[Film review] The Creator

Reviewed by John P. Harvey.

It is the mid 2060s, ten years since the United States declared war on artificial intelligences (A.I.s) following an unprovoked attack on Los Angeles.  Beyond the West, many people, especially in the republics of New Asia, live in close harmony with A.I.s, both robotic and more humanoid ones (simulants), and protect them as best they can from U.S. hostilities.  But the United States has learnt that its increasing push to drive the A.I.s to extinction has led their creator, underground somewhere in New Asia, to develop an A.I. superweapon that will have the capacity to end the war.  So the United States military determines that it will take its war against the A.I.s to New Asia.

Having used a brief spin through future history to establish conflicts in priorities and values, The Creator then sets the scene for a reluctant Sergeant Joshua Taylor (John David Washington) to rejoin the effort to find the A.I. superweapon and its elusive creator, Nirmata; and perhaps also his wife, Maya (Gemma Chan).  As we follow Taylor and his complex relationship with the superweapon he discovers, we can’t help but notice the effects of the United States’ absolute war priorities on the citizens of countries such as Vietnam — which have done nothing more aggressive than “harbour” apparently peaceful persons who happen to be based on silicon rather than on carbon.

In so doing, the film takes us on a journey — or is it for a ride? — of discovery of the close relationship between A.I.s and their creators’ purposes in building them.

Amongst its many groundbreaking aspects, Gareth Edwards’s first movie since Rogue One (2016) diverges from the usual robot-versus-human scenario by giving us the point of view of A.I.s designed not to harm but to live peaceably alongside humans.

A major reason for Edwards’s long break from directing was his determination to find leaner ways of filming — using minimal crew in scenes requiring only a couple of actors, and saving expense by painting objects into footage of real scenery rather than building sets or using green screens — and the result was everything he and the studio could have hoped for.  Shot in 80 locations, including Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, The Creator is painted masterfully on a canvas overwhelming in scope.  Yet it portrays intimately the emotional and even spiritual lives of many individual protagonists, including A.I. monks and the A.I. superweapon herself, Alphie, played with almost supernatural ability by a young newcomer, Madeleine Yuna Voyles.

Regardless of whether it leads you to conclude that it shows a side of A.I. that has been overlooked or that its screenplay was concocted by an A.I. (it was originally titled True Love), you’ll find The Creator  emotionally and visually engaging from start to finish.  Underlain by a powerful soundtrack courtesy of the prolific Hans Zimmer, this rollicking SF adventure with a good deal of heart is sure to get you thinking.

Screening at Palace, Dendy, Limelight, and Hoyts cinemas.

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