In my estimation, Garth Edwards made his mark back in 2016 when he directed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It breathed new life into a mega franchise that was perhaps in need of some new energy and direction.
It was hugely successful. I was genuinely entertained and impressed.
But what do you do for an encore, as they say in show business? How can you possibly top that?
The answer is The Creator, which Edwards both wrote and directed.
It’s a futuristic sci-fi epic about the impending clash of humans and AI, something on everyone’s minds since we were introduced to HAL 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s stunning masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey released back in 1968.
It’s a topic that has been the basis of a ton of sci-fi movies. Edwards knows that. What he offers here is a different twist on the expected dynamics.
For starters, The Creator is bold and epic in its approach, taking full advantage of visual effects in addition to the sound effects and music. It’s a movie made to be seen on IMAX or Dolby or the biggest, loudest theater screen you can find.
As mentioned, it’s a story about the human race and the world of AI following a nuclear catastrophe that obliterates Los Angeles in the year 2055. It’s “humanity versus computers and robots,” with a twist that I would never give away.
Let’s just say that it’s a story line that you might not anticipate.
At its center is the character Joshua played by John David Washington, a war veteran who has lost his right arm and leg but is able to function quite well with the assistance of artificial limbs. He is sent on a mission to find and destroy a threat to the future of mankind, not a machine or monster, but an innocent-looking young child.
When the movie opens, Joshua is in bed with his lover Maya (Gemma Chan) having a quiet, casual conversation when all hell suddenly breaks loose. Terrifying robotic soldiers quickly turn their world into chaos. The scene feels a little like something from one of the modern James Bond movies. It’s familiar, but it works.
Much of The Creator feels like borrowed material from other movies. Garth Edwards freely admits that. He’s taken the best of the movies he really likes and woven those elements into his own story. There are bits and pieces of Blade Runner, Star Wars, The Last Emperor, Apocalypse Now, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune movies (2021) and the aforementioned James Bond-style action sequences.
What’s impressive is the expansive, surrealistic sense of the movie, not unlike what we witnessed in the most recent Dune adaptation. The images are both dreamlike and nightmarish at the same time. In particular, the sight of an immense floating vehicle the size of a modern city, ominously moving through the sky as it scans the terrain below with bright blue shafts of laser light.
In some ways, it’s a version of the Death Star from Star Wars -- something huge and horrifying that must ultimately be destroyed in order to restore order.
The power of Edwards' vision is his reliance on sweeping wide shots. There is a sense of immense scale in The Creator reminiscent of the work of British director David Lean who went big on knockout, big screen spectacle in movies like Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Dr. Zhivago (1965).
Garth Edwards proves that lightning can strike twice in two, consecutive movies when it comes to exciting action and explosive energy. Despite the run time (2 hours 13 minutes) it keeps audiences engaged.
To be fair, The Creator isn’t a perfect movie. In addition to the heavy reliance on other films it makes the mistake of including details that just don’t work withing the implied futuristic time frame that’s only decades down the road.
It is a miscalculation that many sci-fi writers and directors make. Either not setting their stories far enough in the future to make their futuristic world look plausible (even Stanley Kubrick was guilty of that when he released his vision of the year 2001 back in the year 1968) or including elements of current technology that will most probably be gone and long forgotten by the time the story takes place, such as the inclusion of pay phones and clunky military walkie talkies.
All that aside, The Creator exceeded my expectations in terms of sheer, wide-eyed entertainment.
It is a mash-up of a movie, fashioned from a lot of spare parts, but it ran so smoothly that I really didn’t care.
It’s a movie with a great cast, top-notch technical credits and the steady hand of a director who knows how to deliver a powerful, popcorn, Saturday Matinee kind of movie guaranteed to dazzle your socks off.
Photos courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.