Hearing that Gareth Edwards would be at the helm of an original sci-fi film originally piqued my interest. Then seeing the trailer for this mysterious film, The Creator, made my excitement immeasurable. As a lover of his Star Wars film Rogue One and his 2014 Godzilla remake, I knew that Edwards had the vision for a sci-fi epic. Framing and comprehension of scale on screen is his bread and butter, so you would assume that another entry in his filmography would build on this.
You would be oh so right with this assumption.
The Creator takes place in the not so distant future, 2065, where just 10 years prior the artificial intelligence created to work with and protect mankind detonated a nuclear warhead in Los Angeles. Subsequently banning AI, the United States and other western allies work together on a crusade to eradicate artificial intelligence. A goal with the hopes of preventing the extinction of mankind. A retired military sergeant, Joshua Taylor (John David Washington), grieving the loss of his wife Maya (Gemma Chan) and their unborn child is reluctantly pulled back into the war. Showing Taylor footage of his wife still alive, General Andrews (Ralph Ineson) and Colonel Howell (Allison Janney) recruit him to seek out a new weapon created by the mysterious "Nirmata" that is rumored to be powerful enough to flip the power dynamic. This weapon turns out to be a child robot named Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) causing Joshua to rethink everything he knows and believes in.
Where Edwards builds on his ability to display grandeur is a United States military ship called NOMAD, North American Orbital Mobile Aerospace Defense. Floating menacingly in the upper atmosphere, this behemoth is where Edwards establishes a feeling of helplessness. Shifting lights spouting out of the ship along with robotic groans signal a massive target on the ground where missiles fired from the station create indescribable destruction. Much like Edwards' depiction of the Death Star in Rogue One, or Godzilla steamrolling buildings in his Godzilla, the VFX is not only crisp but the ability to effectively portray monstrous size is unparalleled. At no point in The Creator are you questioning the amount of destruction NOMAD can cause or the very real threat of it to the people and AI of New Asia, where the US is hunting artificial intelligence. In turn, the belief in NOMAD's power helps push the idea of the US, in its crusade of death and destruction, being the antagonist of the film.
Speaking solely of visuals, The Creator is a breathtaking film. The one and only Greig Fraser has further cemented himself as one of, if not the top, cinematographers working today with his work here. Every frame is a picturesque piece of cinema where the blend of gorgeous backdrops and CGI futuristic machines is pulled off to perfection. All of the robots are captured beautifully, move believably, and their interactions with humans are seamless. With Dune Part 2 being delayed into 2024 I can easily see this film being high up on lists for Best Visual Effects awards this year. It truly was a delicious feast for the eyes.
As for the ears? Maybe not so much?
While The Creator is a visually stunning sci-fi epic, the story flounders in the worst ways. Edwards' penchant for massive set pieces pulls you into the world of the film, but every twist and turn is formulaic and predictable. The Creator often employs bland dialogue or rushed timing to quickly get out bits of knowledge that might make a viewer gasp. In one instance, Josh's old military buddy, Drew (Sturgill Simpson), is shot during an ambush and with his dying breath tells Josh that Maya is Nirmata. But prior to this ambush, Josh convinced Drew to go with him to find Maya, who is presumed dead. But with this reveal, and the whole plot point of needing to find Nirmata in the first place, Drew knew who it was the whole time?
The overdone dying breath reveal is an eye-rolling moment that works against the plot instead of moving it forward. Incongruities along with choppy dialogue throughout make it difficult to really sink yourself into the story as it plays out. On top of this, the pacing of the film is so off the 133 minute runtime felt like a lifetime. Jumps between flashbacks of exposition and the present were often confusing and... well, often. There is a lot of exposition.
Much of it doesn't work because it is simply overkill. There's heightened stress on Joshua's love for Maya which is seen through an exorbitant number of flashbacks, which is a successful thematic element. The only issue is the emotional attachment is solidified early in the film and compounded with John David Washington's performance, there really isn't a need for so many of these flashbacks. Finding out that Drew put Joshua on to the task of marrying Maya as an undercover agent is done through a flashback which as I mentioned before unravels with his dying breath. All of this back and forth, especially when part of it dissolves the plot, results in an extremely choppy and poorly paced film.
Now, more on John David Washington's performance as I briefly mentioned. The on screen he creates makes it look like he had a blast making this movie. His character has some wonderfully funny, charismatic, and gut-wrenchingly heartbreaking moments that come together to provide what is one of his best pieces of work thus far in his career! His chemistry with Madeleine Yuna Voyles makes the relationship between Joshua and Alphie actually work - no thanks to the script - and the final moment between the two provides peak crying material. I can't give all the credit to Washington as well because Voyles was incredible in her role and I can't wait to see what else she can bring forth! She's only nine!
Overall, The Creator is a muddled mess of storytelling albeit with exquisite visuals that provide some level of re-watchability. The overarching themes of death and closure are done well along with an almost Paul Verhoeven Starship Troopers type of American imperialism that has great commentary on the military-industrial complex. In the end I was disappointed with Edwards' latest, but the fact that an original sci-fi epic was made and looks this good on a shoestring budget (relative to recent sci-fi films) is astounding.
It's revealed, in another really lazy/annoying way, that Alphie will continue to grow her powers as some sort of special robot child. Eventually she will be able to control all machines in the world. Thus, throughout the film she is referred to, implicitly and explicitly as a savior for the AI in New Asia. Somehow, someway this small child will be able to take down the monstrosity that looms over everyone, NOMAD. The idea, and character, of Alphie is pretty cool at a high level and Voyles' performance makes it even cooler, so it only makes sense to pair a beer with her role.
Behold! The Cyber Savior!!
From Dirty Couch Brewing, the Cyber Savior is a barrel aged Sour IPA coming in at an even 5.7% ABV. Dirty Couch specializes in sours and some funky farmhouse ales, so barrel aging a Sour IPA is definitely in their wheel house. Unfortunately, much like Edwards playing into his sci-fi roots and exemplary use of scale and not hitting the mark with The Creator, I was left wanting more from the Cyber Savior. A light body along with a color akin to a regular IPA give off an unassuming appearance for this brew. It has a strong bitterness aroma which one can expect from most sours, but it has those IPA undertones that balance it out as well. Taste wise, I felt as though there was something lacking. It didn't have the flavor profile that I was expecting, and that's not me being an idiot and thinking "oh this will taste like a regular IPA". What I really mean is that it felt like the flavor had dulled. I don't want to say watered-down because that probably isn't actually the case but it was muted.
I love Dirty Couch and the brews they make so I think I need to give this another chance! Maybe I need to do that with The Creator too??