By Seth Lukas Hynes
Starring John David Washington, Madeleine Yuna Voyles and Gemma Chan
Directed by Gareth Edwards, The Creator is a poignant, enthralling sci-fi spin on classic tropes.
During a future war between humanity and artificial intelligence, ex-Special Forces soldier Joshua (John David Washington) is tasked with neutralising a new AI superweapon, only to find that the weapon is an AI child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles).
A stoic man who must protect a child is a well-trodden trope, told in Shane, True Grit, Terminator 2, Logan and 65 (among many other films), but The Creator is a compelling, beautifully-rendered take on this foundation.
Washington is engaging as a tormented man who gradually opens his heart and confronts his prejudices, but Voyles steals the show as the AI child Alphie, conveying remarkable depth and subtlety of emotion. The Creator has superb sustained suspense: the Nomad military space station is a looming, everpresent threat, and the plot balances Joshua’s growth, as he comes to view AI as people and not “just programming”, with hard-hitting battle sequences and an ever-worsening situation. Ken Watanabe delivers one of his best performances in recent years as Harun, a noble AI leader.
The Creator makes clear allusions to the Vietnam War, as American forces wage war against a smart, rural, collectivist enemy. The AI communities are a striking fusion of transhuman tech, Eastern ritual and rustic living, and the film’s world has several fun retrofuturistic touches. The Creator also echoes Ghost in the Shell in its mass-produced bodies and musings on the soul.
The Creator has some abrupt editing, and the back-story with Joshua’s wife Maya (Gemma Chan) needs more breathing-room. The notion that AI can’t have children is also poorly-explained.
A deeply moving and often beautiful sci-fi thriller with an imaginative slant on old themes, The Creator is playing in most Victorian cinemas.
– Seth Lukas Hynes