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‘The Creator’: the next world war will combat artificial intelligence

Director Gareth Edwards’ film is a mishmash of science fiction classics and other genres that misses the mark

Ken Watanabe, The Creator
Ken Watanabe in 'The Creator.'

In the near future, the enemy of the free Western world won’t be jihadist terrorism, the Middle East, Iran, Russia, or China. The source of danger won’t be Africa’s destabilization or the tyrannical ambitions of a charismatic despot and his minions. The next world war will ignite sometime in the 2050s and will pit artificial intelligence and its creators against New Asia and the free Western world, where it has been banned since the catastrophic AI rebellion in Los Angeles.

Everyone saw it coming. Not the fictional war that is yet to come, but the movies that explore the possibility. The Creator, a dystopian science fiction tale by Rogue One director Gareth Edwards, has a promising start but falls short in its originality, tone, and visualization.

The movie attempts to combine various genres, including science fiction classics, and apply them to contemporary life. But a more distinct identity could have made this genre stew more engaging. It often feels like James Cameron’s Aliens, with hints of Blade Runner, a dash of Children of Men, a spoonful of Akira, a pinch of Apocalypse Now with pro-AI Viet Cong fighters, and, of course, large dollops of Steven Spielberg’s A.I.

The premise for the film is not groundbreaking, but its release coincides with the increasing presence of artificial intelligence in our society. It travels in a line from scientific and medical illusion to social, cultural and moral desolation. And here is where Edwards’s own story is interesting. The British filmmaker began his career with the 2005 BBC docudrama End Day, which described five doomsday scenarios. He first gained widespread recognition for Monsters (2010), and later delved into the Star Wars universe with the effective but subdued Rogue One (2016). The Creator features intriguing ideas such as the ability to donate personality traits (not organs) after death, impactful visuals, and thought-provoking dilemmas we are facing right now. At the very least, it’s an admirable attempt.

Edwards, much like other contemporary sci-fi filmmakers, tends to overcomplicate the narrative, leading to confusion rather than depth. Some directors are skilled in creating dynamic visuals and sound effects but lack the ability to tell a story in the traditional sense. Or maybe classicism is simply unfashionable now.

The question of whether artificial intelligence will save or destroy us remains unanswered. The Creator’s resolution to machine ethics is rudimentary, likening it to a nebulous Eastern spirituality limited to a few primal emotions. “They don’t have emotions, they are simply programmed to have them,” is the movie’s oft-repeated statement about the AI humanoids. In many ways, it’s also an apt description of The Creator.

The Creator

Director: Gareth Edwards.

Performers: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Madeleine Yuna Boyles, Ken Watanabe.

Genre: Science fiction. U.S., 2023.

Duration: 133 minutes.

Premiere: September 29.

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