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“The Creator” is a sprawling sci-fi story that is short on subtlety but heavy on spectacle — and what a spectacle it is.

The Creator

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There are a few hills I am perfectly willing to die on: Gene Wilder was, and forever will be, the only Willy Wonka that matters; it shouldn’t be called a cheesesteak if it’s missing cheese and/or steak; and Rogue One is the best post-original trilogy Star Wars film in existence.

The latter point is especially important, as The Creator, the newest film by Rogue One director Gareth Edwards, genuinely feels like a logical progression of his 2016 Star Wars offering.

While not exactly hard sci-fi, the movie ditches some of the accepted (and integral) histrionics of everyone’s favorite “galaxy far, far away” for a slightly more grounded tale. But make no mistake, The Creator continues the look and tone from Rogue One, and I couldn’t be happier.

The Creator is a welcome return to big-budget science-fiction storytelling, the kind of movie that rarely gets made anymore unless your name is Denis Villeneuve, that is.

Led by an absolutely stellar cast, accompanied by spectacular visual effects, with gravitas added by one hell of a Hans Zimmer score, THE CREATOR is absolutely worth a watch for anyone who even remotely loves science fiction extravaganzas.

With AI currently a polarizing topic in nearly every field, from fiction writing to military applications, The Creator’s story is also pretty timely, even if it does go in the exact opposite direction of The Terminator. Yes, this is a more hopeful take on robot sentience, which allows for a more unique take on the genre.

I generally try to avoid spoilers, but the film’s trailer essentially gives away this conceit without a backward glance, so I’ll play along this time.

Yes, this is exactly what the trailer promised (and the film delivered), but there is a little more going on beneath the hood. Not much, mind you, as The Creator does suffer from frequent moments of style over substance.

I wouldn’t call this a superficial movie, but The Creator generally has about as much subtlety as a Zach Snyder flick; this isn’t a dig – just a fact.

Synopsis: Against the backdrop of a war between humans and robots with artificial intelligence, a former soldier finds the secret weapon, a robot in the form of a young child.

That said, there ARE a few heavy topics that the film touches on: what it is to be human, whether something artificial can have a soul, the overwhelming weight of regret, and the stranglehold that grief can have on even the most well-meaning of people.

But it never dives deeply enough into them to say anything important or new.

Even if Christopher Nolan’s Tenet left you scratching your head (I still am, even after multiple viewings), it cannot be argued that John David Washington delivered a stellar performance. He continues that trend in The Creator, ably capturing each emotion that his character, Joshua, goes through (which is just about all of them).

A movie like this wouldn’t work as well with a stoic protagonist, a la Blade Runner.

Fortunately, Joshua is an imminently likable character, and the way in which his emotional armor gets stripped away during the course of the proceedings makes him both endearing and believable.

On the other side of the thespian coin is newcomer Madeline Yuna Voyles as Alphie, the robotic child in question. Starting out as a cipher, dissociative by design, Alphie gradually adapts to the outside world, becoming the heart of the movie, and young Madeline goes all in with her expressive face and mannerisms.

A lot of child actors are meh, but I expect great things from her going forward. Madeline was made to be on screen.

The supporting cast is also excellent.

Gemma Chan is great in the small but vital role of someone close to Joshua. Ralph Ineson’s gravelly voice is perfect for playing a morally rigid military leader, while Allison Janney is very effective at embodying a character you hate to love and love to hate. Ken Watanabe, one of my personal favs, absolutely kills it as Harun, leader of the robot resistance.

The rest of the folks on screen are great with their roles, large or small, real or digital.

A sci-fi spectacle should have its fair share of action beats, and The Creator does have moments of military conflict throughout. Some are small, some are grand, but all are well-shot, with nobody getting lost due to questionable editing or shoddy choreography.

It’s not a particularly brutal film, nor is it an exercise in precise tactics, but it acquits itself well enough. Plus, projectile impacts are punchy and wounding, as they should be.

Do you have a big screen and surround sound? If so, this is the movie to calibrate all that tech with.

The special effects and general cinematography exhibit that “worn & weary” look captured so well by District 9, albeit with MUCH better fidelity. It all just looks so real. Featuring a more subdued palette at times, the colors that are present absolutely pop on an HDR screen.

Sound design, too, is phenomenal – the various effects, weapons, and atmospherics are all perfectly captured, while subwoofers will get a hefty workout.

Did I mention there are title cards for each “chapter”? It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for title cards, so The Creator earned bonus points with their inclusion.

The only thing that would make The Creator a nigh-perfect film is if it handled its emotional elements more adeptly.

As mentioned before, there are some deep concepts being explored, but only at a surface level.

Nearly every major revelation or twist is telegraphed way in advance, and there are some pretty gaping plot holes that are hard to ignore after repeat viewings.

Also, in true Hollywood fashion, there are far too many convenient “twists of fate” in the plot than there should be.

When much of what transpires is resolved through sheer luck or uncanny coincidence, it stretches credulity to the point of breaking. I’m perfectly fine with suspending my belief in most film concepts, but I have little patience for lazy writing. There is ALWAYS a way to explain something.

In addition, The Creator feels like it was originally much longer and got trimmed down in order to be more palatable at the box office (an all-to-common practice). If this is the case, I sure hope that a director’s cut is available at some point. Maybe it’ll smooth over some of the rougher edges.

Even though it’s not perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed The Creator.

A brand-new science fiction IP had to be a hard sell… I’m just glad it was green-lit. And the emotional impact at the end cannot be overstated. I can’t wait to see what Gareth Edwards tackles next!

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 5

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