Movie Review: The Creator

2023's sci-fi blockbuster doesn't quite live up to the hype but it has lots of potential.


2023 has been an interesting year for moviegoers; we’ve seen loads of old franchises come back (even when they probably shouldn’t have), and lots of new ones take their first steps in the world. One of this year’s most anticipated movies is The Creator, which has been out in cinemas for ages but is apparently still going. Naturally, that means it’s time for a review. As you know, movies aren’t the main point of WristReview, and while we try to talk about them in a timely manner sometimes the reviews get pushed back so we can make room for watch content. If you’ve already seen The Creator then, once you’ve read my take on it, join in the comments section and tell us what you thought about it. And with that, onwards with the show.

From this point on expect plot spoilers and personal opinions.

If I said to you I was a science fiction fan I’m sure you’d be blown away with enthusiasm, because it takes a really super special person to love science fiction in today’s world. Wait, no, that’s not right. These days there’s science fiction all around us and in all media formats from Doctor Who on the TV to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in book (and movie) format and video games such as Halo and Starfield which people seem to love but can’t explain why (I think Starfield is too slow but that’s just me). The point is, no matter which format you prefer, there is a science fiction adventure waiting for you, but the silver screen is where this genre is perhaps most at home and most able to get a message across to a mass audience. The creators of The Creator seemed to grasp that concept, well, mostly, and it had a story that was cohesive, mostly.

The film’s set in 2055 and is based around Artificial Intelligence (AI). In The Creator’s world, humanity had grown extremely close to AI until AI supposedly detonates a nuke in Los Angeles for an unknown reason. Western nations then kneejerk and condemn AI and look to destroy it in all its forms, although the film only really shows the USA as the dominant Western power, so we’ll just say it’s the USA from now on. The USA has even developed an orbital platform called the USS NOMAD (North American Orbital Mobile Aerospace Defense), which is the film’s ‘boogeyman’ and is used to (mostly) strategically target AI installations across the globe. Is this a subtle reference to the Vietnam War and the USA’s ginormous use of resources there? Oh yes, but The Creator doesn’t ever present itself as historic re-telling.

On the other side of the globe, in New Asia, which consists of South and East Asia, AI is embraced, respected and is generally viewed as ‘alive’ in the same way a person is. The opening scenes see Sergeant Joshua Taylor (John David Washington – Tenet, Malcolm & Marie), who is undercover in New Asia, interacting with his pregnant wife Maya (Gemma Chan – Doctor Who, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). US special forces, supported by the NOMAD, attack their home preemptively and blow Taylor’s cover. His wife, who is sympathetic to AI runs away from him, and her escape boat is blown up by the NOMAD. 

It’s revealed that Taylor had gone too far in with his cover and had genuinely fallen for Maya and was destroyed by her death. The Creator skips ahead five years when Taylor’s working as a cleanup crew member at the site in LA where the nuke exploded. US Armed Forces officers offer him a chance to go back to New Asia and retrace his steps there. The intel he provided showed that a mysterious weapon called Alpha O had been located in the area. Alpha O was believed to have been created by Nirmata. Nirmata in Hindi means ‘The Creator’, and the USA believed that Taylor’s ex-wife Maya was Nirmata’s daughter. The officers also confront Taylor with video evidence showing that Maya is still alive, and so Taylor reluctantly joins the special ops team being deployed to New Asia.

Taylor and the special ops team infiltrate the bunker where the weapon, Alpha O (Madeleine Yuna Voyles – debut), is located, but Taylor discovers that it’s a “simulant” (human-like robot; simulants are the ones with the big hole in the back of their skull seen in the marketing material), a child to be precise, one which is extremely powerful. Taylor can’t find it in himself to destroy the simulant, whom he has named “Alphie” and the paid escape and look for Taylor’s old commanding officer. New Asia police, having been alerted to the presence of American troops, scour the areas Taylor and Alphie are in, and the movie uses humans and AI troops somewhat to show New Asian culture’s symbiosis with AI. 

When they meet Taylor’s old CO, Drew (Sturgill Simpson – Queen & Slim, Killers of the Flower Moon) some stuff happens, and Drew’s simulant girlfriend is killed in a police shootout. The movie remembers to take some downtime from the plot, which is good, but it sometimes struggles to get the momentum going again, which negatively impacts it later on. Drew and Taylor begin tracking Maya, whose wedding ring has a tracker built in. It leads them back to the old house Taylor and Maya shared. Unsurprisingly, Maya isn’t there, although her ring is. New Asian forces arrive again, and Drew is killed while Taylor and Alphie are captured by another simulant called Harun (Ken Watanabe – Inception, Godzilla). Harun used to be allied to Taylor when Taylor was undercover in the beginning, so it’s natural that he was extremely upset with Taylor after the betrayal was discovered.

