‘The Creator’ is a new and original science fiction film from Gareth Edwards, best known as the director of ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.’ ‘The Creator’ is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the USA and AI are at war. The cinematography puts many recent and expensive blockbusters to shame and is the true success of this film. But the acting on display is no slouch, and the plot carries the film home.
The originality of the film is a huge win. Studios nowadays rarely want to take a risk on unproven and unknown franchises, simply relying on staples like ‘Star Wars,’ superheroes, or a litany of adaptations and historical adaptations. So it’s refreshing to say a studio put their faith in Gareth Edwards and his creative team and let them work on their own project.
Just because it’s a new property doesn’t mean the film is devoid of inspiration. The most unsubtle influence was the Vietnam War. There is a devastating guerilla war in Asia where it’s hard to tell which are the people and which are the AI, a 1960s newsreel opening the film and the US’s air superiority with an orbital bombing station called the U.S.S. NOMAD being the equivalent of Operation Rolling Thunder or Operation Linebacker. The film is wearing its historical inspiration on its sleeve, putting it in the audience’s face.
Another inspiration that’s slightly less on the nose is ‘Star Wars.’ There is the evil US empire forcing its will on other countries, the U.S.S NOMAD is a superweapon. The ending of ‘The Creator’ is very similar to a certain ‘Star Wars’ film. The film’s aesthetic evokes Bladerunner, particularly in the large city in New Asia. Despite how openly Edwards taps into touchstone franchises, the inspirations come together to create something new.
Something that stands apart is the visuals and cinematography on display. Oren Soffer and Greig Fraser are the directors of photography, and they communicate a sense of scale and the oppressive nature of the US forces. Nowhere is this more felt than the constant presence of the U.S.S. NOMAD. It’s popping up where audiences least expect it, looming over shots. Its design evokes angel wings, but it’s anything but. Shots are cinematic, and beg audiences to view them on the biggest screen possible.
This is all done on a budget of around $80 million. Yet it still looks better than all of the preceding Hollywood films in 2023 that cost $200+ million. It proves that the size of a film’s budget shouldn’t constrain cinematic flair. If the director and their team creatively use their money, the results are stunning. Studios should take note of the script’s originality and, in the age of bloated blockbusters, they ought to take note of the success ‘The Creator’ has achieved on a comparatively small budget.
Madeleine Yuna Voyles plays the AI child Alphie, and her performance is phenomenal, especially for a young actress. Her emotional range skips the annoying child phase, and even though this is her first credited role, she comes across as a professional. Her career will surely flourish. John David Washington plays the main character Joshua. Opening the film, Washington’s acting is restricted due to his grizzled and angry nature. Once Alphie gets involved, his performance opens up and shows more emotional range.
The story of ‘The Creator’ gives a slight twist on the AI apocalypse stories audiences are likely to be familiar with, though it’s minor and doesn’t come until the end. Speaking of which, the last part of the film feels like it has been tacked on as an afterthought, leaving a natural endpoint behind as Edwards rejects the idea of a sequel. It means the final plot point is resolved unnecessarily quickly, rushing through any meaningful exploration. But overall the story is compelling.
‘The Creator’ is a stunning watch, both for the excellent performance of Voyles and its visual presentation. While its influences are obvious, they blend together to form a cohesive whole. If audiences are looking for an original sci-fi film with heart and a well-designed world, then ‘The Creator’ is all that and more.