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Review: ‘The Creator’ Strives to be an Original Sci-Fi Masterpiece but Feels More Like an Homage to the Genre’s Most Iconic Classics

September 26, 2023Ben MK

The threat and potential of Artificial Intelligence has long been on the minds of prescient filmmakers like James Cameron and Steven Spielberg. However, it's only in recent years that the real-world science has begun to catch up with the science-fiction fantasy. Whether it's the use of AI-powered language models to write human-like prose or the use of AI image generators to create photorealistic pictures capable of fooling even the most discerning viewer, the gap between what is human and what is computational is quickly dwindling. But what if there existed an advanced form of AI that was capable of something as remarkable as turning the tide of an entire war with just a mere thought?

The year is 2070, and it's been 15 years since AI seemingly rebelled against the planet's human population and unleashed a devastating nuclear explosion upon the city of Los Angeles. Once utilized in all sectors, from healthcare to law enforcement, AI was once touted as the future of our civilization. However, after that fateful day in L.A., all that changed. Banned in Western countries not long after, AI development continued in the East, to the point where it became so advanced that the technology became virtually indiscernible from humanity itself. As a result, the U.S. government has found itself embroiled in an ongoing war with AI, as they deploy their newest weapon intended to wipe out their enemy once and for all. Known as NOMAD, the weapon is essentially a massive, mobile space station capable of launching missiles at targets anywhere around the world. But with AI having developed its own super weapon — codenamed Alpha 0 — the NOMAD may have finally met its match. Thought to be created by the AI mastermind known as Nirmata, Alpha 0 represents the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. To defeat it, however, will take someone intimately familiar with the enemy and how they operate.

Enter Joshua (John David Washington), a jaded and traumatized ex-special forces agent who, five years earlier, was on an undercover mission in New Asia to discover the true identity of Nirmata when his pregnant wife, Mya (Gemma Chan), became an unfortunate casualty of a NOMAD strike. The perfect — and perhaps, only — choice to helm the U.S. Army's new mission to locate and destroy Alpha 0, Joshua is initially reluctant to take Colonel Jean Howell (Allison Janney) up on her offer to have him command her team back into New Asia. However, when he learns that Mya might in fact be alive and playing a key role in the AI resistance, he decides to accept the mission, in the hopes that they'll finally be reunited. Going deep into enemy territory, Joshua soon finds himself leading a covert op to infiltrate a subterranean AI research facility suspected to be the top-secret home of Alpha 0. What neither he nor his fellow soldiers ever anticipated, though, was for AI's ultimate weapon to take the form of something far more mysterious — an innocent child named Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles).

Directed by Gareth Edwards, what follows borrows liberally from such films as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, as well as Edwards' own Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as Joshua becomes Alphie's protector and the pair are forced to try to outrun soldiers from both sides of the AI war, becoming an inseparable duo along the way. In spite of the pedigree of these influences, however, what's most surprising about The Creator is that Edwards and co-writer Chris Weitz don't make much of an effort to add anything new to the mix, instead relying on whiz-bang visuals and superficial similarities that make the result feel like an homage to the iconic sci-fi movies of the past, while only barely skimming the surface of the modern-day moral and ethical implications of AI and its ever-evolving role in today's society.

Make no mistake, The Creator is by no means a disappointment. However, as far as earning its place among some of the sci-fi genre's most seminal films is concerned, it can't quite measure up to the level of originality demanded of such a prestigious position. More of a greatest hits compilation rather than an authentic and bold new vision, it's a movie that tries its best to deliver a balance of blockbuster action and thought-provoking drama, all revolving around humanity's desire to build something greater than itself. When it comes to its own existence, though, it's more comparable to an AI-generated interpretation of what a great sci-fi masterpiece should be — and if you really look closely, you might notice the flaws in its all-too convincing impersonation.

The Creator releases September 29th, 2023 from 20th Century Studios. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for violence, some bloody images and strong language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 13 min.

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