in the Star Wars universe. With the latter two films, Edwards showed he could operate on a huge canvas within two behemoth franchises, still crafting something that stands as a fine work in its own right. Edwards returns with his latest film The Creator, his first new feature in seven years.
The Creator focuses on a near-future conflict between humans and a sophisticated Artificial Intelligence community, predominantly situated in ‘New Asia’. In this future, the AI has dropped a nuclear bomb on LA, inflicting massive destruction and causing mankind to seek to destroy any trace of AI, using its NOMAD ship to destroy the remaining AI bases.
Enter John David Washington’s Joshua, a former military man who was assigned the task of infiltrating the AI community and providing intel on the titular Creator. His wife Maya (Gemma Chan) sympathises with the AI community, adding an extra layer to their relationship. Washington is superb, given a role here that suits his physicality and talents as a comedic actor and a leading man, something tapped into previously in BlackKlansman and Tenet. It is frustrating how small Chan’s role is, although it is integral to the narrative.
The breakout star is undoubtedly Madeleine Yuna Voyles as Alfie, an artificial child with unprecedented abilities that both sides hope will bring an end to the conflict. She shares remarkable chemistry with Washington that drives the film and gives it plenty of heart. For such a young performer, she does some phenomenal work, opposite some heavyweights. The film soars whenever the two share the screen.
Edwards has highlighted several films as influences, some more surprising, like Rain Man and Paper Moon, but in the development of the pair’s relationship and journey this shines through, adding touches of comedy to what might prove heavy subject matter. Alfie’s growth and understanding of the world around her is a treat to watch unfold, recalling the T-800 and John Connor’s bond in Terminator 2.
The real star of the show, as with Rogue One, is The Creator’s visuals and world-building, resulting in something that feels totally unique. Set in the 2060s, this is a wholly distinct take on a future LA and Asia, differing from what we’ve seen in other Sci-Fi while showing glimpses at what influenced Edwards. It is a treat to spend two hours in this world, from a master craftsman. As with Edwards’ previous films, the set pieces are grand in scale and grip the audience’s attention; if not as drawn out as the final sequence in Rogue One, there are plenty of standout sequences.
With Oscar winner Greg Fraser, who previously worked with Edwards on Rogue One and produced some outstanding work with Dune, there was of course no doubt that this would be a visually arresting film. In truth, Fraser has crafted one of the most jaw-dropping visual feats of the year, for a budget of $85 million compared to the hundreds of millions spent on Marvel projects: this is proof that budget is no guarantee of excellence. Hans Zimmer’s score complements the visuals, as it did with Dune, heightening the suspense and adding to the futuristic atmosphere.
AI is of course not new ground for Sci-Fi cinema, having influenced The Terminator and Blade Runner films, and Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning this year. But Edwards approaches it in a way that helps it stand apart from previous works, with moral questions that ask if humanity is right to eradicate AI, which gives it an interesting philosophical angle.
The choice of an Asian setting lends comparisons to Vietnam War films, with Edwards citing Apocalypse Now as an influence: this adds an extra weight, perhaps. However, having the majority of the AIs featured as Asian may prove problematic for some and is something worth noting.
The Creator is a visually stunning blockbuster that marks a welcome return for Gareth Edwards, again showing his prowess on the biggest of stages and away from franchises, illustrating his originality as a filmmaker and clear love of Sci-Fi. This is certainly one of the best-looking blockbusters in some time that continues to astound throughout. The set-pieces are jaw-dropping, but it’s the intimacy of a story so grand in scale that impresses most. Keeping Joshua and Alfie’s relationship at its core takes it to the next level and makes sure it has a sense of warmth and heart to it. Let’s hope we don’t have a lengthy gap for Edwards’ next film, as this finds him firing on all cylinders.
The Creator will be released globally in theaters on September 29, 2023.