Movies & TV / Reviews

The Creator Review

September 29, 2023 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
THE CREATOR Image Credit: 20th Century Studios
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
The Creator Review  

Directed By: Gareth Edwards
Written By: Gareth Edwards and Chris Weitz
Runtime: 133 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence, some bloody images and strong language

John David Washington – Joshua Tyler
Madeleine Yuna Voyles – Alphie
Gemma Chan – Maya
Allison Janney – Colonel Howell
Ralph Ineson – General Andrews
Ken Watanabe – Harun
Sturgill Simpson – Drew
Marc Menchaca – McBride
Amar Chadha-Patel – Omni/Sek-on/Sergeant Bui

Earlier in April, The Creator was one of the more curious entries showcased by Disney and 20th Century Studios at CinemaCon 2023. The showcase finally featured a brand-new, big-budget sci-fi film, and it was not based on any pre-existing source material. The film is not a prequel, sequel, remake, reboot, reimagining, requel, or an adaptation of any existing property. It’s a completely brand-new original story, a dying breed in Hollywood these days. The film is flying completely under the radar in a post-summer season amid two labor strikes, and it hasn’t been achieving much fanfare. It’s a shame because The Creator turned out to be one of the year’s hidden gems, and the experience did not disappoint.

The Creator is set in an alternate, or perhaps imminent, future where artificial intelligence (AI) has burgeoned and grown beyond imagination. The development of AI has resulted in self-functioning cyborgs. Humans are also able to create cybernetic copies of themselves, dubbed “simulants” in the film. However, the burgeoning and technologically advanced future comes crashing down after a nuclear weapon, seemingly caused by an AI system, goes off in Los Angeles. This results in the United States government calling for an aggressive ban on all AI, igniting a war between the U.S. and New Asia. The collective government of New Asia embraced AI and accepted simulants and sentient androids as individuals, granting them sanctuary and freedoms that the opposing hemisphere restricts.

In the film’s prologue, special forces military soldier Joshua Tyler (Washington) is deployed to New Asia, tasked with locating the leader of New Asia’s android community and leading cybernetic developer known only as “Nirmata.” However, during his mission, Joshua falls in love with a robotics scientist, Maya (Chan), the suspected daughter of Nirmata. He’s gotten in so deep during his mission of embedding with New Asia’s lead AI forces that Joshua and Maya are wed and expecting their first child. Their happiness is shattered during a raid on their home, which crushes their hopes for a future together. Years later, Joshua lives in melancholy over his lost family, but he’s called into action, yet again, by the military.

The U.S. army is leading a final raid to locate a weapon called Alpha-O, which seemingly has the power to destroy N.O.M.A.D., a suborbital space station where the military launches precision airstrikes on its New Asia enemies and base installations. Joshua joins based on the slim hope that Maya may still be alive and the two might reunite. Instead, he finds that the Alpha-O weapon is a mysterious child, whom he dubs Alfie (Yuna Voyles). After the raid turns disastrous, Tyler and Alfie become unlikely companions. Alfie has the potential to not only liberate the peaceful robots of the world from their Western oppressors, but she might also be the source of Tyler’s desired redemption.

Edwards asserts himself well with his first cinematic feature since directing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The Creator is a well-made, powerful, and spiritual sci-fi adventure. Edwards brings a quiet, introspective style to his execution, which is appropriate for the film’s setting. The chapter breaks in the story imbue the film with a literary style that’s both refreshing and interesting. Edwards’ script, which he co-wrote with Chris Weitz, plays in a way that’s robust, yet satisfying, and not overly long.

Edwards succeeds with The Creator in creating a fictional future world with an excellent level of verisimilitude. The Creator has the best-looking visual effects of any major release of 2023. What works so well about the film’s utilization of CGI and visual effects is that it enhances the story rather than becomes the story. The simulants and autonomous androids have very unique designs. The visuals and special effects makeup that bring the cybernetic characters to life are all seamlessly integrated in a way that seems to have become a dying art for cinema, which makes the experience of watching The Creator more rewarding.

While John David Washington has not quite yet had that one star-making breakout role, he does well here as the depressed Joshua, who suffers from the guilt of his loss. He unwittingly becomes the guardian of Alfie, whose performance by the young Madeleine Yuna Voyles, manages to imbue a realistic sense of childlike curiosity to a being who is both part-human and part-robot. Throughout the film, their unlikely friendship becomes rather touching and profound. Obviously, this type of adult guardian protecting a young child from opposing forces is nothing new, and that is likely the most derivative aspect of The Creator. However, the relationship is well-executed and believable.

After Joshua becomes the guardian and protector of Alfie, he’s chased throughout the film by Colonel Howell (Janney). Janney is Joshua’s superior officer, and even after the raid goes FUBAR, she’s relentless in her mission to capture Alfie to win the war. Janney brings her unique charisma, playing against her usual type as the tough-as-nails military commander, and she serves as a strong foil to the opposing pro-AI forces.

Some aspects of the story are underdeveloped. There is a type of tech that can seemingly clone human memories from the individuals who are dead. The payoff to the setup is a bit underwhelming. Alfie’s origin could have used a bit more explanation. The story takes quite a few leaps in logic based on what’s established regarding Tyler and his undercover mission of getting close to Maya.

Nonetheless, The Creator is an entertaining, impressive experience. The film presents an immersive, believable sci-fi future with an emotional core. It’s definitely worth a look.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Gareth Edwards' The Creator is a moving, awe-inspiring sci-fi adventure. It achieves exceptional verisimilitude with its production design and visuals while never losing its emotional core. It's a refreshingly original sci-fi flick that is worth a look.