REVIEW: The Creator is the perfect mix of Avatar and District 9
The Creator is one of the best sci-fi movies of the 21st century.
The Creator is exactly the kind of movie that people often complain Hollywood doesn't make any more. An action sci-fi blockbuster that isn't a sequel or based on any previously existing intellectual property, it features some eye-popping visuals, properly exciting set-pieces, and features and emotionality and intelligence that has become more and more rare as movies get more and more expensive.
The fact that director and co-writer Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Rogue One) managed to accomplish all of this with a relatively tight budget of just $80 million seems like a minor miracle. And in a fair and just world, The Creator would absolutely set the box office alight, doing for high IQ blockbusters what Barbie is surely about to do for all future movies based on toys.
Set in the year 2070, America is still trying to recover from a nuclear bomb set off in Los Angeles by artificial intelligence. That act made AI illegal in the Western world, but the robots are still living freely in New Asia, where it is believed they have created a new weapon that will effectively end all of humanity.
Retired agent Joshua (John David Washington) is sent in to destroy the weapon, but discovers it is actually an AI in the form of a young girl, Alfie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles). Feeling deceived, Joshua goes on the run to get to the actual truth behind Alfie's existence, all while being pursued by the American military, headed by Howell (Allison Janney), as well as the AI who believe Alfie to be their future leader, fronted by Harun (Ken Watanabe).
Go to see The Creator on the biggest, loudest cinema screen you can find
Mixing in the central dramas of being District 9 (humans trying and failing to exist alongside a new life form) and Avatar (the "western" military invading for the "good" of all mankind), Edwards blends together some very heady talking points, from post-9/11 warscapes to the fear of AI to every type of societal phobia going. It doesn't add up to a barrel of laughs, to the point where when some levity does finally arrive, it feels very much out of place.
But those minor moments barely detract from overall creation, which has given us one of the very best sci-fi movies of the 21st century. Edwards filmed on location in Thailand, presenting the stunning natural beauty of the world, and then pasting a sci-fi sheen over that world, creating a visual landscape quite unlike any before.
In the midst of that, Edwards has clearly learned some lessons about creating size and scope from Godzilla and Rogue One, as the action sequences feel absolutely huge and epic, to the point that they rival the Avatar or Dune movies, despite the fact that they cost two to three times as much to make as this movie.
Coupled with that, we get a fantastic score from Hans Zimmer, some gorgeous cinematography from Oren Soffer, all wrapped around some brilliant central performances. Janney and Watanabe are as outstanding as always, joined by some great supporting cast like Gemma Chan and Sturgill Simpson. And as much as John David Washington goes a long way to ground the entire drama, the beating heart of this movie is Madeleine Yuna Voyles, who delivers a nuanced, layered, heartbreaking and joyful performance at the centre of the swirling madness around her.
Added all together, and the end result is one of 2023's best movies, and an absolute must-watch for fans of intelligent blockbusters.
The Creator arrives in cinemas on Thursday 28 September.
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