No Surprises

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Starring John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Madeleine Yuna Voyles

Released September 29th, 2023

Rated PG-13

In the world of The Creator, Artificial Intelligence was developed in the early twentieth century, going on to become a boon to mankind for decades in the form of sentient robots. These bots lived among us, doing the jobs we didn’t want to do, working in our classrooms and on battlefields, as surgeons and as law enforcement. Then in 2055, a nuclear bomb was detonated over California. The United States immediately blames A.I. and vows to eradicate it from the planet, using the USS NOMAD (North American Orbital Mobile Aerospace Defense), a space station that shoots devastating lasers from orbit. This doesn’t sit well with New Asia, a country that gives refuge to robot kind and continues to develop A.I. technology. 

Joshua (John David Washington) is living in New Asia, married to Maya (Gemma Chan), who is expecting their first child. The U.S. government is on the hunt for “Nirmata” the mysterious creator of an advanced A.I. program. Unfortunately for Maya, her husband Joshua is actually an undercover U.S. Army Sergeant imbedded with her because intel suggests Nirmata is her father. One fateful night, the U.S. Army invades their home, NOMAD starts firing lasers, and Maya is killed. Years later, the U.S. Army recruits a depressed and reclusive Joshua to find a dangerous A.I. weapon that could turn the tide of the war. The weapon is revealed to be a robotic child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), a young female “simulant.”

Designated “Alpha-O” and nicknamed “Alphie,” this little girl has the ability to control all technology remotely with her mind. How could anyone possibly build this ability into a machine? I don’t know, and neither does the movie. The Creator is only a surface-level view of our current collective fear of Artificial Intelligence becoming a threat to our way of life. The movie pulls a reverse-Terminator by making humans the aggressors in the war on the machines, with robots just wanting to live out their electronic lives. With his performance as the kind-hearted Joshua, John David Washington proves he can handle leading man status. His talented supporting cast, including Allison Janney and Ken Watanabe, are wasted by a script which gives them very little to do. 

I applaud the filmmakers for taking small crews across the world to shoot in real environments instead of shooting on green screens. Adding in digital effects later makes for a more realistic vision of the future rather than the overly animated CGI fare we are flooded with these days in science fiction genre films. The movie looks cool, but the story is downright boring. There are no big reveals or twists in The Creator. You kind of know what’s going to happen next, and then it does. Even Hans Zimmer’s bombastic score feels like something we’ve heard before. 

If someone gave an Artificial Intelligence screenwriting program the scripts for Lone Wolf and Cub, Avatar, Blade Runner, The Mandalorian, Pinocchio, and Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, it would present you with the script for The Creator. I’m all for wearing your influences on your cinematic sleeve, but only if you attempt to do something new with the ground you retread. Directed by Gareth Edwards, who co-wrote the script with Chris Weitz, The Creator offers little new in the land of science fiction stories. A good cast and neat special effects are wasted in an uncompelling story that offers no innovation. Perhaps a robot could do better. 

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