‘I’ ON CULTURE
New movie The Creator should have been a really good, exciting movie that would make all of us think. But at best, it is just a bit above mediocre. The visuals are stunning; it is the story that holds things back. It is designed to be an epic, but it is slow-moving in parts and far too few performers stand out.
We are sometime in the future and mankind (read America, since that’s all we see on that side of the battle) is in a desperate war with the forces of Artificial Intelligence. Joshua (John David Washington) is relaxing with his very pregnant wife Maya (Gemma Chan) when their idyllic existence is interrupted by a raid by American soldiers trying to capture the man called, what else, the Creator. He is the top expert at Artificial Intelligence and has developed a weapon that could end the war. We discover that Joshua is an undercover agent, but then again, Maya is not exactly who she has pretended to be. She is abducted, possibly killed.
Years later, Joshua is recruited by Howell (Allison Janney), a tough Ranger colonel, to lead a team into the middle of AI territory, clearly Asia, to destroy both the Creator and the weapon. He goes, hoping to find Maya. Then we discover that the AI, think Skynet, has not created a Schwarzenegger clone but an adorable young girl (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), who Joshua calls Alphie, as the weapon. And all the Americans want to do is kill her.
Here is where I had to change my original review, written a few weeks ago. I was outraged that director/screenwriter Gareth Edwards (co-written by Chris Weitz) could believe that soldiers would just casually kill a child. Then came the war in Israel, hearing about 40 babies slaughtered. I had been furious at the idea we were supposed to believe direct violence against children could take place, and I was horribly wrong. Maybe I can wistfully hold on to a hope that American soldiers would not do it.
Edwards went further. Except for Joshua, every American in the movie is a killer. No qualms, no second thoughts. And all of the Asians are essentially good guys, even the Artificial Intelligences inside robots. He makes certain we understand these are pan-Asians, who all love each other and robots. That way Ken Watanabe, Japanese, can lead Chinese soldiers along with robots, who somehow manage to be parents to live human children, and, hey, they all get along. In reality, the Chinese and Koreans have still not forgiven the Japanese for their actions over the past couple of centuries.
The movie goes on pretty much as you’d expect. Joshua finds Alphie, befriends her even before she suddenly learns English. They go rushing around through Asia, Americans somehow able to always find them, even though occasionally there are some Asians who want Joshua because they think he might hurt the little girl. Happily, Alphie can mess up machines, and Joshua is exceptional at killing the nasty Americans.
Washington is a pretty good actor. But the part is sort of impossible. First, he is missing one arm and one leg. Since he has exceptional artificial replacements, good enough that you forget they are artificial, I could not see any rational reason for playing visual games with that. Perhaps Edwards wanted to make him an underdog. Of course, after the first minutes, you forget that there is a disability, but that’s the way the movie is. He has some nice scenes with Yuna Voyles, but that’s essentially to help us like someone who kills so readily. Chan is barely in the film. Watanabe is very good, but his part is somewhat limited. Janney comes off as far tougher than all the male soldiers, quickly patching herself up so she can fight again and again and again.
The film goes on far too long. The scenery is great, but there are far too many scenes of cute monkeys running around and traffic jams and several sequences that seem to be there just so they can take up time. That is a constant problem in the movie. Yes, there is action, and some of it takes up too much time, just seeming endless. And then there are stretches where nothing much happens.
This is the last, so far, in a series of films by Disney-owned companies that are being criticized for their content. And like almost all of them, it is doing far worse than expected. Skip this one. It will be streaming very soon.