The Creator was a little bit Children of Men, a little bit District 9, and a little bit Rambo: First Blood Part II. It was clearly a parable for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, which makes the timing of its release an unfortunate coincidence. This was a film with a lot to say, and it was able to say it, at least for the first hour-and-a-half, or so. But a muddled and disorganized third act left an unsatisfying and borderline bitter taste in the mouth.
This is a story about humans versus AI. After an alleged AI attack detonated a nuclear warhead in Los Angeles, the United States put a ban on AI technology and uses its standing as the world’s police force to destroy any remaining tech, all of which now only resides in Asia, since those pesky Asians are stubbornly standing by the tech and offering sanctuary to the sentient beings. War breaks out and an ex-soldier, Joshua (John David Washington) finds himself caught between the woman he loves and his duty when he’s sent to destroy a weapon that could turn the tide of the war against the United States only to discover this weapon is in the form of a child, and this child ends up being very significant to him.
The Creator was an entertaining film and there were moments that were emotionally gripping. Screenwriters Gareth Edwards (who also directed the film) and Chris Weitz did a nice job of connecting us to the characters and bringing them to us as real people. The AI characters were especially well-developed, and many of them displayed more emotion than their human counterparts, which was one of the driving thematic points of the film. Unfortunately, there were some holes in the plot. Why would an AI child-like ice cream? How could she eat it? How could she digest it? The movie set up that they can feel emotions, but how can they produce tears? I understand that they need to be plugged in, but there is a scene when Alphie falls asleep. Why would AI tech sleep? Those might be small points, but I found them to be distracting, especially without anything in the way of an explanation.
I also expected the VFX to be stronger. This film may get nominated for an Oscar for Best VFX, but it shouldn’t. There were times when the compositing was inconsistent, so it looked like the lighting on the characters was different from the lighting in the scene. Again, a small detail but a noticeable one. Also, some of the action sequences were just plain poorly executed. There were rivers of bullets flowing in many of them and characters just ran out into the middle of them and were never touched. From a technical standpoint, I expected this film to be much better.
I did feel that the story was quite strong, at least through the first two acts. There were great thematic components about humanity and man’s inhumanity to each other. The AI in this film displayed far more humanity than the soldiers and U.S. government officials. Americans were the clear bad guys in this movie.
Edwards and Weitz excelled at creating the relationship between Joshua and the AI weapon Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles in her film debut), and the development of the relationship over the course of the film felt natural. It was not forced in the least, and it created several emotionally charged and tension-filled moments. There were times when it was reminiscent of the Obi-Wan series, but this relationship was much more believable than the one between young Obi-Wan and young Leia. They learned from each other and grew because of each other. Both had excellent character arcs so they felt like more complete characters by the end of the film.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, the film went off the rails in the third act. The story was more or less abandoned for the sake of ginormous action sequences that were completely out of context with the rest of the story. There wasn’t any warning that the film was going to turn in this direction, but it seems like Edwards and Weitz had painted themselves into a corner and the only way out was to blast their way out. Other than the very end of the film, the third act was very disappointing. It may be worth going through the screenplay to determine where it worked and didn’t work, but that will be a blog for another day.
This is a fine film if you’re looking for 2-plus hours of escapism and you don’t mind a hole or two in the story. And if you don’t mind action sequences that looked like they could have used a little more effort. But the character relationships are strong and it is a very thoughtful film from a thematic standpoint. It just came up a little short in some key areas, which made the overall reaction one of disappointment.