Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is a contentious topic in our current era. It’s an issue that seeps its way into every corner of our lives. Somewhat poignantly, the actors’ strike that prevented the stars of ‘The Creator’ from being present at its premiere is lead by a concern of AI voicework and digital actor replacement in film and television. ‘The Creator’, a science fiction film that entirely revolves around A.I., should catapult its way into the conversation as long as its execution succeeds. Needless to say, it blasts that expectation out of the water. ‘The Creator’ is an unbelievably captivating ride that features some of the most gorgeous visuals ever conceived for an action film. It must be seen to be believed.
The Cheap Cuts Taste Better
The Creator is a $80 million dollar film. Movies of this scale and magnitude normally cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The fact that this film costs about half of the budget of ‘Barbie’ is an unbelievable feat. Much of this reduction in cost comes from director Gareth Edwards’ choice to use readily available cheap consumer-grade cameras for the entire film’s shoot. This gives every frame a grainer quality that makes the world of ‘The Creator’ seem more gritty and unrelenting. It’s a fascinating choice that may revolutionize filmmaking in the future. Edwards, having worked on bigger budget IP like ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ and 2014’s ‘Godzilla’, also knows how to utilize VFX in a much more efficient manner. This pays off dividends. Practically every single shot of the film has some sort of CGI ship or limb or (more commonly) head, and they all look incredible on the big screen.
However, visuals are just one aspect of a film, and ‘The Creator’ cannot succeed without a solid script. The premise is quite simple: AI is developing a weapon to destroy humans, weapon turns out to be little girl, protagonist grapples with whether to side with humanity or AI. The expansion of themes around this storyline is where ‘The Creator’ really pushes the boundaries. Edwards and Chris Weitz’ screenplay is stuffed with a plethora of thought-provoking ideas. The definition of humanity, the role of spirituality, and even the horrendous effects of American imperialism are scattered throughout the film. The commentary on American imperialism seems fitting, considering that one of Edwards’ influences for this film was ‘Apocalypse Now’. One scene in particular calls back to the infamous sequence of Kilgore and his men attacking a Vietnamese village in a helicopter as they blare Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. ‘The Creator”s homage doesn’t feature any of the riveting action of the ‘Apocalypse Now’ scene, but the use of a certain Radiohead song piped in through the loudspeakers is not only on-the-nose, but a fitting addition to the visuals. Although not every theme in the film fits in smoothly, the fact that Edwards chooses to include thought-provoking and existential ideas in what would normally be a popcorn flick is commendable.
What truly brings the film home are the performances of John David Washington and Madeleine Yuna Voyles. This is certainly John David Washington’s best performance to date. He’s able to juggle stoic action, somber moments, and surprisingly funny sequences with a deft hand. It would be interesting to see if Washington seeks out more comedic roles, as he turns chuckle-worthy quips into audible laughs through his performance. His co-star, however, is the real star. Madeleine Yuna Voyles, in her first role, is a revelation. Much of her performance is reliant on movement and facial expressions; her character rarely speaks, especially in the first half of the film. By the end of the film, she transforms a quiet android into a character the audience cares for and believes in. Voyles and Washington’s chemistry keeps the film fresh and interesting during the quieter, less atmospheric moments. Edwards allows his actors to shine, a rarity in action movies today.
‘The Creator’ took many risks, on-screen and off, and while not every risk paid off, the end result is a fascinating, riveting piece of art.
The Creator releases in theaters on September 29th.