What you’ll learn:
- What The Creator is all about.
- The cool engineering showcased in the movie.
- What did I think of it?
Everyone's fear of artificial intelligence (AI) has soaked to the very core of our most consumed art forms—film and television. This year alone, we had Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning, M3GAN, Heart of Stone, and JUNG_E predicting AI will destroy us all. This fear has existed since the film Metropolis (1927). The Terminator and Matrix franchises really drove home this idea.
The Creator by Gareth Edwards gives us the next evolution in that AI vs. human struggle—the fear of inevitable acceptance. When the AI says it doesn’t want to fight and that it cares, is it just too hard to believe?
The Creator is beautifully filmed from locations around the world. A must-see on an IMAX screen for sure. There’s a richly designed world that, seeing it letter-boxed off, would be a crime. Well, a misdemeanor, at least. Amorphous industrial structures pepper the landscapes of every scene, like something out of Simon Stålenhag's Tales from the Loop. Through a letter-boxed cut, I don't think that grandiose feeling will translate.
Sidebar: A modern IMAX screen is usually around 59 by 79 feet with a format of 70/15. Which is essentially the old 4:3 ratio. I think it's time to bring back 4:3 as the standard of every screen. Force everyone to shoot 4:3, too. It's comfy. I saw an artist's reshooting of "Spirited Away" with a larger format. Though the scenery was interpreted, I thought it was amazing.
Acting across the cast was refreshing. It's a fun adventure from start to finish. Both sides of the conflict are frighteningly overwhelming. Special effects by Industrial Light and Magic trounce everything as of late. The way things are going with AI in the real world, this just might be the most believable future yet.
I give The Creator a 4.73 out of 5.00. Imaginative science fiction at its finest.
But who's going to tell you not to read ahead?
You've been warned but also enticed… so please continue on.
The film begins with a military conflict between the U.S. and a group of ragtag AI robotic combatants. The fight is over finding the AI's secretive developer, "Nirmata," who just will not stop making more advanced AI robotics. It was during this battle early on that left a bitter feeling in this viewer. A U.S. soldier was hurt and surrendered to the AI side. A blocky-looking AI soldier was beating this poor guy's face, demanding to know some random bit of information. It was unrelenting—it didn't make me root for the AI/robots at all for the rest of the film.
I was expecting this cruelty to pop up everywhere. Something like the second and third shorts from The Animatrix anthology called "The Second Renaissance." The Creator's robots were faster, smarter, and more capable than most humans in the film. They talked about AI as the next evolution on the planet, and yeah… that feels inevitable here.
Nevertheless, the world's most notorious engineer was the bad guy for one side—and the savior for the other.
The film is that classic Lone Wolf and Cub story. A grizzled hero shepherding their unaware child across treacherous landscapes, battling just about everyone.
By the end of the film, our heroes get to where they want to be. The “big bad” is defeated. But I'm not too sure where this world is headed. The subjugation of humanity, the annihilation of AI, coexistence, or continued conflict?
This is a huge spoiler:
I would imagine it would be the degradation and annihilation of AI. Without Nirmata—the engineer—nothing new will be created. AI will just be copies of copies. Software entropy will lead to a complete end to the group. Eventually, there will be nothing useful left. I couldn't even keep a copy of Windows 7 going long enough to sidestep 10. How could code so complex that it's conscious be better?
Was There Engineering Candy in This Film?
We had scenes of scientists building robotics, wearing lab coats, looking at screens with code and graphics on them. Some factory scenes of robotic assembly lines. Nothing too gritty there. I get a kick out of seeing regular people doing regular engineering jobs on screen.
Robots on the move
The way the robots looked and moved in The Creator reminded me of the film Chappie (2015) by Neill Blomkamp. Chappie focused on the idea of creating a realistic AI and placing it in a military robot. That movie is packed with hacking, wiring, clumsy and messy electronics—real engineering candy.
The Creator's robots ranged from rather blocky looking to human-realistic. It did bring a smile to my face when I saw a robot seemingly old, moving like an old person. Perhaps these robots change/age as they break down?
Peppered in the background of some scenes, you can see robotic Ais praying. To whom they were praying, I wasn't too sure.
One of the most fascinating ideas in The Creator was about the ability to create a "saved state" of someone's mind in the form of data. For example, a soldier had died and was found a few hours later. Their commanding officers used a device to scan the brain and copy that data to some sort of data-stick. After placing this stick into an android shell, the dead soldier came back to life in the shell. Due to the time during which he was dead, he could only exist for a short time. They were able to talk to the person like they just woke up.
I asked myself, is a saved-state mind the same person or a new AI? Is that all we really are?
It was very much like the "Cortical Stack" from the Altered Carbon novel by Richard K. Morgan. In the story, people's minds/consciousnesses are copied onto these cortical stacks to be "re-sleeved" into new bodies whenever the previous body dies. It made some people just about immortal. The Creator even had people sticking these saved-state minds into the neck like a Cortical Stack—obviously big fans. Do read or watch Altered Carbon for some sci-fi gold.
The U.S. military had some fascinating weapons
A bipedal robotic bomb that seemed to have a simplistic AI driving it. It looked just like Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot, but packing quite a blast. Sadly, I feel this may become a real thing. Life often imitates art, especially when it comes to weapons.
The U.S. also had a low-Earth-orbit weapons platform the size of Manhattan. This thing, called NOMAD, would traverse the globe and drop what looked like tactical nuclear weapons on targets.
What made it insidious wasn't its Tron spaceship look, but the fact that it would project a targeting light across the landscapes as it was zeroing in. Something about that was so intrusive, so belittling. Imagine a huge target shape projected across a mountain scape, getting smaller, refocusing down to a few buildings just before dropping the nuke.
I'm surprised this doesn't exist already. I suppose the "Outer Space Treaty" and "SALT II treaty" might have something to do with that.
Technology always worked. Even our main character, Joshua, had a few robotic artificial limbs that never failed. The robot child, Alfie, did nothing but increase their power. The technology was magical. Perhaps that's the point. Technology has reached a point where its growth is unstoppable—like life itself.
But the story of The Creator was about Joshua's love for his wife and child, not technology. It's about humans faking threats to achieve nefarious goals. It's about refugees, the indigenous, and oppressive military regimes.
Art tends to reflect the state of the world when it’s made. It's a reflection of our world perfectly. In it, the threat we already feel against AI. We’re already fighting back against AI a bit more civilly, though. The writer and actor strikes are a bit milder versus the house-sized tanks used in The Creator.
Take a peek at the trailer: