The Creator (aka True Love) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Gareth Edwards’s The Creator is a sci-fi spectacle, to be sure, where the dazzling displays of androids battling humans are exciting and eye-popping. This is not to say that the script is weak. The screenplay is rather robust in telling a tale of technology, pathos, and what it means to be human. The issue is that these are not new themes for those who are well-read on these topics touched upon in a long history of science fiction novels. That said, if you don’t mind reviewing these aspects, there’s some familiar joy to be had in this sci-fi tale.
The film takes place in a future where artificial intelligence has increased so that humanity has started to reject the tech-based lives it has created. AI became outlawed, and the remaining mechanical entities departed for the Asian continent that had reformed into New Asia. Said to be in this region is Nirmata, the one making advancements in the realm of AI. Sent to find Nirmata is the soldier Joshua Taylor (John David Washington), acting as a spy in this territory. However, he goes native and finds himself forming a romance with Maya (Gemma Chan). Their relationship gets too serious, and his cover is soon blown when US forces charge into the area. The error in this mission leads to Joshua losing his wife, her unborn child, and his arm.
Years later, Joshua is tasked with going back in, hinting that his wife might still be alive. On his continuing mission to find Nirmata, he meets a strange child dubbed Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles). What makes Alphie unique is that she is the first AI child. Her new conception grants her extra abilities to control other tech with her mind. She might just be powerful enough to defeat the US’s giant space weapon, NOMAD. Realizing that Alphie could turn the tide in this war of man versus AI, Joshua aims to protect this kid from all the forces that want her dead. At the same time, he’ll come to terms with his past.
These are standard sci-fi elements, but it was refreshing to see a new piece of science fiction more in line with Ghost in the Shell, where AI is not the monster but a new being yet to be fully understood and cornered into protecting itself. It has many recognizable visual effects present in everything from the cyberpunk cities of New Asia to the androids with see-through holes in the middle of their heads. The dialogue delves into typical aspects of questioning existence, as when Joshua and Alphie have a discussion about how they don’t feel worthy of an afterlife. There are also plenty of familiar tropes in the supporting players, ranging from the wise old sage (Ken Watanabe) to the trigger-happy colonel (Allison Janney).
For essentially being a tread through grounds that have many marks, it’s still solidly assembled. It’s a gorgeous film that often utilizes the natural beauty of outdoor Thailand, present in everything from a battle at a port to a stand-off at a village in the mountains. Edwards’s direction is stellar in this aspect as he crunched the numbers about how much more cost-effective and visually pleasing it would be to shoot on location instead of using built sets or digital backgrounds. For a film with lots of VFX ranging from spaceships to giant tanks to violent robots, it looks stunning considering the budget of only $80 million, looking far better than films that cost twice as much.
The Creator does not blaze any new trails in science fiction, but it finds enough emotional strength to warrant further delving into the topic of AI. In going about the motions of this story, Washington and Voyles have strong chemistry, and their quests for finding meaning in life do ring true, even if the resolution becomes predictable by the final act. Looking specifically at the plot, it’s not all that original, and you can probably think of at least five films of the past that probe deeper into the questioning of tech. But while The Creator may only scuff the surface of this issue, it polishes it with enough exciting coats of action and computer graphics to make it intriguing enough.