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The Indiana Daily Student

arts review

COLUMN: ‘The Creator’ marks an aesthetic return of the sci-fi flick

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In the not-so-distant future, the advancement of artificial intelligence has become a major global issue. Robots are able to move, talk, think, feel and fight just as well as humans. When a nuclear bomb is detonated over Los Angeles, AI are quickly blamed. The world is split between the people of New Asia, who love and accept AI, and the government of the United States, who are hell-bent on its eradication.  

The film by Gareth Edwards, which was released in theaters Sept. 29, tells this new and original sci-fi story.  

After 15 years of war in New Asia, an ex-special forces agent is brought back for one final mission: to locate and destroy a new AI super-weapon. When the weapon turns out to be an AI child, he can’t go through with it and they end up on the run from both sides of the war.  

To be clear, “The Creator” is not about artificial intelligence or its philosophical questions. Imperialism, war and otherness are its focus. It’s more akin to “Avatar” than “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” more "Apocalypse Now” than “Her.” 

The film wears its sci-fi influences on its sleeve, and you can see the influences of some of the genre’s greats, such as “Star Wars,” “Blade Runner” or “Akira.” Some people may say the film is derivative or fluff, with nothing new to add, but I see a film more authentic than most big-budget blockbusters. 

“The Creator” certainly has its issues. The worldbuilding barely holds together (why do so many robots have the same face?), the ending is rushed and full of bland action and it definitely doesn’t push the boundaries of science fiction cinema. Don’t expect innovative storytelling, but if you like genre film, especially sci-fi, it ticks all the boxes and does so in style. 

The visuals alone are worth the price of admission. Shot by Oren Soffer and Greig Fraser, every frame is beautiful and worth seeing on the big screen. You may know Fraser from his work on “Dune” (2021) or “The Batman,” and his incredible standards haven’t changed. Their lighting seems so simple, but very few working cinematographers can match their results.  

This is a film full of lasers, explosions and yelling, but it is also full of beauty. Director Gareth Edwards knows (for the most part) when to slow down and breathe it in — when I exited the theater, those are the moments that stuck in my mind. Despite all the explosions and shooting, Edwards always gives you just enough stillness and quiet contemplation to let it matter. 

Perhaps the most impressive part about the film, however, is that it was made with a budget of under $100 million. In a world where Hollywood spends hundreds of millions of dollars per blockbuster, a budget that low is unheard of for such a large scale, visual effects-heavy film. And the VFX, much of which is blending the human with the mechanical, doesn’t suffer a bit.  

Maybe it’s the consumptive Hollywood machine or Edwards’ VFX-minded production, but “The Creator” seems to have revived the reasonably-budgeted blockbuster, and it did so while telling an original story. 

“The Creator” could be described as not very profound, but it’s not trying to be. If you’re seeking a thoughtful exploration of artificial intelligence and what it means to be human, stay away. But if you yearn for a new sci-fi flick, you’ll be satisfied.  

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