Artificial Intelligence is top of mind for just about everyone.
Hollywood fears it. Tech giants crave it. Politicians wonder how they can leverage it against their opponents.
The rest of us worry A.I. will make movies like “The Terminator” into tomorrow’s reality.
“The Creator” has something fresh to say on the subject. To reveal more could undermine the film’s essence, which makes traditional review tactics tricky. Director Gareth Edwards of “Rogue One” fame delivers a cautionary tale, all right, but audiences may not see the blinking red light coming.
Once they do, they may recoil in record numbers.
John David Washington stars as Joshua, introduced as an undercover agent in the film’s opening stages. He’s part of an effort to eliminate A.I. from the planet. A nuclear catastrophe convinced the U.S. government to take a final stand against the onslaught of A.I. robots living among us.
And they are … everywhere … at the start of the film.
The military creates a massive, floating station that seeks out, and eliminates, any signs of A.I. “life.” Joshua, still mourning the loss of his beloved wife (Gemma Chan), leads a strike force to find a weapon that could wipe out humanity.
Except the weapon walks and talks like an adorable pre-teen girl (Madeleine Yuna Voyles).
Is this an immigration parable? A warning about unchecked technology? A peek at our probable future? Here’s guessing it’s all of the above, but Edwards’ vision is uncompromising.
“The Creator” depicts a future where “simulants” walk among us, indistinguishable from humans save the empty, cone-like shape where their ears should be. The CGI is breathtaking and wildly convincing.
That goes for the rest of the production design, a flawless canvas that lets Edwards and co. do whatever they want to tell their story.
That story isn’t as mesmerizing as it appears on paper. The action sequences lack stakes or coherency, and the film’s legion of plot holes keep ripping us out of the experience.
Like, how do you sneak up on A.I.?
It’s just one of many nagging questions “The Creator” won’t address.
The film’s themes, which cannot be shared here without epic spoilers, are both nuanced and maddeningly one-dimensional. That duality does the film few favors. “The Creator” understands the depth of the human experience but too often pretends it doesn’t.
Other elements fascinate, like how easily robots integrate into modern society. It’s seamless and frightening, and our hero personifies that uneasy alliance. Joshua is missing an arm and a leg, but both are perfectly replicated by robotic parts. He’s as good as new.
Once again, the effects here are flawless. Even better? They don’t call attention to themselves. The impression is subtle and powerful.
The great Allison Janney is wasted as Joshua’s commander, as is Marc Menchaca of “Alone” fame. “The Creator” is less invested in its human characters, and it shows.
The early sequences are the most powerful. A prologue introducing us to the robot-infested world marries 1950s-style news reels with chilling computer advancements. Our first glimpse of Washington and Chan registers as real, but we’re expected to buy everything that happens later based on that connection.
It’s just not enough.
“The Creator” has plenty in common with the “Avatar” franchise, and not just on a technical level. The visionaries behind them have a view of humanity that may send some audience members scrambling for the exits.
HiT or Miss: “The Creator” offers a brave new vision of the future, but the story stumbles too often to sell it.