THE CREATOR. Visual Spectacle based on an AI Script [REVIEW]
The Hollywood strikes of actors, screenwriters, and special effects experts have resulted in me eagerly awaiting the Creator among all the big science fiction blockbusters remaining this year. On paper, it promised to be truly impressive – with Gareth Edwards, the creator of the best film of the 21st century in the Star Wars universe, Rogue One, at the helm, an interesting starting point, and a hot topic related to AI. The trailers also promised at least a visually impressive spectacle. After the first opinions from across the ocean, my optimism grew, as there were mentions of the best science fiction film of the decade. However, a subtle red light turned on for me here because such grand announcements often end in a painful fall from a high horse.
And how did The Creator himself turn out? Some opinions turned out to be true – Edwards’ film is, at times, a breathtaking spectacle with beautifully shot scenes in the Far East. However, it’s also a production with a pretextual, sometimes absurd plot. In terms of narrative flow, consistency, logic of plot behaviors, the script looks as if it were spit out by an AI randomly generating phrases entered by Edwards: a bit of Blade Runner, a pinch of Star Wars, a touch of Avatar and The Road, a few drops from Terminator, and all dressed in attire reminiscent of another Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, for me, these elements don’t come together into a coherent story. It turned out to be something completely unengaging, at times bordering on unintentional self-parody, and above all, increasingly tedious with each passing moment. It’s a great pity because the effects and the presented world make a powerful impression.
The action of The Creator is set in the future, where AI is so advanced that humanity is at war with it. The world, after artificial intelligence detonated an atomic bomb in Los Angeles, is divided into the West and New Asia. The main character, Joshua (played by the unfortunate John David Washington), is an American agent operating undercover and infiltrating the pro-AI environment of Asians. He falls in love with one of the main constructors and leaders, Maya, with whom he is supposed to have a child. Due to the disclosure and unexpected offensive by U.S. forces armed with the ultimate weapon against AI, Nomad, the agent loses his beloved and child. This is the starting point. Years later, his experience is supposed to be used to find a new weapon, an answer to Nomad. However, Joshua decides to pursue his own goal – to find Maya, who supposedly survived. At least that’s what representatives of the U.S. military, who want to recruit him again, convey to him. Of course, as a result of the hero’s offensive, he first finds Alphie – a new type of AI robot that can supposedly do EVERYTHING. And here, the logic, sense, and narrative consistency lose any coherence; the pace drops. The primary problem with The Creator, from the dawn of Act II, is the clichéd and bland nature of all the created characters. I truly could not find a single character with whom I could empathize emotionally. This is because their intentions are not entirely understandable, behaviors are not explained, and events simply follow one another because that’s how they are written in the script. I haven’t encountered such paper-thin, uninteresting characters in a long time.
In The Creator, there are elements that could have been explored and developed more. For example, an intriguing subplot is the conflict with AI, which turns out to be, in Edwards’ version, simply a bunch of benevolent robots with human faces and interiors made of electronics, cables, and hardware. Where is the discussion about the threats, perspectives, and possibilities that artificial intelligence poses to humanity? There is practically no mention of this because the whole thing becomes another example of a story where we are supposed to ponder where the line between humanity and scripts programmed by humans is. But The Creator doesn’t even provide an answer to that. This is just one of many thoroughly squandered threads and opportunities to do something more than a pretty but derivative story running on a thread. Another is a motif known from the mentioned The Road – the story of a man who goes on a journey to save a child. Normally, such motifs evoke tears and grip the heart for me. Here, they not only elicited a shoulder shrug but also a laugh of pity. Now, I smile when I remember Washington trying to convince Alphie to get into the car. And there are many such moments, to my horror. And the antagonist characters are a blatant mockery of the viewer’s intelligence, a collection of such tacky, completely unmotivated clichés that it’s cringe-worthy. I don’t want to dwell on the fact that, in the current geopolitical situation, countries in the Far East are portrayed as defenders of human rights.
I wrote in the introduction that tThe Creator delivers a lot in terms of world-building and visuals. I stand by those words, but I also have many reservations about the mentioned world. Because there is an almost divine force in it that determines the advantage of one of the forces – the all-powerful weapon called Nomad. Interestingly, the logic of its operation makes no sense. Why? It is a station orbiting Earth with missile launchers, capable of tracking any AI base. Great, but it doesn’t use its power on a larger scale than a single attack up to the climax. And it turns out that it CAN do so all the time – it has knowledge of ALL places where the enemies hide. Where is the logic? The same goes for Alphie, who is portrayed as the great answer of New Asia to Nomad. In reality, its actions are a typical Deus Ex Machina; there are no sensible premises explaining how it works. Moreover, it never shows its great power, except for turning on and off other devices and sending smiles aimed at the viewer’s sensitivity. The discussions about the sky and death at the moment when the relationship between Joshua and Alphie is just forming are tonally absolutely off.
The Creator was my great hope, but it turned out to be an even greater disappointment because, on the formal and visual side, it is evident that Edwards had the space and means to create an outstanding SF spectacle. What we got instead was a story that bores after half an hour, has nothing new to offer in terms of depth of messages, and some plotlines simply insult the viewer’s intelligence.