PG-13 for a lot of violence and death, even death that I hadn't kind of processed in a traditional sense. Like Short Circuit and movies of their ilk, The Creator makes the destruction of machines visceral and some how quite upsetting. There's some language, but that usually gets thrown out with war imagery. There is some implication of sexuality, but nothing on screen. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Gareth Edwards
So much to write! I mean, it might not be in this blog. We'll see. But I am writing against the clock, so if my spelling gets all wonky, my apologies up front. I oddly look forward to the special effects categories for the Academy Awards. As a big sci-fi nerd, these tend to be the movies that don't really get nominated because they are too genre to be taken seriously as film. It's a bummer, but it's also an excuse for me to catch up on movies that I meant to see earlier in the year and look very pretty. I don't think that The Creator is necessarily a great movie, but it was stunning to look at.
Gareth Edwards, post Rogue One, kind of became this prestige director. I watched that trailer and thought, "Ooh, the Rogue One guy?" I think that's what the studios wanted me to think. I know that the same approach of "prestige director" was done with the Godzilla reboot a couple of years ago. I'm not talking about Minus One. No, I'm talking the beginning of the arcing Monsterverse that is going on right now in America. What conclusion I'm coming to is that Gareth Edwards is a director who takes his time with storytelling, makes amazing looking movies that are often underlit, but ultimately makes a boring film from time-to-time. I mean, Rogue One is kind of special. As boring as that movie is, it gets points from showing that Star Wars can be something more than silly popcorn movies. It set a whole new tone and I applaud him for that. When I saw the trailer for The Creator, I was so on board for a movie that did Rogue One with an original property. It never really achieves that.
For all of my lamenting on this movie, there's so much I can't really complain about, except for the fact that things just didn't click in the way that I thought they would. Ultimately, so much of this movie is successful because the movie is a project that was done for the sake of world-building. Gosh darn does this movie world build better than most movies I've seen. Honestly, the visual style of the movie won me over from the opening shots. It isn't hard to win over specifically me. Throw in some retro-futurism and a mundane appropach to the bombastic and I'm pretty much puddy in your hands. I tend to do this when I write, but I'm going to repeat that I don't hate this movie and I think he did all of the right things. Part of my dislike for this movie is my dislike for hard sci-fi. The Creator, to a certain extent, is both hard sci-fi and not that at all. (I'm the worst. I should just take a stand and stick with it.)
Hard sci-fi leans pretty hard into accepting a world that is foreign to us. For a lot of the movie, we get a good deal of canon on what the world of The Creator is like. We know that Nihashi is a big deal. We know that AI has had a long and turbulent history coexisting with humanity. The movie really sells those elements hard. So much of the movie is either a montage reminding us of what happened before this movie or people sitting around talking about why these two cultures can't possibly coexist. I get it. I've seen Terminator and A.I. I know that there is inherently a fear that humans are unable to accept something that might surpass them, thus they get all violent and homicidal. Part of me even sympathizes with them. After all, if it looked like robots were going to wipe out humanity, I would have a hard time full believing in a sense of being. Look at me, confronting my bigotry! But so far, most of the things that I've said are about setting.
Edwards does a lot to remind you of the delicate balance between two cultures. We're constantly reminded that A.I. is not evil. If anything, they are the more noble culture compared to the xenophobic humans. Message received. I'm even kind of on your team. (Although I would never take a human life and would consider shutting down a machine because I can't make heads or tails of what sentience is.) The thing about the actual story is that it might be a bit too minimal for me to really appreciate it. I was wondering as I was writing this why I'm cool with Lord of the Rings and not The Creator. Both are gorgeous worlds due to intense amount of world-building coupled with simple stories. Then I realized that Lord of the Rings is not a simple story, but rather a complex series of interwoven stories around a simple story. Frodo has to get to Mordor. He has to survive all of these challenges. That's great. But also, every side character has a complex narrative that is fundmentally tied to Frodo's journey, even if they are unaware of it.
The Creator is really just Joshua and Alphie's story as they look for Maya. While the information about their quest gets slightly more complex as details about Maya's reality are revealed, it is just their story. We see all of these people acting as NPCs. It is heartbreaking hearing their stories. But we only view these characters through Joshua and Alphie's eyes. Even Maya, who is the Macguffin for the movie, is an object. She is Joshua's previously-thought-dead wife and Alphie's goddess. That's fun, but we don't get to experience any of the stories that Maya has to deal with because all of this is off-camera. On the one hand, it gives us a focused story on two characters, one of whom is growing as a person as he accepts this digital child as something that has inherent value. But on the other hand, it also gets incredibly boring to see Joshua and Alphie going from place to place and not finding Maya. It's like watching the NES version of Super Mario Bros.as a narrative story. She's always in another castle.
I think I also needed a clear "come to Jesus" moment for Joshua too. There's a lot of the movie where Joshua does not care for Alphie. He's the cause of his misery. But from moment one, because Alphie shaped like a child, Joshua sees a child. His military background makes him compartmentalize those feelings, which is quasi-interesting. But from moment one, we know that the box is already being unpacked. Joshua never sees Alphie as "just a machine." He treats him as such, but we also know that this is a time game. The more that Joshua is around Alphie, we understand that he's getting close to being a bit more evolved around his own prejudices. I needed a moment where that really shifted. I wanted him to see every element of his old life in a new way. It kind of happens at times, but since so much of the movie is about him going against a system that he embraced before, the emotional climax happens pretty early on. Is he going to get over his fear of AI? Totally. He does so by the end of the first act. That leaves a lot of movie that just becomes about action.
When Joshua sacrifices himself (spoiler...sorry) for Alphie, it's because his journey ended, not because there was a shift in perspective. That's a great scene. I don't deny that. I love John David Washington and he absolutely should be the next Kang. But in terms of investment from me, it's all about a survival story, not a story of self. The movie kept on telling me that Joshua needed to grow, but the journey itself is a confirmation that the major change happened too early.
This leaves me in an interesting place. I honestly got pretty bored by the end of the movie. It's not like this is one of those movies that had too many set pieces. It had some pretty cool stuff. Again, the setting is rad and I love how alive the robots seem in the movie, even the ones that don't look remotely human.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.