September 25, 2023

CINEMA | John David Washington Meets 'The Creator'

"She dies with the rest of them."
John David Washington Gareth Edwards | The Creator
20th Century Studios / New Regency
Embattled Rogue One director Gareth Edwards makes a somewhat triumphant return to blockbuster filmmaking after a seven-year absence. The Creator is a visually arresting, often technically dazzling original piece of highly derivative sci-fi entertainment.

Starring John David Washington (son of Denzel) as an ex-Special Forces agent in the year 2065, where a U.S.-led Western coalition is engaged in a decades-long armed conflict with the generically named nation of "New Asia" from the East against their Southeast Asian-fronted artificial intelligence technology. There's a breathtaking pace to the standard tale of fighting the future in a Lone Wolf and Cub style (with newcomer Madeleine Yuna Voyles as the child android sidekick) by way of Blade Runner with obvious genre trope references.

It's a solidly made yet lazily constructed two-handed affair with Washington and the exceptional Voyles dominating the screen time while Gemma Chan, Ken Watanabe, and tough-as-nails Allison Janney provide some colour but get mostly sidelined in the way of their own motivations and interiority. Edwards is so busy creating a rich world that feels futuristic yet gritty and grimy at the same time but at the expense of his characters' complete arcs.

John David Washington Gareth Edwards | The Creator

Scripted by Edwards and Chris Weitz, its thin premise and obvious influences are shorthand for world-building and storytelling without a ton of originality despite not being explicitly based on any previous existing material. Still, these references and callbacks to superior films are mostly well executed. By making robots and A.I. the oppressed and humans the evil American villains (think District 9), its messy themes get tricky with characters making unclear allegiances.

What's most lazy or disturbing is the otherness and clear Orientalism of many of its nameless pan-Asian, but largely Vietnamese (or "New Asian") characters used purely as plot devices or story beats. There are clear allusions to the Vietnam War and reluctant armed conflicts in foreign lands. However, Edwards speeds past any nuance to get across his brisk action lifted from elsewhere.

The Creator is dense blockbuster entertainment that wears its shallow sci-fi influences on its sleeve. It's often big and bold but feels half-baked in its high ambition without enough time to take a breath and simply take in its filmmaking and cinematic surroundings.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Inverse / Slashfilm

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