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On the Screen: Love, life and loss in a time of robots

The Creator

MARCUS CHEONG watches ‘The Creator’…

The Creator (AU-M/UK-12A/US-PG-13)

In A Word: Ambitious

The Creator

Madeline Voyles stars as Alphie in The Creator. PICTURE: Courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.  

Riding the global wave of interest in artifical intelligence, The Creator tells an original story set in a war-torn near future, where man and machine are in a desperate battle for survival.

Forty years from now, the US has declared war on all AI after a nuclear explosion in Los Angeles. The full might of the US military, led by a massive floating weapon platform, Nomad, is now hellbent on destroying every AI in the world.

 “At the heart of the story is the transformation of Joshua from an obedient soldier who sees the robots as merely disposable things to someone who comes to believe that AI have true feelings and potentially an eternal soul.”

Joshua (John David Washington – yes, that is Denzel’s son) tragically loses his pregnant wife when their sanctuary for robots is raided by Nomad. Five years after this loss, Joshua is recruited to lead a team deep behind enemy lines, to find and destroy the ultimate weapon that the AI have created. Much to Joshua’s surprise, this super weapon turns out to be a five-year-old AI child, Alphie (Madeline Voyles), with special powers and strong emotional connection to Joshua.

At the heart of the story – which was originally titled True Love – is the transformation of Joshua from an obedient soldier who sees the robots as merely disposable things to someone who comes to believe that AI have true feelings and potentially an eternal soul. Is it possible that AI have the capacity for real compassion and authentic love? Do they then have a right to exist as much as humanity? The Creator paints a picture where humanity’s cruelty and violence are the true evil and the AI far more reasonable in their struggle for freedom and the right to exist.

Writer/director Gareth Edwards (Rogue One, Godzilla, Monsters) ambitiously attempts to raise questions about life, death and the afterlife for the created robotic beings. While the attempt is admirable, the big questions that The Creator raises are not really answered to satisfaction. It is one thing to suggest humans should have more compassion for their creations, but it is quite a stretch to imply that the AI have a spiritual place in Heaven. 

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The film tries to mask the lack of intellectual rigour with a tear-jerking finale as Joshua comes to terms with a new concept of family and what he really loves. It succeeds in telling a story of redemption for Joshua – his guilt for the death and violence in his past is paid for with repentance from his former bigotry and the willingness to sacrifice himself for his “Son.” In a way, this is about the Creator’s willingness to sacrifice their life to give their creation a chance to flourish. 

This portrait of love is the ambitious parable The Creator sets out to tell. It tells this tale with stunning visuals, visceral battle scenes and an artistic sensibility. It doesn’t always succeed in everything it tries to achieve, but the attempt at something new is appreciated. This may not be the saviour for modern science fiction, but it is an original step in the right direction.



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