The latest film from director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Rogue One) is an original sci-fi epic that feels remarkably timely, given that it’s centred on a war between mankind and Artificial Intelligence. Combining spectacular effects work with a surprisingly provocative script, it’s a superbly made sci-fi adventure that delivers plenty of robo-thrills.
The film takes place in 2070, in a world where the US are at war with the forces of Artificial Intelligence, following the nuclear destruction of Los Angeles, 15 years previously. John David Washington plays ex-special forces agent Joshua Taylor, who’s recruited to hunt down and kill a mysterious figure known as Nimata, the creator of a new Artificial Intelligence weapon with the ability to destroy mankind.
Still haunted by the disappearance of his wife Maya (Gemma Chan) from when he was deep undercover in New Asia (where AI is still legal), Joshua accepts the mission after he learns she may still be alive. However, the plan takes an unexpected turn when the so-called A.I. super-weapon turns out to be an adorable small robot child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) and Joshua goes on the run with her, believing she can lead him to Maya.
Edwards’ script, co-written with Chris Weitz, plays interesting games with the audience’s expectations and sympathies throughout, drip-feeding key information to quietly devastating effect. This is heightened by some extremely smart casting decisions, most notably having Allison Janney (usually a naturally warm, likeable presence) as the leader of the US military operation in New Asia – you’ll never look at her quite the same way again after this.
The world-building is extremely impressive. Edwards has cited the likes of Apocalypse Now (1979), Blade Runner (1982) and Akira (1988) as influences, and the phenomenal production design reflects that, while still feeling entirely original, thanks to some inspired location work, whereby the crew were instructed to find landscapes in East Asia that looked other-worldly, apparently saving the production millions of dollars in the process.
In addition, there’s a thrilling level of invention in the detail, from exciting sci-fi ideas like projectile time explosives (one of those ideas you can’t quite believe hasn’t been more widely used) and stomping kamikaze robo-bombs (“It has been an honour to serve you”) to amusing throwaway moments like an android strip club or machines watching what looks like holograms of exotic AI dancers.
Performance-wise, Washington makes a compelling, charismatic lead, comfortably convincing in his conflicted loyalties. He also generates touching chemistry with Voyles, who is a real find, her heart-breakingly innocent face proving something of a secret weapon when it comes to winning the audience over to the side of the robots.
Edwards’ direction is assured throughout, maintaining a cracking pace and orchestrating several thrilling action sequences before building to a climax that is both exciting and deeply moving. In short, The Creator is one of the sci-fi highlights of the year, a powerful and original epic that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can find.
- Director: Gareth Edwards
- Starring: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Ken Watanabe
- Release date: September 28