While on a prison boat, Harun tells Taylor that the nuke that exploded in LA was a coding error created by a human that the American government covered up, and AI wants to co-exist with humanity. This is a huge revelation at this point, but the movie basically forgets all about it and just carries on. There’s no weighting to that part when there should’ve been. Taylor escapes the boat and the movie takes some downtime in the peaceful village thing by the river. It’s peaceful right up until the US armed forces roll up in a tank thing the size of a big house and blow a load of stuff up. It’s quite a cool scene, a little reminiscent of the first Avatar movie but with less subtle messaging trying to make you feel bad for existing. 

The US forces have some cool toys such as robotic bombs that run at their target and then explode. There’s a moment where one of the robots seems to question its existence, but this hint is never actioned on or mentioned again. Alphie stops one of the bombs but is shot by one of the special ops team that initially went in with Taylor. 

Taylor and Alphie are taken to the temple where Nirmata can be found after this, and it’s revealed that Maya is Nirmata and that she has been in a coma since the NOMAD attack at the beginning of the movie. Because simulants can’t harm Nirmata, Taylor has to force himself to remove her life support in what’s quite a touching scene. The commanding officer lady Howell (Allison Janney – Finding Nemo, The Help), who’s been hounding Taylor for most of the film and who I’ve not mentioned before until now as she’s not that interesting, is blown up here which is cool. Harun tells Taylor that for the war to be over he must destroy NOMAD, as it’s really the USA forcing its war on New Asia. 

Taylor and Alphie are captured by American forces and taken to LA, where they escape from a convoy easily as the American troops had been trained at the Storm Trooper aiming academy. They escape to LAX and board a space shuttle, with Alphie forcing it to dock with NOMAD. A lot of running around happens; there’s a weird storage room there in the AI research wing with loads of simulants standing in stasis and Taylor plants a bomb on one of the cruise missiles aboard. NOMAD comes online again, operated remotely, and begins an enormous bombing campaign of New Asia as an act of desperation. It’s stopped in the nick of time, though, and as Alphie and Taylor prepare to make their escape a huge creepy tentacle robot thing controlled by NOMAD ground control stops Taylor getting to the escape pod. 

At this point, the timed explosive he set up detonates and begins tearing NOMAD apart. Taylor jettisons the pod containing only Alphie, sealing his fate, but he meets with a simulant version of Maya, which was reactivated by Alphie. Taylor and Maya re-unite and Alphie cries as she crashes to Earth, then sees the AI celebrating as their oppressor has been destroyed, and she smiles, and then the film ends.

I think what The Creator has shown me, more than anything else, is that there needs to be more films that have been split into two parts, as the remake of Dune has been. That would give the film a lot of breathing room to explore the subtle details that are dropped in all throughout. 

For example, it’s said repeatedly that Alphie is a new breed of super powerful simulant that was modelled on Taylor and Maya’s baby in utero before the NOMAD strike and that as she ages, she will eventually become almost omnipotent. The Creator doesn’t give us any hints as to what’s happening with that detail, whether Alphie will be benevolent or not. Also, the film makes it clear that Maya hated Taylor at the end before she went into a coma, but her simulant on the NOMAD, which used her memories and thoughts to re-create her, seemed to have forgotten that bit entirely and ran into Taylor’s arms for no apparent reason other than it looked good on camera.

There are details that never end up going anywhere or meaning anything significant. The world The Creator is set in is clearly very complex and has lots of influences from things like Blade Runner, District 9, Aliens and the Terminator franchise. It’s clear the creators loved this but the number of loose ends and stop/start storytelling spoiled it a bit. 

One of the things I can’t fault is the visuals; this movie had less than $100m in budget and looks just as good as movies with 2 or 3 times that much. I’d love to have seen this as a 2 part story or a TV series, but I still enjoyed what I got and I think this one is worth a watch, and without a doubt, Madeleine Yuna Voyles was the star as Alphie. I usually find child actors and child characters in media quite irritating, but she is a consummate professional and I have no doubt we’ll see her again sometime.

The Creator
Runtime: 133 minutes
Year of release: 2023
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Gareth Edwards, Chris Weitz
Music: Hans Zimmer
Producers: Gareth Edwards, Kiri Hart, Jim Spencer, Arnon Milchan
Production: Regency Enterprises, Entertainment One, New Regency, Bad Dreams
Extremely complex and intriguing world influenced by some of the best sci-fi movies
Excellent acting from all cast members, especially Madeleine Yuna Voyles and John David Washington
Visually stunning
Story pacing is inconsistent, it doesn’t leave itself time to tackle the big issues it sets up and reverts to logical flaws
Some character motivations are vague or non-existent
The ending wasn’t very interesting or unique