The Creator Review: A Beautifully Mediocre Sci-Fi Movie

Artificial intelligence is at the forefront of every discussion we’ve been having in the entertainment industry. A big reason why the WGA and SAG-AFTRA went on strike is the looming threat that AI poses to their jobs. With the WGA strike reaching an end recently, it’s poetic that one of the first movies to release is The Creator, a science fiction action thriller grappling with humans and their relationship to A.I. The film has a strong start with commercials showing humans and robots coexisting peacefully until A.I. kills a million people with a nuclear warhead.

Artificial intelligence is at the forefront of every discussion we’ve been having in the entertainment industry. A big reason why the WGA and SAG-AFTRA went on strike is the looming threat that AI poses to their jobs. With the WGA strike reaching an end recently, it’s poetic that one of the first movies to release is The Creator, a science fiction action thriller grappling with humans and their relationship to A.I. The film has a strong start with commercials showing humans and robots coexisting peacefully until A.I. kills a million people with a nuclear warhead.

From there, we enter a visually breathtaking but ultimately familiar sci-fi outing. In an early scene, we meet Sergeant Joshua Taylor (John David Washington) and his wife, Maya Fey-Taylor (Gemma Chan). She is pregnant with his child, and they share a loving moment in bed together. However, whenever a movie starts like this, you know it won’t end well for the wife and her unborn baby. Sure enough, she is killed in an explosion caused by the A.I. war a few minutes later, fridging her and leaving Joshua a depressed, grieving man. Joshua is afflicted with what I like to call DWS (Dead Wife Syndrome), which we’ve seen in other male protagonists from 2023 films like Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and Haunted Mansion.

If you or a loved one may be suffering from DWS, there is no toll-free number you can dial. All you can do is have flashbacks to the happy memories you shared together, sometimes with a POV shot in bed or, in the case of this movie (and many others), happy memories on a beach. On a serious note, the emotional core with the wife is only half-effective because we only get a sense of who she is through flashbacks, through Joshua’s perspective. However, her untimely death is what leads Joshua down a sad route where he only wants to talk to her one last time and no longer believes there is any humanity in A.I., saying it is all just programming.

(embed)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ex3C1-5Dhb8(/embed)

Soon enough, we have our inciting event, as two people knock on his door and invite the retired hero back for one last fight. We have our call to adventure, followed by our hero’s refusal of the call. Eventually, of course, Joshua gives in, and the sci-fi action thriller begins. There’s some fantastic world-building in The Creator. It’s a lived-in world that lends itself to futuristic weapons and suits. Unfortunately, the suits and weapons don’t reinvent the wheel here, giving us stun guns and big armor but not doing anything more unique than that.

Gareth Edwards directs this film. If you’ve seen any of his previous work, like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and his 2014 Godzilla movie, you know that Edwards has a strong eye for spectacle. You feel the grand nature of everything, and he helms The Creator with a strong sense of scope. However, this screenplay, written by him and Chris Weitz, plays into every sci-fi trope you’ve seen done better in other movies. We have a scene where two characters shoot at each other, and then we cut away before seeing who landed the shot. This scene exists in movies and TV everywhere. Marvel just did this in their show Secret Invasion. Of course, this is not Edwards plagiarizing Marvel; this is a tired screenwriting trope that shows up everywhere.

We have the classic lines, “We’ve got company!” and “Call in the cavalry!” There are one or two abrupt tonal shifts between humorous and serious moments in the film, which feel jarring. A few significant revelations are not directed with the right amount of intensity and urgency they deserve. Furthermore, the action set pieces don’t feel like set pieces. There are shootouts and violence all throughout The Creator, but there isn’t a single one that stands out above the rest. Most of them are forgettable.

(embed)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzWDY6M-c8A(/embed)

But let’s talk about the strongest aspect of the film: the cinematography. Greig Fraser, the brilliant cinematographer behind Rogue One, Dune, and The Batman, worked on this film for a while. He then shifted to a remote role to work on Dune: Part Two, and the rest of the shoot was carried out by cinematographer Oren Soffer in his first film production for a major studio. On a personal note, Soffer and I share an alma mater, so seeing him get a gig like this is wonderful. On an objective note, this movie is visually breathtaking. Every frame is gorgeous, with the colors popping off the screen and immersing you in a sci-fi world. This is even more impressive when you find out that the film was shot on a Sony FX3, a video camera that can be purchased at Best Buy for much less than your average RED cinema camera.

Lighting is key to making an image look good, and my unwavering praise goes to Fraser, Soffer, and gaffer Jonny Franklin for a job well done. I wish this work surrounded more than an undercooked screenplay that had me checking my watch more often than I should have. However, the clichés are baked into this premise. Joshua meets a robot child whom he names Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), and they go on a mission together where he keeps her safe. First of all, if you want to see an adaptation of the Lone Wolf and Cub story in a high-tech sci-fi world, there’s always The Mandalorian. Secondly, their relationship has a few great moments, but it ultimately does not get you on board for the emotional ride.

The Creator Review: The Final Verdict

For the most part, Alphie is a cheat code in a video game. Alphie is so powerful that she can manipulate technology remotely. She’s so powerful that she becomes a much more interesting and powerful character than our protagonist Joshua. Although Washington gets a few moments to shine comedically (the same way Christopher Nolan gave him a few moments in Tenet), he’s not fully realized beyond his grief. The lack of one clear antagonistic force in this narrative also works against this movie rather than for it. Ultimately, there’s a lot that viewers will love about The Creator. There’s a strong vision here and a mesmerizing world. But there ultimately isn’t enough here to meet the potential.

SCORE: 5/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 5 equates to “Mediocre.” The positives and negatives wind up negating each other, making it a wash.