“The Creator” – 3 Stars out of 4
It seems rare nowadays for a science fiction film to come along that isn’t part of an existing
franchise. Even “Blade Runner” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” had sequels, and many sci-fi films
are adaptations of well-known books or comics.
Near as I can tell, Gareth Edwards’ “The Creator” is an original, standalone project. The
director’s follow-up to 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” comes back to Earth with the
story of a future war between humanity and 2023’s hottest boogeyman: artificial intelligence.
To be precise, the war in “Creator” is between the United States and a force of AI humanoids
dug into what is called “New Asia.” The idea is that 50 years from now, advanced AI robots are
blamed for the detonation of a nuclear weapon in Los Angeles, and only our Asian neighbors
across the Pacific Ocean offer them quarter.
The protagonist is Joshua (John David Washington), an undercover US agent flushed out at the
beginning of the movie as he’s on the hunt for the Creator, supposedly the key to winning the
war. He’s gone so far undercover that he’s married and impregnated his New Asian contact
Maya (Gemma Chan), and when a mission goes south, she and her unborn baby are apparently
The bulk of the movie follows the revelation that Maya may still be alive, and years after the
encounter, Joshua is called up by a US military leader named Howell (Allison Janney) to finish
his mission. Will he find Maya? Will he find The Creator? Will his loyalties come into question?
Will his unborn child hold any relevance to the story, especially once Joshua comes into contact
with an AI super-weapon (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) that strangely appears to be the same size
and age as his child would have been?
Obviously, the predictable story is the weak link in “Creator,” and it doesn’t help that the film
uses broad and obvious strokes to create allusions to the Vietnam War. The twists and turns are
either predictable or confusing, and a messy third act feels alternately rushed and unrealistic as
“The Creator” pushes toward a dramatic but unsatisfying conclusion.
And yet, it may still be worth seeing “The Creator” in theaters, because the movie is a true
world-building spectacle. It isn’t getting a lot of marketing push, and a lot of people probably don’t even know it’s coming out. But those who do will be treated to a visual treat that might just make up for
the weak story.
One of many complaints about recent franchise films and superhero movies has been lousy,
unconvincing special effects, and “The Creator” will make those shortcomings all the more
obvious. The effects and imagery here are seamless, and the imaginative way AI characters are
portrayed with human faces and robotic necks is impressive in a creepy and effective way. Best
of all may be the American super base that hovers above New Asia alternately scanning and
destroying military targets.
Altogether, the visual spectacle is enough to merit a begrudging pass to the weaknesses of the
story, and “The Creator” becomes a rare film worth seeing at the theater instead of waiting for
the inevitable streaming release in a month. It won’t quite make up for the disappointment of
kicking “Dune 2” back to 2024, but it’s still nice to have something interesting to see in IMAX
that isn’t the tenth installment in a franchise or the third reboot of a character we’ve been
watching for 25 years.
“The Creator” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence and profanity.