The Creator

Verdict: Gareth Edwards' The Creator has lots of interesting ideas, but they never fully come together to form a compelling whole

The Creator stars John David Washington as Josh, a US soldier who battles a powerful artificial intelligence.

After directing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, possibly the most critically acclaimed of that franchise’s new instalments, director Gareth Edwards has returned to the science-fiction genre with The Creator.

Starring John David Washington it’s a very different beast to Rogue One‘s blockbuster space opera.

This is a film that’s got grand ambitions and wants to grapple with one of the great questions of our age – Artificial intelligence (AI) and its moral and practical implications.

Washington is excellent as Josh, a US Army special forces officer fighting in a complicated war against a powerful artificial intelligence that has detonated a nuclear weapon in Los Angeles and taken over much of Asia – integrating with but dominating its human population.

Having been sent undercover behind enemy lines, Josh has fallen deeply in love with Maya (Gemma Chan), a robotics genius who might lead Josh and US forces to ‘Nirmata’ or ‘The Creator’ – an AI architect who supposedly holds the key to the war.

During a raid, Maya is apparently killed. Later Josh is told she might still be alive and entwined with the AI.

He is given a mission by his superiors Andrews (Ralph Ineson) and Howell (Allison Janney) to find a superweapon that could destroy humanity and win the war in the AI’s favour.

Early on, we find out that this superweapon has an unusual (and cute) form, in the shape of Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) – a child android with the power to shape the world around them and control other machines.

There’s certain things to like about the film – it is the kind of thoughtful, original big-budget project that cinephiles often ruefully suggest has disappeared from multiplexes outside of the draw of Christopher Nolan.

It also looks visually spectacular – with Edwards creating a plausible world in which technology knits into the grotty mess of humanity.

There are clear references to great films of the past – such as Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner, and District 9.

Alphie’s relationship with Josh provides an emotional core and humour that underpins the explosive special effects and technical wizardry with something more human.

The storytelling trope about whether machines can possess humanity may date back as far as Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick but it is still fascinating as a question we are yet to satisfyingly answer.

And yet, the whole thing doesn’t quite knit together as a coherent whole as it should.

Unlike Nolan’s science-fiction forays, which can confound but always feel like they have a consistent tone and momentum, it can seem a mish-mash that’s desperate to cram in disparate ideas and hit beats from the movies it’s clearly inspired by.

The result can be confusing – with us being whisked from Asian jungles, to cyberpunk cities and massive setpieces with little pause for breath.

This means that when the film makes its big points or produces its twists, it doesn’t hit as resolutely as the best science-fiction with fully explored complex ideas should.

Perhaps that is down to the nature of its subject matter – Edwards is determined not to cast AI as a traditional villain, nor as benevolent and unfairly maligned.

But the result is a film that is more interestingly messy rather than a compelling masterpiece. Still, it’s worth watching for that alone if you’re a fan of the genre.

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