The sci-fi genre prides itself on being a tool for social commentary. Gareth Edwards’ The Creator is no different as it tackles the controversial topic of AI and its integration into society. Surprisingly, this isn’t a straight-up “ChatGPT is bad” type of rhetoric, as it turns the mirror back at humanity to face the worrying lack of compassion that has enveloped our species. Ultimately, The Creator proves to be one of the best original and thought-provoking sci-fi films in recent years, which doesn’t leave a bleak outlook of existential crisis (looking at you, Black Mirror) but hope.
Set in a time when the Western world turns its back on artificial intelligence after a disaster, ex-special forces agent Joshua (John David Washington) gets brought back into the fray to find his previously presumed dead wife, Maya (Gemma Chan), and help a team capture the mysterious figure known as the Creator. This individual is responsible for creating advanced AI and has set up a new weapon that threatens to be the difference maker in the war between humans and AI. After Joshua and the team enter enemy territory, he discovers this weapon is a child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles).
Ignite the senses
While cinematographers Greig Fraser and Oren Soffer play with the expected sci-fi backdrops and cyberpunk-inspired colours, they pay tribute to Apocalypse Now‘s DP Vittorio Storaro through the setting. The majority of The Creator takes place in the bright sunlight and across the landforms of Asia. As a result, the war scenes become more relatable and symbolic, illustrating how many battles have been fought in similar terrains in humanity’s history.
While Hans Zimmer’s scores have received criticism in recent films for lacking the same zest he’s known for, the composer is in top form here again, delivering emotion-tingling epic pieces that add yet another layer to the film. Without diving into spoiler territory, his music makes one of the film’s most dramatic moments that much more poignant.
In terms of performances, Washington chews up the scenes, showcasing serious growth in Joshua from the person in the beginning to who he becomes in the end. Sharing the bulk of the screen time with him is Voyles, who delivers a performance beyond her young years. She makes every person believe in her character Alfie, as she becomes the heart and soul of the movie. Ken Watanabe’s Harun is another standout and crowd-pleaser, while Allison Janney provides a multilayered and complex display as Colonel Howell.
Edwards’ story is an allegory for acceptance and harmony, which is something that’s likely to rattle the feathers of those begging for anti-AI films and where ChatGPT’s board is roasted over a fire. Yet, most people are only looking at the surface level of how this is a movie about humanity’s relationship with AI when it’s far deeper than that and holds several other metaphors within it. This is about addressing issues of xenophobia and racism that plague society, the constant and inexplicable fear and ostracization of others. It’s also about the dangers of the Western world feeling entitled to shape the narrative of who is good and bad, often painting others as the enemy. Ultimately, The Creator isn’t about war; it’s a story about freedom and peace.
The Creator might not have a major franchise behind it or the studio’s marketing department pushing it to the moon, but it is easily one of the year’s best films. Not only is it visually appealing with striking performances, but it will also make the audience feel something. In many ways, it’s the reverse of the Terminator franchise where it encourages peace rather than war.