Thursday, September 28, 2023

Gareth Edwards’ THE CREATOR: Solid But Unsurprising Sci-Fi

Opening at a multiplex near you tonight, and tomorrow:

(Dir. Gareth Edwards, 2023)

Despite helming such ginormous franchise installments in the GODZILLA (the 2014 reboot), and STAR WARS universes, Gareth Edwards isn’t quite yet an A-List, household name filmmaker. That doubtfully won’t change much with his newest effort, his fourth film, THE CREATOR, as it’s not getting much publicity from its studio, Twentieth Century Fox, and looks like it might not get much attention from movie-goers this coming weekend. 


If THE CREATOR does indeed fail to connect with audiences, that will be a damn shame as it’s a fairly solid sci-fi yarn with fine performances, cool visuals, and a thoughtful premise about a war between humans and AI that actually shows soul for both sides. And its on par with Edwards best work, 2016s ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.


A quick newsreel presentation opening, which, by the quality of the video in the clips, heavily implies that this film’s version of Earth adapted to having robots around earlier than our modern times (a year is never identified, but we get the idea that the film is set several decades in the future). Something went wrong with the relations between man and machines, and the AI overlords nuked Los Angeles, and a full-scale war resulted with North America outlawing all of the technology.


Our protagonist, an ex-special forces agent named Joshua, whose played by a wide-eyed John David Washington, probably happy that he’s in a sci-fi flick that’s easier to follow than TENET; is recruited to kill what they call “Nirmata,” that is the robotics master of the title. 


In a scene we’ve seen many times before, Washington’s Joshua refuses the assignment until military bigwigs Colonel Howell (Allison Janney), and General Andrews (Ralph Ineson) tell him that the mission could re-unite him with his missing wife, Maya (Genna Chan).


S0 off Joshua goes with Janney’s Howell, and a crew that includes country music singer/songwriter Sturgill Simpson as Drew to venture behind enemy lines in New Asia, where he finds the threat in the form of a humanoid robot child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), who Josha names Alphie.


The movie becomes a familiar, formulaic road picture up until its race against the clock finale aboard the U.S. superweapon NOMAD, a space station that scarily scans the planet with blue beams – these are among the many cool visuals I was talking about. It’s never boring, but Edwards’ plotting, from a screenplay he wrote with Chris Weitz, never surprises as its story beats all recall its influences from APOCALYPSE NOW to BLADE RUNNER to, its most obvious touchstone, A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE.


There’s also the similarities in the relationship between a warrior carting around a kid with incredible powers that THE CREATOR has with The Mandalorian, and even THE GOLDEN CHILD.


So, yeah, not the most original material, but there’s a lot to enjoy in Edwards’ latest starting with Washington’s edgy yet earnest performance, alongside Academy Award®-winning actress Janney as a hard as nails army lifer, who, with this and I, TONYA, has gotten as far from her original breakthrough character of C.J. from The West Wing as she can get.


There’s also Ken Watanabe as a Japanese robot who brings gravitas to his somewhat perplexing part as one starts to realize that Edwards has a more sympathetic to the synthetics theme than you might think going in. 


This fine cast, the gritty when it needs to be, glimmering the rest of the time cinematography by Greig Fraser, and Oren Soffer; and Han Zimmer’s fitting score (often broken up by rock music cues by the likes of Radiohead, and Deep Purple), are what makes the movie worthwhile.


THE CREATOR will be dismissed as too derivative by many (sort of like ROGUE ONE was), but it worked for me, and if movie-goers give it a chance (that is, if they hear about it at all), I bet it’ll function like the best AI for them too.

More later...

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