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Review: The Creator

After tackling Godzilla and Star Wars, Gareth Edwards delivers an original sci-fi movie with The Creator, which is full of stunning visuals and action sequences but feels a bit derivative as far as the plot and characters.

John David Washington stars as Joshua Taylor, a special forces soldier who begins the movie undercover trying to locate the creator of Earth’s AI inhabitants, Nirmata, and married to Maya (Gemma Chan), who is believed to be Nirmata’s daughter.  The US is at war with AI after an AI detonated a nuclear weapon above Los Angeles, killing millions.  The US and its Western allies ban AI but the territories of New Asia continue to allow and live side by side with AI creations.  After his cover is blown and Maya is believed to be killed in a raid by the US military, Joshua returns to Los Angeles for five years but is recruited back into action when word of an AI super weapon is discovered, which can destroy the US space station NOMAD, which would change the tide of the war in favor of the AI and their allies.  Joshua joins the mission when evidence that Maya is alive in the location of the super weapon and finds the weapon is Alpha Omega aka Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), an AI “simulant” designed to look like a human child and capable of controlling electronics.  Joshua goes against orders and escapes with Alphie, believing she can lead him to Maya.  The story of The Creator pulls from a number of influences and it doesn’t really do anything that hasn’t been seen before.  There were points where I was able to guess fairly early on what the plot beats or twists might be and more often than not, I was right.  Chances are you won’t be surprised by anything that happens plot-wise in The Creator.  On the flip side, the world-building is incredible, from an opening sequence that feels like The Animatrix’s The Second Renaissance segments to the design and look of the world and the technology, which is futuristic but also somewhat archaic at the same time.  There doesn’t seem to be technology like cell phones or the internet as the movie is set in an alternate history that begins in the 1950s or 60s but there’s tech like handheld translation devices, black and white surveillance screens that are touchscreens, and a scanner that can copy a mind of a deceased person and copy it onto a chip that can be uploaded into a simulant and have that person be “resurrected”.  The movie’s budget was relatively low compared to other blockbusters, like The Flash or Fast X, but it looks 100x better than anything in those movies.  The Creator feels really similar to the work of Neill Blomkamp, like District 9, which also features incredible special effects and world-building but maybe not the most original plot.

The acting overall is very solid in The Creator with John David Washington anchoring things in the lead.  He’s mostly asked to be fairly dour and serious but there are a few moments where he gets to use the charm he inherited from his dad Denzel and he does a great job in the action sequences as well but his character is a pretty stock “soldier must protect a child” archetype that we’ve seen a ton of recently.  Madeleine Yuna Voyles is a revelation in her first role ever, fully realizing Alphie’s sweet naivete early on and then nailing some of the more dramatic emotional beats later on.  You want her to be protected and safe from the moment you meet her.  Ken Watanabe brings his usual incredible gravitas to the supporting role of Harun, one of the top AI Simulant leaders and Gemma Chan is great as well, although the plot requires her to not have a lot of screen time outside of the opening sequence.  Allison Janney is a surprisingly great villain in the vein of Stephen Lang’s Quaritch from Avatar and is ruthless in her hunt for Alphie and Joshua and in her hatred of AI.

The Creator is visually stunning and definitely worth checking out, even if the plot is not the most original or unique.  The performances are pretty much great across the board, especially the debut of Madeleine Yuna Voyles, and there is some spectacular action and world-building to experience.

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