Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a cultural symbol of fear and uncertainty in 2023. It is seen as the ghost in the machine that threatens to replace or replicate humanity's worst qualities. Musicians, writers, and artists worry about AI's ability to mimic their voices, which may dilute their originality and flood the world with countless fakes. The entertainment industry, represented by organizations like the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, have made the perils of embracing or ignoring AI a central focus of their protests. The future is here, and its dystopian implications are unmistakable.
This brings us to 'The Creator,' Gareth Edwards' science-fiction thriller set in a world ravaged by a war between humans and machines. Although the story takes place in 2065, its premise bears striking similarity to our current reality. AI-driven robots are increasingly integrated into society, starting with roles in education, service, and law enforcement. The introduction of "simulants," androids that closely resemble humans except for a small gap on their necks, marks a critical turning point. The tension escalates when a nuclear device detonates in Hollywood, USA, sparking the all-out conflict.
In the aftermath, Los Angeles becomes a radioactive wasteland, and one soldier named Joshua (John David Washington) embarks on a covert mission to locate the AI army's enigmatic leader, Nirmata. Revered as the architect of the original algorithm, Nirmata is worshipped like a deity by those freed from human oppression. During a raid on a beachfront outpost in "New Asia," Joshua, along with his pregnant wife Maya (Gemma Chan), faces setbacks and personal disillusionment. The military brass commend Joshua as a hero, but he yearns to retreat and heal his emotional wounds.
Five years later, Joshua is reluctantly called back into action. Tasked with capturing a secret weapon known as Alpha One, being developed by the AI rebels, he becomes an indispensable asset due to his past experiences. The resistance urgently requires his expertise. Reluctantly, Joshua joins a commando squad led by a determined and uncompromising commander, Allison Janney. As they breach the enemy compound, Joshua discovers that the weapon is none other than a young simulant girl named Alphie (Madeleine Voyles). Ordered to eliminate her without mercy, Joshua rebels against his instructions. He believes that Alphie, despite her small and innocent appearance, may hold crucial information about Nirmata and other personal matters related to his traumatic past.
'The Creator' undoubtedly fits into the subgenre of science fiction that delves into the inherent paranoia surrounding AI. It also highlights how familiar elements can shape narratives. The man-vs.-machine conflict and the story of a lone soldier evoke echoes of 'The Terminator.' Visually, the production draws heavily from 'Alien' and 'Star Wars,' adopting the aesthetics of a gritty space setting. The mecha-guerrilla battles may have been inspired by Edwards' own work in the 'Star Wars' franchise, particularly 'Rogue One.' Additionally, the film incorporates imagery reminiscent of the Vietnam War, creating a deliberate stylistic choice. The presence of a floating space station, reminiscent of a "death star," serves as a pivotal element that could determine the outcome of the war. Furthermore, a brief excursion into an urban area characterized by dark skies, rain, and neon lights evokes the atmosphere of 'Blade Runner.' A tentacled robot-like entity could easily belong in 'The Matrix.' The list goes on, demonstrating the abundance of influences apparent throughout the film.
There is nothing inherently wrong with remixing, remastering, and re-contextualizing elements from classic works to create something new. This practice has been a staple of the science fiction genre since Georges Méliès sent men to the moon. However, 'The Creator' falls short when attempting to deliver something genuinely new. It relies on familiar tropes and fails to offer fresh perspectives on the amalgamation of influences. The film's greatest accomplishment lies in reaffirming John David Washington as a promising leading man for the next generation. However, it also highlights the need for him to find a project that allows him to shine independently, rather than playing second fiddle to convoluted plot twists and extravagant special effects. Ultimately, 'The Creator' lacks the creativity necessary to fully explore the potential of its appropriations and deliver a compelling message. The team behind this nostalgic journey through cinematic history seems to have operated in a somewhat conspiratorial manner, as though they inputted the scripts of revered science fiction masterpieces into an AI program and eagerly awaited the resulting amalgamation. This approach, coupled with the underlying concept that machines are actually the virtuous entities in this scenario, and that acknowledging this fact would be beneficial for all, further solidifies the notion. In the realm of artificial intelligence and script writing, it is possible that we have unknowingly conceded defeat, without even realizing it.