Although Gareth Edwards hasn’t made a lot of movies, his world-building is second to none. In where it slips is with his latest, titled The Creator. It doesn’t quite have the soul needed when considering how he tries to tackle an age old subject: do androids dream of electric sheep? That is, just when do they become human, and do they deserve to be segregated? Also, I’m wondering why the spirituality that defines many different South Asian beliefs matters? In this film, I wondered why the robot monks we see in meditation are important.
When the narrative in this latest film doesn’t concern distilling why theosophy matters, I sense something got edited out between story to screenplay during production.
While this work is inspired by many classic works, what I identified is mostly from the anime world–namely Appleseed and Battle Angel, the manga. The Akira reference doesn’t really ring, despite what past marketing spiel has revealed. It felt more like doing a tailspin on Terminator and Blade Runner. The technology designs felt more inspired by the latter, and had the FX artists been allowed to be more original, that would’ve made the film stand out better.
That also includes the sequence where a nuclear bomb destroyed most of Los Angeles. Afterwards, humanity declared war on all forms of artificial intelligence! Once upon a time, they were accepted in modern society like in The Jetsons, but after that someone pushed the button, the trust in anything mechanical has been lost. And as for the synthoids (those ‘bots designed to look very human), they don’t have a chance to integrate. Like in Star Trek: Picard, memories and consciousness can be downloaded to a chip and uploaded to a new body!
There are too many concepts coming into play in this film that delves into the subject of whether humans are allowed to upgrade themselves, immortality and whether they are even considered still part of the same genus. Not only is there the question of when does A.I. become true human sentience, but also why does reincarnation matter? The latter half of the film leans heavy in wanting to explore it, but sadly there’s not enough time left in the film to go down this rabbit hole.
Either I’ve watched too many films and documentaries lately about this subject, or this filmmaker did not even want to try. He’s more focussed on telling Sergeant Joshua Taylor’s (John David Washington) story. He’s a guy with issues, and it’s his duty to locate Nirmata–a codename to a creator type entity. Maya (Gemma Chan) is a person of interest, but sadly he falls in love, and she’s pregnant with their child. This woman during an invasion, and just where the film begins is a few years later. He’s back to being “single.”
When his military superiors come to say they want to reactivate him and toss him into the lion’s den, I was hoping there’d be some surprises along the way. Sadly, there is none because this tale is way too predictable from beginning to end. Just whom he rescues is a girl whom he nicknames Alphie, and her magic ability to affect electronics is something his bosses want to exploit! And in true storytelling fashion, if they can’t control it, they’ll want to destroy it so nobody else can try.
While this film doesn’t quite hit the same levels as District 9, I get the feeling Edwards was borrowing from Neill Blomkamp‘s film for all the wrong reasons. While some countries don’t believe in segregation, another world does and we’re looking at how some worlds are willing to integrate rather than separate–which may be what this writer was really going for.
At least what’s presented is visually gorgeous. The money invested in getting the digital effects to look right and integrate must have been enormous. To get the right lighting effects to shine through the human-robot designs and the techno-organic look is far better than James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez‘s Alita: Battle Angel. The digital work put behind the making of this film deserves heaps of praise, and I can’t wait to see who the nominees are come award season.
3½ Stars out of 5