This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the films being covered here wouldn't exist.
by Philip Price
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: John David Washington, Madeleine Yuna Voyles & Gemma Chan
Rated: PG-13 (violence & language)
Runtime: 2 hours & 13 minutes
“The Creator” is visually absorbing if not thematically so. Though the ideas it's playing with and tropes it's utilizing may not be as shallow as they initially appear they tend to feel cursory due to the fact writer/director Gareth Edwards (“Rogue One”) never finds the right groove for his film to slide into. “The Creator” is ultimately a movie of fits and starts in which each new promise of something exciting and/or interesting never fully delivers on as much.
It's an odd feeling, really, given mere minutes into the film I was bowled over by the authenticity imbued on an image of a massive spacecraft hovering over a more natural (and clearly real) location. I'm a sucker for when films can integrate futuristic or not yet realized elements into a more common and recognizable environment and Edwards has a great eye for such combinations that really allow both components to pop, but while I was immediately in on the aesthetic I kept wondering when I was going to be made to care or even be wowed by anything other than the framing.
Aside from a few in-world inventions, performance moments (largely from Madeleine Yuna Voyles in a really wonderful and really complicated role for a child to play), along with some questionable story turns there wasn't anything that made me sit up in a way that I was inclined to lean forward. Rather, I kind of shifted my weight to the other armrest to consider why the film didn't seem interested in leaning into its ideas either. The mission is fairly straightforward, but the intentions are not … always. Weirdly, and despite admitting it was beings operating on artificial intelligence who nuked Los Angeles, “The Creator” is determined to convince us the only thing left of our souls are the fingerprints we left on the programming within the robots we're now at war with.
Joshua's (John David Washington) entire arc is that of going from the former soldier who harbors hate for robots coming around on them because of an emotional connection meant to be a revelatory moment in the third act yet we know that he knows this child is not real, that it is just programming, and that despite what feelings may have developed, underneath we are not all the same. Many a parallel could be drawn around the analogous nature of the story and I certainly understand the validity of what feels real sometimes holding more merit and importance than what may be factual, but strictly in terms of the debate around A.I. - this feels like an odd time to make this argument.
Whether future viewings occur or not, I'd like to believe there is more going on underneath the surface than my initial screening would indicate as I haven't yet worked out the potential meaning for having Joshua and Alphie's desires be so aligned and greater than that of the semantics taking place around them that they're unwillingly caught up in. I do know that the concept of transferring someone's last moments of consciousness to a robot via flash drive so that others may share in them or gain information from them was pretty sick, that Ralph Ineson's voice is just insane, and that I didn't really clock Hans Zimmer's score at all despite this being right square in the middle of his wheelhouse which was ... disappointing ... to say the least; much like the experience overall.