Tuesday 14 November 2023

The Creator

As an artificial intelligence (AI) ethics debate rages on, director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) returns to the big screen with a timely tale.

This is Edwards' first film since Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which was beset by reshoots under the auspices of Tony Gilroy (Andor). We may never know how much of Edwards' original vision made it to screen.

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, ponders the implications of AI, a recurring theme in science fiction.

Guest post by Nick Smith

You can’t judge a good movie by its trailer, as demonstrated by the latest blockbuster from the director of Godzilla and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Gareth Edwards. The advertising apes seem to give the game away with the trailer for The Creator, which depicts AI-gone-wrong androids and maverick freedom fighter Joshua (played by Tenet’s John David Washington) sent to defeat the robotic remnants. But oh no, the last remnant is a child! What’s an individualist to do in such a situation?

When I described the trailer to my son, we decided this must be a Terminator/Blade Runner mashup. Thankfully, The Creator is far more than that. The plot twist of the trailer – which would have been a more effective turning point in the movie if it hadn’t been given away – is just the beginning of this ride into the future, which is full of visual creativity and amazing CGI, which is sewn into the images of combat, high technology, and humanity in the face of large-scale threat that Edwards always does so well.

Storywise, Edwards keeps it simple.

America is bad and senselessly destructive. The US army is bad, with no regard for human or AI life that stands in its way. The plot is reminiscent of James Cameron’s Avatar, and who can blame Edwards for that, since Avatar has raked in almost $3 billion? The child droid Alphie (9-year-old Madeleine Yuna Voyles), who displays near-mystic, physics-twisting powers, bears similarities with another Avatar – Aang the Last Airbender.

Like Aang, Alphie is on the run from a powerful foe – not Prince Zuko this time, but the US military. They have a superweapon that can shut down all AI. And, apart from the whole we-don’t-want-to-deactivate-a-child thing, shouldn’t we root for America? After all, AI steals our art and our jobs, invades our privacy and threatens our security.

The comparisons with America’s involvement in Vietnam are hardly subtle here, with an East Asian setting and a bombastic military picking on the small guy. It gives the audience something to connect with as we see rice paddies invaded by giant mechs.

But that human element is never lost and, as in Blade Runner, we are asked to examine what it means to be human. Should we care about machines? Would we care more about them if they looked like us? Joshua tries not to care but finds it harder as he becomes more invested in the plight of the AIs.

The question for modern audiences is, does The Creator cover any new ground? For those who have not read Philip K. Dick or seen his movie adaptations, the answer is yes. For veteran cinephiles, not so much. But a lack of storytelling nuance is made up for by the visuals, which encompass everything from 2000 AD (with a rust-bucket anthropomorphised bomb droid straight out of Ro-Busters) to 9/11 to 2001: A Space Odyssey while adding new eye-popping detail throughout.

The Creator is a thrilling adventure that could have ruled the summer with a bigger, better cast, but as it stands, it’s a fantastic fix for action sci-fi junkies.

The Creator is available to own digitally from Amazon (affiliate link).

Have you seen The Creator? Let me know in the comments below.

Nick Smith's new audiobook, Undead on Arrival, is available from Amazon (affiliate link).

1 comment:

  1. For me, the movie was another defeat snatched from the jaws of victory by putting tropes and visuals above any plausibility in story telling and logic. I am probably the wrong audience, since I am, like Nick paraphrased, a "veteran cinephile" with scars to show.


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