Gareth Edwards’ The Creator is dropping into theaters this weekend. Admittedly, a worrisome late September slot for a large-scale science-fiction epic with a matinee budget of only $80M. That feels and looks perfect for a midsummer release. So, what does it deliver?
Set in the future as war rages between humans and artificial intelligence, a former special forces agent grieving from the disappearance of his wife, is tasked with killing the Creator, an elusive AI architect who has developed a weapon that could end the war, and the human race.
When talking positives in The Creator the first stop would have to be the visual effects. For the smaller budget, this film looks beautiful, and it allows the story to nicely establish itself with massive and stunning world building. The first act does an effective job of laying the foundations of the war between humans and artificial intelligence while also showing how integrated humans and robots have become in everyday life. It’s all appealing and with solid direction from Edwards, there are more than a few amazing sequences that look fantastic, and many smaller moments that complete the aesthetic nicely.
From the concept designs of the various AI to the production design overall, this film looks awesome. And with its plot exploring the notions of finding humanity through compassion in AI, and humans evolving relationships with robots. The potential for riveting dramatic beats with a sleek sci-fi backdrop was right here for the taking. The story for long stretches does have a compelling progression and the scoring effectively heightens the intensity at the right times. But this is where the shortcomings in The Creator begin to show, and rather quickly, begin to undercut its positives.
While this film provides the visual gusto needed for a sci-fi epic. The emotional core this script desperately needs to land its dramatic impact falls short. This begins with the performance of John David Washington who to be honest was not the movie star this film needed to carry it. Washington’s performance felt stiff and lacked dramatic intensity. There are a few emotional spots Washington is required to sell to develop his character, and seed the emotional undercurrent of the main plot that he just doesn’t land.
It’s a relatively one-note performance that isn’t able to carry the film, but also falls short of being able to lure the viewer into investing in his journey. He’s also routinely emotionally outshined by his younger co-star Madeleine Yuna Voyles during pivotal moments who was much more emotionally authentic. When this movie is going through the motions it’s a serviceable Rogue One inspired adventure. Yet with the focal characters feeling flat, the bold visuals are only moderately able to compensate for a story you can predict with dramatic layers you have to convince yourself to buy into.
Then the final act kicks in and this is where plot conveniences show themselves and continuity is sacrificed for the sake of landing the emotional knockout punch that ultimately misses. Playing more like melodrama as a result of the story not exploring the growth of, or truly capturing the connection between human and AI in a sincere way. Instead, it feels a bit processed and formulaic. With a few glaring editing issues tossed in as characters magically appear at one place in a scene, only to instantly appear next to another character in the following scene in order for the closing to end all neat-and-tidy.
These are storytelling issues that could be noticeable to some. Especially for those who are fans of elevated science-fiction. The Creator isn’t Elysium or Ex Machina as much as it is a visually appealing adventure just a few action sequences shy of being a popcorn flick with a superficial emotional core and borrowed elements. It can be an enjoyable time and it certainly isn’t a bad movie. It does more things well than not. Unfortunately, though, its shortcomings are important ones.
This film needed a lead performance that was emotionally raw, and unfiltered at times, and Washington with his repetitive gaze sadly doesn’t bring it. I feel another actor with more emotional range added with a tighter script and more substance in this focal friendship would have made this film much better. Still a bit too much Rogue One, but a great time. But that wasn’t the case so The Creator results in a serviceable one-time watch, it’s appealing to look at, but not the film that will deliver the layers of intrigue you might be looking for.
CAST: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Madeleine Yuna Woyles, Allison Janney, Ken Wantanabe, Ama Chadha-Petel, Ralph Ineson, Veronica Ngo, Marc Menchaca, Sturgill Simpson DIRECTOR: Gareth Edwards WRITER(S): Gareth Edwards, Chris Weitz DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Studios RUNNING TIME: 133 minutes RATING: PG-13 (for violence, bloody images and strong violence) YEAR: 2023 LANGUAGE: English GENRE: Action/Adventure/Sci-fi/Drama
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2023 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.