Ciara Whelan reviews the original sci-fi epic by Garth Edwards sure to delight the most ardent Star Wars, sci-fi fans and general audiences alike.
Well into its fourth week in Irish theatres, The Creator (2023) directed by Garth Edwards is the newest sci-fi epic to dominate the national box office. A rare original sci-fi film, it remains that there are significant stylistic similarities with Edward’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and the clear narrative and aesthetic influence of the franchise at large. The obvious ideological influence of Neil Blomkamp’s District 9 (2009) is also not lost on the sci-fi film fan, particularly in its production of a proletariat in human-adjacent form, with artificial intelligence technology operating as the line of difference in this film. Nevertheless, the film is a bold visual spectacle and soundscape and yet another entertaining Hollywood blockbuster that demands an IMAX viewing.
The film begins in the years after a large-scale bombing attack on Los Angeles that begins a war between the human and AI population. Ex-veteran Joshua (John David Washington) is called back to military service after a previous undercover mission that left his pregnant wife dead and parts of his body destroyed, he is tasked with partaking in the raid of an AI weapons compound somewhere in South East Asia in search of ‘The Creator’ and a reportedly deadly weapon developed by them with the power to destroy the U.S. military base, NOMAD. When Joshua discovers that this weapon of mass-destruction is a hybridised AI child, he begins a personal moral journey that propels the narrative by begging the question: what exactly is it to be human?
The film’s social commentary is explicit in its production of an antagonistic U.S. military invading a foreign Asian nation in search of rebels and mobilising extreme violence against them, and the influence of the Star Wars franchise and its anti-colonial politics is marked again by the rebel resistance and empire dyad that is repeated in this film. However, the frequent use of comedy and the relative ‘coolness’ of the action sequences that depict this invasion might obscure the dominant reading of the text and its anti-colonial criticism to some degree. The female characters were also somewhat disappointing given the ostensible liberal politics of the film’s critique, with Gemma Chan’s female protagonist Maya arguably reduced to a female body that is rendered pregnant and then violently killed in order to provoke the male protagonist’s narrative. Alison Janey is also cast in a role in which she performs almost in drag, as a stock American military sergeant. In short, the gendered paradigms of the sci-fi genre are repeated, if in different forms, rather than radically altered and adapted.
It remains that the film is a fresh spectacle of rebel violence with a solid if simple criticism of colonialism, but it struggles to shed the strictures of the sci-fi genre’s narrative and visual economy to qualify for complete originality. Despite these shortcomings, The Creator is a cinematic experience that will sufficiently entertain the most ardent Star Wars, sci-fi fans and general audiences alike.