The Pitch: In Gareth Edwards’ (Rogue One) vision of the near future, those WGA/SAG strikes must not have made much of a dent because AI is all over the place — our workforces, our homes, often while wearing the faces of those who “donate” their likeness to make the sentient “simulants” look more human (despite the almost clockwork machinery that constantly whirs in the back of their heads). But after an AI-directed weapons system decides to up and nuke LA, humanity wages a decade-long war against the machines — aided immensely by an enormous space station called Nomad that hovers over AI strongholds, nuking hot spots with all the precision of a drone strike.
In 2065, in the waning days of the war, the military tasks an ex-black ops soldier named Joshua (John David Washington) with an important mission: track down a new weapon built by the mysterious creator of the AIs, Nirmata, that will stymie their plans to wipe out the bots once and for all. Oh, and kill Nirmata while he’s at it.
But when he learns that the “weapon” in question is a childlike robot (newcomer Madeleine Yuna Voyles) — one that might be able to take him to his long-lost wife Maya (Gemma Chan) — he goes on the run with her, kicking off a chase that is set to change the trajectory of both species.
Rogue Two: Gareth Edwards has had a spotty but admirable record as a blockbuster filmmaker — both 2014’s Godzilla and 2016’s Rogue One had shaky stories but an incredible command of scale. With The Creator, Edwards tries his hand at original science fiction, something untied to IP or franchises, which is a too-rare thing for respectably-budgeted genre works.
That said, The Creator wears its influences on its sleeve, pulling from everything from Apocalypse Now (A land war in Asia? In the future?) to Akira to Baraka and beyond. Conflict between humans and robots is nothing new; certain scenes will remind you of The Matrix, The Terminator, and more. Edwards puts his own twists on some of this material, like a Vietnam-like helicopter landing behind enemy lines to Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place,” as opposed to “Fortunate Sun” or “Ride of the Valkyries.” Yet the tale of a grizzled man of action saddled with escorting a vulnerable yet cosmically important child through a hellish journey has been done to death.
The Dead Don’t Die: To his massive credit, The Creator looks stunning: Edwards and his team of designers have built a world that feels only two steps removed from our own, filled with eye-catching designs for everything from handguns to hovercraft to the robots themselves. Co-cinematographers Greig Fraser and Oren Soffer soak the world in moody shadow blended with grounded, gritty realism (as per Fraser’s work on Rogue One and The Batman). Hans Zimmer’s score is appropriately booming and Zimmeresque, though it doesn’t quite escape the wall-of-sound feel of many of his previous blockbuster works.