Monday, June 17, 2024

The Creator – A Sci-Fi Exploration of Art, Humanity, and Existence

The Creator
John David Washington as Joshua in 20th Century Studios’ THE CREATOR. Photo by Oren Soffer. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Where to Watch: In Theaters

Release Date: September 29

Rated: PG-13

Starring: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, and Ken Watanabe

Run time: 2h and 15min

I, Robot meets Blade Runner meets Star Wars – a tantalizing blend of sci-fi universes is how I would describe Gareth Edwards’ latest film, The Creator. Edwards, known for his love of Star Wars and all things science fiction, has crafted a film that not only fulfills the expectations of genre enthusiasts but also captivates the hearts and minds of all who dare to venture into its cinematic adventure. With 2023 coming to an end, The Creator has been mentioned by many critics not only as one of this year’s finest sci-fi offerings but, in my own critic’s opinion, as a contender for one of the best films of the year. At its core, The Creator is a visual masterpiece that looks deep into the intricate complexities of what it truly means to be human. In this review, I will explore the reasons why The Creator is a must-watch for audiences this weekend.

A Tale of Humanity Amidst Artificial Intelligence

The film explores the history of artificial intelligence (AI) and its evolution over the years, encompassing both robots and humanoid creations known as Stimulants. Next, we are introduced to Joshua, portrayed by John David Washington. He is an ex-special forces agent who grapples with the haunting disappearance of his wife, Maya, played with elegance by Gemma Chan. As the story unfolds, Joshua is recruited for a mission of extreme importance – to track down and eliminate the elusive Creator, the mastermind behind advanced AI technology and a weapon capable of extinguishing humanity.

Joshua and his elite team journey across hostile terrain, infiltrating AI-controlled territories. Their mission takes an unexpected twist when they realize that the world-ending weapon they seek to destroy is an AI entity known as Alphie, embodied brilliantly by the young talent Madeleine Yuna Voyles.

A scene still from 20th Century Studios’ THE CREATOR. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The Acting Ensemble

In a film that has some brilliant performances, three actors stand out – John David Washington, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, and Ken Watanabe. Voyles, in her portrayal of Alphie, is a revelation. Her character’s existential struggle (questioning her “humanity”) is a poignant thread that resonates throughout the narrative. Voyles’ interactions with Washington are a testament to her talent, as she seamlessly navigates between moments of humor and profound emotion. Director Gareth Edwards couldn’t help but praise her performance, emphasizing the emotional depth she brought to the character. He mentioned in the press conference that her audition almost brought his team to tears. To see the extent of her talent, Edwards created a scene on the spot to see how she would perform, and Voyles proved to be the actress Edwards needed for the role of Alphie. 

Madeleine Yuna Voyles as Alphie in 20th Century Studios’ THE CREATOR. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Watanabe as Harun, a versatile actor known for his presence in action films, delivers a memorable performance. His ability to convey complex emotions while navigating intense action sequences is commendable and adds depth to the film’s ensemble. Plus, he’s just a badass fighting Stimulant in this film, and I’d personally love for this character to have my back in a futuristic war. His fierce loyalty and desire for a peaceful existence are felt during every moment on screen. Although his time on screen is limited, his performance is memorable. 

John David Washington undertook one of the film’s most challenging roles of portraying Joshua. Initially, it took me a bit of time to warm up to Joshua’s character due to his apparent detachment and deep-seated sorrow. At first, I questioned how engaging his character would be. However, as the film unfolded and we witnessed the evolution of Joshua’s character, it became increasingly evident that Washington was perfectly cast as the film’s protagonist.

Joshua serves as a representative figure for many individuals grappling with the implications of AI’s existence on humanity. His apprehension about AI potentially posing a threat to human existence reminded me of Will Smith’s character in I, Robot, who similarly resists AI integration. Additionally, Joshua’s character symbolizes a man’s journey toward connection, both with a partner and a child. Initially consumed by selfish pursuits, he undergoes a transformative process, learning to embrace objectivity and discover the joy and peace he longs for.

