Del and Mladen review ‘The Creator’
“The Creator” stars John David Washington as Joshua, Madeleine Yuna Voyles as Alphie, Gemma Chan as Maya, Allison Janney as Colonel Howell, and Ken Watanabe as Harun. It is directed by Gareth Edwards, has a run time of 2 hours and 13 minutes, and is rated PG-13. See it in theatrical release.
“The Creator” did not create a box office phenomenon. In fact, it landed with a thud, earning only $30 million in its opening weekend compared to an $80 million production cost. The experts at Looper attribute its failure to the following:
The movie lacked well-known stars. John David Washington (“Tenet”) and Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) are the two highest profile actors.
The SAG-AFTRA strike prevented the cast from promoting the film.
The film presents a sympathetic view of AI at a moment when AI technology is under fire for multiple affronts, from displacing human workers to plagiarisation and creating disinformation.
The marketing may have misled the public as to the movie’s true plot.
I would add a fifth: Meme-loving, McDonald’s-eating, Trump-voting Americans are so risk-averse they’re not willing to take a chance on an unknown entertainment quantity.
That’s a shame because “The Creator” is a decent movie. Special effects are top notch, acting is terrific, and the movie’s sweep is epic.
The plot is complicated, so bear with me: An AI entity is blamed for detonating a nuclear weapon over Los Angeles, killing millions of people and prompting the United States to undertake a pogrom to erase the algorithmic scourge from the face of the earth. A giant and impregnable space station called NOMAD orbits above a faraway land called New Asia, a haven for AI sympathizers, and blasts suspected hideouts with nuclear missiles. John David Washington’s character, a special forces dude named Joshua, infiltrates New Asia and marries the daughter of the Nirmata, or Creator, who is working to make AI even more powerful. Joshua’s mission is to identify the location of the Nirmata so that NOMAD can end the menace of AI once and for all. But Joshua’s new wife, Maya (played by Gemma Chan), is the actual Nirmata and has created a superweapon, an AI child based on her unborn baby. The child (“Alphie,” played by Madeleine Yuna Voyles), has amazing powers that could bring down NOMAD.
“The Creator” clearly has Biblical overtones and if anything, its Adam-and-Eve subtext may be too on-the-nose. It portrays AI-endowed robots as an oppressed minority who face persecution similar to that endured by Jews, African Americans and members of the LGBTQ community. The robots await the arrival of a savior who will deliver them from the persecution of Americans and the West – shades of Neo in “The Matrix.”
“The Creator’s” virtues are many. It’s a beautiful thing to look at. We saw it in IMAX and Dolby stereo, which showcased its visual and audio drama. John David Washington – who I did not know was Denzel Washington’s son! – Ken Watanabe and Allison Janney are very good in their roles. Madeleine Yuna Voyles as Alfie, the AI weapon, was excellent – this was her debut movie.
I agree with criticism the movie seems to use material from other films. At times I felt I was watching “Blade Runner,” “Platoon” or, as I said above, “The Matrix.” According to the film’s Wikipedia entry, “Edwards cited (sic) Apocalypse Now (1979), Baraka (1992), Blade Runner (1982), Akira (1988), Rain Man (1988), The Hit (1984), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Paper Moon (1973) as this film’s sources of inspiration.”
“The Creator” has received generally favorable reviews from critics, who laud its spectacular special effects and grand sweep. But they simultaneously downscore it for lacking depth and heart. Said Christy Lemire on RogerEbert.com:
“Rich in atmosphere but short on substance, director and co-writer Gareth Edwards’ film has the look and tone of a serious, original work of art, but it ends up feeling empty as it recycles images and ideas from many influential predecessors.”
I’m not a Gareth Edwards fan and was unimpressed with some of his previous efforts, like “Godzilla” and “Monsters,” which I hated. But I feel I should defend “The Creator.” It’s an enjoyable science-fiction movie that at least tries to say something more than “superhero” or “Trust the Force.”
In other words, it’s not a fast-food meme, and there’s not one awful comb-over in its 133 minutes.
I give “The Creator” a B+ grade.
Strangely enough, I agree with much of Del’s “The Creator” review. The world building in this film is epic. The AI-driven simulants were fully merged with human society in New Asia. Megacities were bleak, countryside green. Cyborg and man shared everything (and it looked like it) and that produced the film’s most interesting idea, that AIs had found religion. The AIs prayed, just like humans. The AIs buried their dead or cremated them on pyres, just like humans. The AIs married each other and humans. The AIs needed a supernatural savior, just like humans.
