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The Creator review: Humanising AI, take that corporate – Beyond Bollywood

Though there is a slight Avatar hangover, writer-director Gareth Edwards futuristic film is a fine allegory on the contentious debate around artificial intelligence.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3.5 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

Ah, these Hollywood science fiction sagas are a bane for humble desi audiences, which includes yours truly. Beyond the visual, technical splendor, IQ, the successful films here are those that have strong EQ [emotional connect].  In the millennium, it’s James Cameron who has achieved this feat with the Avatar franchise.

Filmmaker Gareth Edwards has made a career with Legendary’s Monsterverse and Rogue One: A Stars Wars Story [2016]. Now comes The Creator, a futuristic science-fiction thriller. Set in 2065, the prime action here takes place in New Asia. It pits the West vs the East in a post-nuclear world, where New Asia has become the fertile ground for AI [artificial intelligence] bots, implying to a post-human habitat in the biggest continent. The genesis of this conflict lies in the nuclear attack on Los Angeles, which the US and its allies believed was orchestrated by AI mandarins in New Asia. Fearing more such attacks, the West must destroy the Nirmata [the creator], the elusive architect of the advanced AI.

Joshua Taylor [John David Washington] is an undercover agent who has successfully pierced into the enemy territory. He’s found his soul mate in Maya [Gemma Chan]. Joshua is close to his mission, but a devastating attack from Nomad – the mothership of allied forces, leaves Maya dead, and Joshua without an arm. The grieving Taylor would return few years later to finish the job. Taylor and few members of the crew successfully pierce into a secret AI facility. He finds no Nirmata but an AI simulant child. The subsequent journey leads to uncomfortable revelations.

It appears as though there is a slight Avatar hangover in The Creator. The Gareth Edwards film though is a fine allegory on the raging debate around AI.  It’s not addressed in any academic human v/s technology way. Instead, Edwards turns the whole AI debate on its head by humanising AI. Hey, corporate how does that feel? 

Beneath the AI conflict, the Hollywood film very subtly makes its social, political points too without really calling out anyone. It, however, would be naïve to label it cultural warfare. Albeit fiction, credit to The Creator for uniting Asia, which is an improbable task. Ah, the sound of few Hindi words is music to the desi ears. The rogue ideology is condemned, but perhaps it’s only Hollywood that has the freedom to question war-mongering, arms race in its backyard. Edwards is clever in naming the US mothership as Nomad. The word simple stands for a wanderer, but in the context of this film, it also draws our mind to colonialism. The Creator also justifies the non-aligned nations’ call for a rules-based-order, which for ages has been inconsistent.

Madeline Yuna Voyles

The Creator is largely engaging, it loses momentum briefly but one thing you can’t take your eyes off is the child [played by Madeline Yuna Voyles]. Joshua names her Alphie.  Yes, she is adorable but young Voyles backs it up with an emotionally gripping show. Her smile can charm the depressed, her tears can melt a stone-cold. Jeez, she’s adorable even when she folds her hands to use telekinetic energy. To some, Voyles would be Jesus-like. In the context of this film, she’s more like a little Dalai Lama. Little Voyles is the heart and the soul of The Creator. She steals the show above everyone else.

It is our introduction to former football player and acclaimed actor Denzel Washington’s son John David – best known for his stellar act in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet [2020]. If Maya is akin to a Blessed Virgin, then Joshua is the bewildered Joseph. It comes as a surprise how Joshua easily returns to New Asia. An African-American actor is the perfect fit for the conflicts here.  In the past, he dismantled AI soldiers with a simple ‘they are not real’ attitude. Later though he realizes that they may be AI, but they were first created, programmed by humans. Washington chips in with a respectable performance.  Though the screentime is limited, but that cannot be blamed for the feeble chemistry between Gemma Chan and Washington.

As things unravel themselves, The Creator pits one mother against another. We leave it upon viewers to decipher this.

The visual effects, production design is top notch, infusing life into the AI creations.   Technology plays it part, but eventually, it’s the human touch and the emotions that make one bow to Gareth Edwards’ The Creator [2023].

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