There is tech to die for in The Creator. On every level. Boasting some of the best sci-fi design in years, there is personality to match each invention — most of which is programmed to kill. We have robot cops, 50 per cent humanoid, 100 per cent total bastards, running amok, stumbling about witlessly when sliced in half. There is the NOMAD, America’s mammoth spaceship, a foreboding, godlike presence, a bird of prey bringing death from the sky. And then, the bomb droids, frenetically waddling towards you like suicidal dustbins before blowing up.
Gareth Edwards’ distinct vision permeates every frame of The Creator, and how exciting it is to see a big genre blast that feels free of interference. Above and beyond all the futurism, this is thoughtful sci-fi, with ethical conundrums and moral mindfucks, a story that asks what it is to be human in a world where robots often have more humanity than people. The plot — in which a formidable AI weapon, a sensitive young ‘Simulant’ kid (played emotively by seven-year-old Madeleine Yuna Voyles), is shepherded through war zones by a conflicted US sergeant (the ever-compelling John David Washington) charged to kill it — twists and turns, beginning more binary before diving into shades of grey. Written by Edwards before further drafts from Chris Weitz, it blends its mechanical explorations with Eastern philosophy, aiming to question and provoke rather than simply dazzle and thrill.
The Creator makes you realise that there really is little excuse for blockbuster dross.
Edwards has said that the reluctant-father-figure narrative was inspired by the 1970s Lone Wolf And Cub manga novels and films, but The Creator wears many influences on its sleeves, drawing from Vietnam classics as well as obvious touchpoints: Apocalypse Now and Platoon are as much a part of the fabric as District 9, Blade Runner and Akira, while its lived-in environments teeming with battered, beaten-up vehicles are indebted to 1977’s Star Wars. This cocktail works, though, Edwards massaging it all into his own tactile, earthy vision of the future, which is somewhere between genuinely convincing and also just unapologetically kickass — and never without purpose. As America rains down missiles on New Asia, and its massive, hulking tech tanks indiscriminately mow down villages, the fact that Edwards has managed to get $80 million of financing for an indictment of American militarism feels like a coup.
It’s all visually flawless too, which is all the more surprising, considering that budget — there are movies that cost three times more and look like crap. The Creator makes you realise that there really is little excuse for blockbuster dross. And while this doesn’t quite hit the heights of those that inspired it (it is at times blunter and broader than it needs to be), it’s a big reach, with heart and soul to spare. It’s uplifting on every level.