THE OSCAR PROJECT
The Creator is the fourth feature film from Gareth Edwards, who thus far hasn't proven himself worthy of being mentioned in the same vein as his peers in Denis Villenueve, Alex Garland, Neil Blomkamp, and even Duncan Jones. Though every entry in his filmography has been met with generally positive reviews, I feel his technical proficiency and potential are shadowed by his lack of individuality. His previous films were plagued by blatant homage and trite storylines and sadly, The Creator is no different.
This movie has merits, of course. As is usual with Edwards' filmography, the cinematography is rich with pastel colours that fall on the eyes as easily as an autumn leaf on October grounds. The shot choices are always appropriate and determine the film's emotion, whether it be intimately scaled for deeper emotional moments or large-scale for elephantine battles that hold the energy you'd expect from a sci-fi blockbuster. However, the problems lie entirely in the storytelling department. The film is attempting a Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049-type story with its take on A.I. and their worth in society, how we value their consciousness, and ultimately what makes emotions real. It's inherently thought-provoking material, and given the right context and director, such as Blade Runner with Ridley Scott or Blade Runner 2049 with Villenueve, it can be an all-time classic.
However, this film has no intention of taking those derived ideas and remixing them to produce refreshing results—quite the opposite, in fact. It takes so much from films like Blade Runner, Aliens, Star Wars, Terminator, and Avatar and refuses to do anything but rehash plot elements, designs, and concepts to the point where there is not a single moment in this experience where you will be caught off guard. You know what is around every single corner at every minute because you have seen it a million times before and quite frankly, a million times better. To say this film was a walking cliche would be an insult to the cliches it's built upon. But not only does this film take so much from much better movies, it's done so blatantly that you're constantly reminded that you could be watching a better movie instead.
We have a basic military force led by Allison Janney doing her best Quaritch impression with Colonel Howell, which intensely reminds you of Avatar. But while James Cameron used very simple themes and concepts to build a Shakespearean epic of high drama and high stakes, The Creator uses all these same elements without understanding what makes them so powerful to begin with. Edwards waves his influences around like a toddler who's found his father's gun, with no respect for what he wields and no understanding of what its potential could be.
There are even moments that are so very close to good, edging towards emotionally powerful exchanges, but are undercut by the editing's unwavering need to be epic. Somber moments are always interrupted by booming music that jars the tone of the scripted material and performances. Deaths come and go with zero weight behind them because the characters feel like video game side quest companions; they have no discernible character traits beyond storyboarded shallow motivations. This isn't even remedied by our two protagonists, Joshua (John David Washington) and Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), who are on the typical ‘father figure ushers saviour child through dangerous settings and situations' mission. Though both actors are giving the material their best, the writing is just so uneventful and juiceless that their bond is nowhere near properly built in the entire two hours this film runs for. What's most crazy is that there is a clear story opportunity to give Joshua the perfect motivation for bonding with Alphie that isn't touched on until the final moments, when it's no longer effective.
So, the story is inoffensive but entirely unoriginal; I'd go as far as to say it's harshly predictable. The characters' motivations don't exist, and their personalities are even less observable. The antagonistic force shows up wherever the plot requires it to; there is no logical explanation for half of their appearances. The idea of 'New Asia' has been met with some fair criticism as it deals with the idea of a blended continent, essentially reducing most Asian cultures as interchangeable, which is wildly insensitive. There are some minor graces of competency, like the effects, which are all very solid and quite clearly where the budget went. There is also a brilliant line that explains that if the A.I. side of the war wins, nothing happens because they don't want to dominate; they just want to integrate and promote peace. It's a gorgeous theme that I wish was explored with more than just a single line, and overall, the film is so derivative that watching this over any of its influences, which clearly have Edwards in a chokehold, would be a grave misstep on behalf of the audience.
It's a fine film that passes the bare minimum requirements for a sci-fi story, and for that, I'm going to give The Creator a...
5 out of 10