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Gareth Edwards Crafts Science Fiction as Opera in The Creator

A Black man looks at a little girl
John David Washington as Joshua in THE CREATOR

"We can't go to heaven because you're not good, and I'm not a person." – Alphie O

Gareth Edwards crafts science fiction as opera in The Creator. Known for directing Godzilla (2014) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Edwards brings the best cinematic science fiction to the screen since Dune, Part 1 – a comparison that's all the more impressive, considering that The Creator had a budget of only 80 million compared to Dune's 165 million. Despite being packed with tropes and more coincidences than a Nora Ephron movie, The Creator impresses with its scale and grandeur.

If you want to hear me podcast about the movie, you can listen to my guest episode on The Movie Proposal Podcast. 

In a post-apocalyptic Earth 2055, the US government and its allies declare war against all AI after they detonate a nuclear warhead over Los Angeles. New Asia becomes a haven for those AI, who embrace the technology. To aid their mission, the US creates NOMAD (North American Orbital Mobile Aerospace Defense), an all-seeing eye that scans the whole earth, ready to launch missiles at a moment's notice.

A woman with cyborg enhancements
Veronica Ngo as KAMI in THE CREATOR
Joshua (John David Washington , an ex-military operative for the US, reluctantly accepts a mission to find a powerful new weapon called Alpha O that may have the power to destroy NOMAD. Joshua only accepts because Colonel Howell (Allison Janney) reveals she knows the location of Maya (Gemma Chan), the love of Joshua's life, whom he believed to be dead. But when Joshua discovers that the weapon is a synthezoid with the appearance and form of a child, Joshua goes rogue and escapes with the one he names Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), who claims she can lead him to Maya.

In plot and design, The Creator earns comparisons to some of my personal favorite sci-fi films: District 9, Terminator 2, and AI: Artificial Intelligence. James Clyne's awe-inspiring production design transports viewers to a futuristic interspatial landscape. Despite all the technology, Earth 2055 feels like a wasteland of compassion. Preservation precludes any hint of emotional connection. Clyne communicates this through every frame and structure in the film – truly the work of a master of visual imagery. And an entire spin-off series could be created around life on the NOMAD vessel. Like a giant paper cutter in the sky, NOMAD is the most impressive looking space vessel since 2001: A Space Odyssey's Discovery One.

A little girl faces off against a robot
Madeleine Yuna Voyles as ALPHIE in THE CREATOR
John David Washington adds warmth to his normal stoic affect. He's proving to offer more range with every role. His taciturn behavior works well to a certain extent in this emotional desert, but as he comes to appreciate Alphie more, he displays a new level of vulnerability on screen than in previous performances. Notice I say appreciate – not care. Joshua may not love Alphie, but she offers him a connection to Maya. However, it's Madeleine Yuna Voyles as Alphie who completely steals the show.

The Creator contains its share of flaws. The twists and turns of the plot remain unoriginal and predictable, but that doesn't stop the experience of watching from being worth the price of theater admission. If you're looking for a visually stunning treat, The Creator earns its stripes. Also, it fails to fully explore any of the philosophical themes one might expect from a movie about AI. In one scene Alphie and Joshua discuss the concept of heaven and how you have to be "a good person" to go. Alphie states that neither of them will go to heaven because Joshua isn't good, and she's not a person. Later on, this belief is revisited during the climax, but the resolution isn't satisfying.

Madeleine Yuna Voyles as ALPHIE in THE CREATOR
However, the tendency of human beings to dabble with technology beyond their grasp without fully wrestling with the consequences rings clear, as well as a not-too-subtle poke at Big America's tendency to bully the Global South and to "other" anyone different.

Go for the visuals and the beloved theme of a stoic cowboy type becoming the reluctant guardian of a sweet, innocent being who has their own secret stash of weapons (Think Pedro Pascal's greatest hits). Filmgoers who allow themselves the pleasure of sitting back and immersing themselves into this strange new world will find much to enjoy.

Release info: In theaters September 29, 2023

Final score: 4 out of 5

Lindsey Dunn is a film critic with membership in both NC Film Critics and Southeastern Film Critics. She loves all things Cobra Kai, Netflix Dark, indie horror, and any stories about complicated relationships. You can find her at and most social channels @1ofmystories.