My reaction to the notion of godliness-infused robots, which, frankly, had never occurred to me as I thought about AI? Something like this, “Holy fuck, how can beings that are supposed to be more intelligent than the critters that created them also believe there’s a ghost in the sky or a kinsman or Buddha watching over them?” My thought was all the more resonant because the only thing above New Asia with the power of Almighty was the $1 trillion space battlewagon NOMAD. Good god, God, NOMAD launched tac-nukes from an effing carousel straight down at its target, killing everything. Women, men, children, gone. Nonhuman women, men, and children, gone. Boom. Again and again. Take this and this and this, New Asia. Where are your gods when you need them most? Bah ha ha.
As Del bellyached about how little interest “The Creator” has drawn from moviegoers, I came up with an idea for a new marketing campaign. The movie is titled “The Creator,” so sell it as a creation tale extolling Creationism. “Joshua” and “Maya” are Adam and Eve because their unborn Child serves as the blueprint for a savior’s soul. What is Alphie saving? Humanity from itself. Perfect. All the world’s major monotheistic religions are dedicated to saving humans from themselves. The film’s slogan will be, “Every species needs a god.” If that doesn’t draw Del’s “meme-loving, McDonald’s-eating, Trump-voting Americans,” who also tend to be religionists, to “The Creator,” I don’t know what will.
One more thought about AIs practicing religion now that the movie has spurred me to think about it. A few weeks ago, that is before I saw “The Creator,” I developed a new definition for AI. AI does not stand for Artificial Intelligence. It stands for Apocalypse Intelligence. The AIs in “The Creator” are religionists. The “Apocalypse” is in the Book of Revelation. Duh. Of course, AI will imbibe religion. AI is already an agent of the Apocalypse, amplifying Mankind’s worst impulses and hatreds even as I write this.
One problem that Del didn’t mention is that “The Creator” is too long. Its story of undying love, redemption, hope, and the happy ending could’ve unfolded in less than 2 hours with a bit of good editing. Also, I had to keep the bile down when, amid a very cool and noisy scene featuring behemoth armored vehicles, a squad of good guys with rifles failed to hit a bad guy at near-close range. Who did the smack down? Joshua with a pistol while lying on his back protecting a wounded Alphie. God Almighty that was irritating.
But, it took no time for the film to re-envelope me with its stunning visuals after an annoying scene. This A- wonder must be seen in an IMAX or Dolby theater. The spectacle and sound are striking. I will buy it on 4K disc. I will play it at scale at home on seven speakers and a powered subwoofer but it ain’t going to be the same as the bazillion IMAX speakers and hyper-wattage that I enjoyed on a Saturday afternoon.
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.
I’ve become a cry baby in my old age.
I cry at movies – moments where the couple meet and finally – FINALLY – realize they love each other, and as the music swells, their lips come together … and my eyes get all smeary wet with tears.
Videos of soldiers coming home from deployment and surprising their kids and their spouse. I’m a sucker for those.
Especially animals that are found starving, covered in ticks, their fur matted, their tails protectively curled between their legs. Once they’ve been restored to health – and happiness – I’m grabbing the Kleenexes.
Lord, I’m a mess.
I was a crybaby when I was a kid. I remember crying at the movie “Born Free,” where Elsa the lioness returns to the Adamsons after raising a family of her own. I cried when “Old Yeller” died. And, of course, I sobbed whenever I fell off my bicycle, or the neighborhood bully gave me a bloody nose, or I shot the dove in my front yard with my pellet rifle as its mate stood nearby, confused, until I finally got too close and it flew away. I cried because for the first time I realized life was precious, and I had taken another life. These days I don’t kill much of anything except cockroaches.
I cried whenever I felt like it, until I reached my mid-teens or thereabouts. Then, something happened. I think it happens to most boys around that age.
We learn not to show our emotions. The world teaches us that. It teaches us that men who show their emotions are weak. Men who cry are babies.
It’s sad, because there were many, many times during those years when I would like to have cried but didn’t, when I held my jaw in place, my lips trembling, and focused so ferociously on everything but my pain that my eyes never softened with tears.
Looking back, I wish I’d done it differently. I wish I’d cried like a baby. All it would have meant is that my heart was whole. There’s no shame in that.
I no longer believe the myth of the stiff upper lip. Strength is a virtue, yes. We all want to be strong, especially us guys. But there’s such a thing as “too strong,” where you cut yourself off from many of the feelings and emotions that make us human, and I don’t want to be strong that way. I don’t want to be a robot, or a machine. I want to live, and part of living is feeling, pain and all.
I’ll spend the remaining quarter of my life unlearning some of the things I learned in the first three-quarters, and showing my emotions is one of them. I don’t want to be the American concept of manhood.
I believe women refer to it as being “emotionally unavailable.” No thanks. I want to be emotionally available, even if it’s just to myself.
I am giving myself permission to cry.
About the author:
Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”
Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.
As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.
Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at delstonejr.com .