Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Distributed by: 20th Century Studios
Written by Alexander Reams
Gareth Edwards has been missing. For 7 years the filmmaker who revitalized the Godzilla franchise and confirmed that the Disney Star Wars films were here to stay with the first anthology film, “Rogue One,” has taken the longest break in his career. Some might call that cause for concern, however, all good things take time, and Edwards’s grand return to the cinema is now not only a symbol for what proper sci-fi filmmakers should be doing but also for many concerns throughout the industry, particularly with one of the main SAG-AFTRA strike points being about the implementation of A.I.. Thankfully, Edwards’s film is not only just a symbol, it’s one of the finest science fiction films of our time. “The Creator” wouldn’t exist without the brutal Disney machine, what Edwards experienced through the production of “Rogue One” was in the trades for weeks through the lead-up to the release. And fans of his previous films (12-year-old me adored “Godzilla” (2014)) became worried that it wouldn’t be an Edwards film. Safe to say, it was, it was abundantly clear what Edwards brought to the franchise. And that carried over ten-fold within the opening scene.
Edwards has a trademark of old newsreels as general exposition that simultaneously sets the tone of what you’re about to watch. A.I. was quickly discovered and introduced to the public as “Simulants” and all-too-quickly adopted into crucial aspects of daily life, this leads to a mistake in a program that causes a breathtaking nuclear explosion, destroying Los Angeles (one might even say it rivals another film with superbly done explosives and immaculate sound design), which quickly leads to a beach located in New Asia. We are introduced to Joshua (John David Washington) and Maya (Gemma Chan), along with their unborn child, whose idyllic seaside life is quickly interrupted by American operatives, who are looking for Nirmata (Nepalese for “The Creator”). The operation quickly goes south, Joshua is exposed as a spy, and Maya and the child are killed in an explosion. Edwards is quick to rip off the bandaid and never more so than here. The confidence to start out this genre of film with such an emotionally wrecking scene lays a foundation for the action and spectacle that Edwards has concocted.
The scale of Edwards’s vision is beautifully captured from the opening scene by cinematographers Greig Fraser and Oren Soffer, who craft some of the best shot compositions of the year, they allow scenes to breathe, and every move is smooth even when doing handheld footage. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that they employed a prosumer camera, the Sony FX3, which contributed to the indie filmmaking mindset that Edwards clearly created this from. John David Washington delivers another top-notch performance in the sci-fi genre (this writer will defend his performance in “Tenet” for years to come) and is developed through the vignettes with several veteran actors and a few newer faces, first is the American military who get him involved with the “last hope” mission before humans go extinct. Ralph Ineson and Allison Janney as General Andrews and Colonel Howell chew the scenery with little screen time but make for fantastically slimy villains. And Ken Watanabe turns in a solid, if not thankless, turn as a Simulant freedom fighter.
They all come together with this mission that Joshua is entrusted with, find the A.I. weapon and destroy it. What he doesn’t know is that the “weapon” is in the form of Alphie, played by Madeline Yuna Voyles. Voyles is not only the standout of the film, but her turn is one of the best child performances of this century, and it’s her debut film. Voyles and Washington share almost every frame from the time they meet. Their bond is the continuation of the emotional foundation setup from the beginning. The final act of Edwards four act film relies so much on the believability of Washington and Voyles’ chemistry and relationship up to that point and it’s only because of that caliber of performance from the pair can the simple push of a button and the quick reaction shots from the two be emotionally devastating. “The Creator” is one of the finest sci-fi films from this century, it’s emotionally mature about the reality that this future is in, and the bleakness that Edwards showed signs of in “Rogue One” is fully apparent, and perfect for the atmosphere. Coupled with the visual effects that are worlds superior to everything from the Mouse House, it’s a condemnation of lazy visuals in its most entertaining form. It’s a wonderful film, and hopefully, one that doesn’t make Gareth Edwards disappear for 7 years again.
“The Creator” Trailer