While Washington’s portrayal of Joshua is commendable, there are moments when the character’s obsession with finding his wife, Maya, becomes slightly repetitive in the dialogue. Nevertheless, Washington’s nuanced performance ultimately solidifies Joshua as a relatable character.

Technological Marvels

The Creator astounds with its technological marvels, drawing inspiration from the iconic Star Wars universe. The film’s portrayal of kamakais-like robots, reminiscent of R2-D2, immerses viewers in a futuristic realm which kept me wanting to see more gadgets from this world. The colossal weapon showcased in the trailers exudes grandeur and resembles something out of the Halo series destroying everything in its path. 

Furthermore, the film introduces a captivating device that allows for the temporary transfer of one’s consciousness into a simulant, a robotic entity that assumes the physical attributes and personality of a human. This technological marvel stands out as one of the film’s most impressive elements, adding to its overall sense of wonder and intrigue.

A scene still from 20th Century Studios’ THE CREATOR. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Visual Artistry

One of the film’s crowning achievements lies in its visual artistry. Cinematographers capture the essence of The Creator’s journey with breathtaking precision. The juxtaposition of stark urban landscapes and ethereal dreamscapes creates a mesmerizing visual palette. Each frame is meticulously composed, utilizing color, light, and shadow to add layers of depth to the narrative.

Director Gareth Edwards adopted an innovative approach to filmmaking, shooting in eight different countries. The film’s production process blended elements of independent filmmaking with the expertise of Industrial Light and Magic and other vendors. This unique approach allowed the team to craft the sci-fi elements in real-time during the editing process, resulting in a visually stunning and cohesive narrative. This makes the film truly enjoyable and allows you, as an audience member, to escape into this world created… which is why I recommend watching the film in IMAX.

The portrayal of Stimulants and robots in this film was exceptional, nearly blurring the line between reality and fiction. Observing robots adorned in monk-like robes, their lifelike movements and seamless integration into the world around them lent an air of authenticity. This authenticity, in turn, made their aspiration for a peaceful coexistence more convincing, as it resonated with their natural demeanor.

A Thought-Provoking Exploration

The Creator invites audiences to engage in contemplation and post-screening discussions. The film’s exploration of AI, consciousness, and the essence of humanity serves as a philosophical springboard. The film avoids providing simplistic solutions, intentionally leaving audiences with lingering questions about the future of AI and the human condition. This concept is particularly timely, considering that Hollywood is currently grappling with concerns about AI’s role in cinema, which has also been a focal point in the recent SAG strike discussions. 

Another noteworthy aspect of the film’s narrative is its exploration of not only humanity, but also morality. Throughout the movie, I found myself pondering a significant question: why did humans appear to be portrayed as the antagonists in this story? I’m certain others shared this sentiment, as the way humans pointed fingers at technology for their shortcomings was quite thought-provoking.

John David Washington as Joshua in 20th Century Studios’ THE CREATOR. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

A Note on Length and Climax: A Slight Drawback

While The Creator excels in many aspects, it does have a minor drawback. The film’s final act extends its runtime by about 30 minutes, leaving some viewers yearning for a more shortened conclusion. The climax, while narratively significant, could have achieved its goals without the additional narrative. However, this slight hiccup does little to diminish the film’s overall brilliance.

In conclusion, The Creator is an extraordinary achievement in the realm of science fiction cinema. Gareth Edwards’ visionary direction, coupled with exceptional performances by John David Washington, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, and Ken Watanabe, creates an enjoyable film that transcends genre boundaries. It challenges viewers to contemplate the complexities of existence and the ever-expanding horizons of artificial intelligence.

As the credits roll, The Creator leaves a good impression not only on the minds of cinephiles but on the landscape of contemporary cinema itself. The Creator is a symphony of sights, sounds, and ideas that warrants an experience on the IMAX big screen. With its poignant themes, superb acting, and gorgeous visuals, this film is a 2023 must-watch.

Dapper Dr Feel

Felipe Patterson aka Dapper Dr. Feel, #BlackLoveConvo & Entertainment | @fdapperdr Dapper Dr. Feel is a Entertainment journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association and African American Film Association.

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