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“The Creator” is familiar yet stunning 

Creator press kit image. Photo Credit: Disney

By Jaden Smith / Entertainment and Features Copy Editor 

Going into “The Creator,” I didn’t think there was anything new it could bring to the sci-fi film genre—especially in 2023. And yeah, I was kind of right. The movie was rooted so heavily in tropes and familiar plot beats that I could feel my eyes beginning to roll. But—for my partner’s money (he bought the tickets)—it was the most fantastic unoriginal science fiction movie I’ve ever seen.  

Director Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla,” “Rogue One”) sneaked an indie topic into a mass-market Hollywood picture. For starters, he didn’t rely on the tried-and-tired Marvel method (i.e., packing the movie with slapstick comedy, superficial and loud visual effects, and lots of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos and references). It also resisted the temptation to tie up the loose ends of every conflict in the same scene and rebuffed any attempts to make the audience feel good about themselves. 

“The Creator” attacked the stupidity and sheer ego of human beings. It took our penchant for violence against diversity, our resistance to change and threw it in our face. The movie revolves around an ex-military spy, Joshua (John David Washington), who is called out of retirement to destroy a secret weapon that could turn the tide of the war against humans. In a familiar turn of events for those who have seen “The Mandalorian,” this secret weapon is, in fact, an adorable child, Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), with awesome power. Holy conglomeration of tropes much? 

It was cliché, I know, I know, but stick with me. This movie relied so heavily on tropes; you’d recognize the stories that informed it at almost every turn. But Edwards did this so well, that, if you’re like me (and easy to please), you wouldn’t care. The plot—the events unfolding onscreen—was not the point. Neither were the characters. What drove the movie were the big ideas it presented. One such idea was that AI cannot—and does not wish to—physically harm humans. However, humans feel no such thing upon murdering AI, creating an unequal power dynamic. I loved the thought-provoking commentary! 

The visuals were also astounding. The scope of the vision, shot in over 60 locations in Southeast Asia, with Thailand serving as the homebase for production, contrasted with an intimate story made me feel like I was watching another whole world unfold on a massive scale. It’s clear that “The Creator” was influenced by Edwards’ vision for “Rogue One,” which in retrospect almost seems like a prototype for this movie. Somehow, with a mere $80 million dollar budget (in contrast to the approximately $300 million budget behind “The Flash”), Edwards painted a superior and sprawling setting for the film to take place. At times, the Earth of “The Creator” felt like our own, and at others it felt like a very grounded alien planet. The worldbuilding, which is often taken for granted in sci-fi blockbusters today, was art. 

The cherry on top were the actors. The actors threw themselves into mostly blank slate characters. They fully immersed themselves into the experience of “The Creator,” so much so that you’d be forgiven for thinking their characters were fully developed and nuanced. The main ensemble was excellent, and I doubt that this movie would have worked with another cast. Among the most notable performances were Washington, Voyle, Gemma Chan as Maya and Ken Watanabe as Harun. 

But, of course, the characters are flat, which is an unescapable critique. The characterization and the backstory of the main ensemble is mostly rushed. While the lead characters get the spotlight, there was not much about them that I’d consider memorable. This causes some delay in becoming attached to the main characters. The same goes for the side characters. It took me two thirds into the movie to stop wondering if some of the supporting cast members were significant players or if they were just cameos. If you asked me who, I’d probably struggle to remember most of their names.  As I said, the acting carries the writing. Of course, “The Creator” is what I consider a rare example of character writing not mattering much in the long run.  

So, overall, “The Creator” was an admirable feat in the sci-fi cinematic scene. Especially considering that the visuals and tropes were done so well that this could have been the original movie to spawn the unoriginal tropes. In any case, if you have someone else’s money to spend, I encourage you to go see what you think.  

“The Creator” is in theaters. 

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