Gareth Edwards goes back to his roots with The Creator, an $80 million sci-fi spectacle that has more in common with his $500,000 debut Monsters than even his two other blockbusters, Godzilla and Rogue One. Though budgeted manyfold higher than Monsters, what this new feature shares, in addition to a real visual invention, is a strong socio-political handle, Trojan Horsed through an action film veneer.
The Creator is a futuristic thriller about an American special forces agent, Joshua (Tenet star John David Washington, continually proving his leading man credentials), who is outfitted in a post in New Asia (an area imagined as a unity between various Asian countries) when a war between the US and advanced artificial intelligence is raging. In his mission to end it, he embeds himself in the life of robot scientist Maya (Gemma Chan). Their relationship manifests as real love, with her imminently expecting their child when the film begins.
Sadly, the storytelling of The Creator isn’t as advanced as the AI within it, and therefore it succumbs to some unappealing tropes, including “fridging”, which is when a character is introduced only for them to quickly die, for the purpose of furthering another plot. It’s a particularly bad trope as female characters are often subject to it – that’s the case here too, as Maya is shortly dispatched. Years later, her death is the impetus for Joshua to guide a young robot girl whom the Americans are chasing, believing her to be a weapon required to end the war.
Through this plot, Edwards boldly declares his intentions upfront, delivering a narrative of Western imperialism, allegorising his film with America’s rationale for the invasion of Iraq and concluding the futility of war all the same, including the hopelessly long search for weapons of mass destruction and the trail of collateral damage left behind.
The messaging is powered by the top-tier craft, with some of the year’s best production design and cinematography giving the feature a searing personal intensity to Joshua and Alfie’s journey. This was expected from Edwards, really, with Monsters and Rogue One both standing out for their beautiful character work and sense of intimacy against an epic backdrop. Given its faults, Edwards’s masterpiece may still be to come, but The Creator is his best film yet, showcasing his love for political drama and action entertainment to the most thrilling extent so far.
The Creator is released nationwide on 28th September 2023.
Watch the trailer for The Creator here: