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Stale script keeps visually impressive ‘The Creator’ from being memorable

By Arman Saxena     10/17/23 11:57pm

Review: ★★½.

Gareth Edwards is a competent filmmaker. With popular blockbusters like “Rogue One” and “Godzilla” under his belt, Edwards has made the sci-fi action blockbuster his niche. Unlike previous films, though, Edwards had a major role in writing the screenplay for his new movie, “The Creator.” Along with Oscar nominee Chris Weitz, who previously worked with Edwards as a screenwriter on “Rogue One,” Edwards tells a story that attempts to tackle seemingly everything about humanity’s complex relationship with AI, yet accomplishes none of it adeptly.

Edwards and his team owe a lot to previous films about the human-AI relationship — specifically, Ridley Scott’s trailblazing cyberpunk masterpiece “Blade Runner.” In the first minutes of “The Creator,” the film already references the idea of AI being “more human than human,” which was the slogan of “Blade Runner”’s Tyrell Corporation, the company responsible for creating biological androids. References to “Blade Runner” do not stop there. The nocturnal, urban atmospheres that populate sections of “The Creator” are incredibly reminiscent of dystopian scenes from the 1982 cyberpunk film. 

While most modern films draw from past work, the team behind “The Creator” doesn’t seem to understand what made the ideas of its predecessors so compelling. The plot feels rushed, despite a hefty runtime of two hours and 13 minutes. While there are some exceptions, there’s hardly any time devoted to character or relationship development.

The central relationship between Joshua (John David Washington) and the cute android kid Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) is the film’s heart and probably its most compelling component. Even that is often tarnished by cliché, on-the-nose dialogue and contrived plot lines. And again, there’s nothing about this child character that something like Steven Spielberg’s “AI: Artificial Intelligence” hasn’t covered more compellingly. 

While every new film can’t be something novel and wholly original, it’s unfortunate that a film released in the midst of the SAG and WGA strikes fighting the use of AI in art and media is just parroting ideas we saw decades ago. The world’s current struggle with AI deserves media that can represent the complexity of this pertinent issue, and this film is not that. 

There are also clear attempts at allegory throughout “The Creator,” with much of the film being the United States attacking Southeast Asia as an obvious example. Though commendable, the film’s inaccurate allusion of American atrocities to global AI politics doesn’t do this conversation much good. While I appreciate the attempts at broader thematics throughout the film, its ambition is almost always undermined by lazy writing, overreliance on tropes and a possible misunderstanding of the topics at the heart of the film.

All this being said, it’s an engaging film. Edwards knows how to direct action, and with great cinematographers and stunt performers in tow, the action feels dramatic, kinetic and thrilling. It’s incredible that this film was made without a green screen; it was filmed on location with CGI elements added in post-production. That decision pays off for the film, as it has a gritty, on-the-ground feel that makes the action scenes thrilling and moments of humanity emotional. 

While “The Creator” is interesting to look at and unwaveringly engaging, it brings nothing new to the table in terms of plot, character or ideas. Watch it if you want to have a long conversation on the state of AI on the drive back home, but I can guarantee that talking to friends or peers will provide more insight on AI rights, the nature of humanity and how to address AI today than this film possibly could. 

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