This week, various audience members and critics had a chance to see a first glimpse at the sci-fi blockbuster The Creator. The film, directed by Gareth Edwards, imagines a futuristic world where humans and A.I. are at war. However, unlike most tech paranoia films like The Terminator or The Matrix, Gareth Edwards is approaching the concept of artificial intelligence with compassion.
The sneak peak consisted of three scenes with an interview between critic Scott Mantz and Edwards throughout the brief teases. The presentation lasted roughly an hour, and the scenes showcased lasted 20 minutes or so when added together. The movie is about a war between the United States and New Asia. A mysterious figure named Nirmātā (translated as “Creator” in Nepalese) has created an artificial intelligence that resembles humans, making some people uneasy.
There was a lot to unpack from the brief story teases of The Creator. Here is a quick rundown of the Q&A with Gareth Edwards and a rundown of the footage.
[Warning: Light spoilers are below for The Creator.]
The interview with Gareth Edwards
Because I am a writer with physical limitations, jotting notes in the dark is not an option. So, a lot of the key points here are from memory.
When discussing how he came up with the idea for The Creator, the director told a story about a road trip he took with his girlfriend through middle America. Edwards detailed a thought he had while on the trip about a sentient machine being born in a barn and walking outside for the first time. And it made him curious what their first thought would be.
From there, Edwards said the idea began to snowball and develop through the ride home. The director mentions that he brought the concept to a team of artists that he keeps on standby, followed by taking those drawings and pitching them to financers. A move that made New Regency compelled to fund his ambitious idea.
Another highlight involved the director’s meeting with John David Washington, who plays Joshua in the movie. Edwards recounts an amusing story about the actor meeting the filmmaker for the first time. The Rogue One director says Washington came to the meeting in a Darth Vader helmet. Not because Edwards had made a Star Wars movie but because the Tenet actor wore it throughout the pandemic. A choice by Washington that seemingly broke the awkwardness on their first visit.
Another interview highlight involved the second sequence shown during the presentation. In the sequence, a bunch of extras are running around in a field from a threat. Edwards recounts a funny moment involving a team of nuclear physicists seeing their production and asking what it was for. When they found out the filmmaker made a Star Wars movie, they requested to be in the film. So when readers see a nighttime action scene in a field, those are nuclear physicists, according to Edwards.
The Creator first look footage
As the lights went down, the first image shows a beach at night with many surrounding mountainous landscapes. A thick blue laser beam begins scanning the ocean, and then a bunch of armed futuristic soldiers, decked out in black gear, rise from the water. The photography is impressive here, as well as the sound design. The thick laser beam wall begins scanning the mountains, and the soldiers enter the land with guns pointed.
The scene transitions to space, revealing the source of the giant blue laser wall – a hovering military craft with a wing-like shape reminiscent of the popular video game Halo. The focus shifts to Joshua (played by John David Washington), lying in bed with his counterpart, Maya (played by Gemma Chan), who is pregnant. They appear to be having a peaceful night together until they hear some commotion from downstairs. When getting out of bed, the film reveals Joshua has robotic-powered prosthetics. AI-powered (possibly human/robot hybrids) characters bring in a soldier who looks badly injured and bloodied.
Here, we get our first glimpse of Harun (Ken Watanabe), a machine with Watanabe’s face. The designs of the A.I. are immensely clever, with shades of anime influence. Harun says others are invading the island, signifying the soldiers have come to kill anything resembling artificial intelligence. After everyone exits to combat the intruders, Joshua expresses anger toward the soldier and questions why they are raiding so soon, insinuating that he is working with them. Joshua picks up a communicator and notifies the other raiders to stop their attack as he is undercover.
As he says, “I am undercover,” his wife Maya comes down the stairs and hears him. She points a gun at him, and the scene grows tense. Two things are established here. Maya sees A.I. as people, and Joshua sees them as nothing but software. She refuses to return with Joshua and runs out the door into a wave of laser-lighting gunfire. She and others flee on a boat as gunfire flies across the nighttime beach. The conclusion will be left out of this breakdown for enjoyment, but the scene ends with tragic implications.
The Creator scene 2: Alphie appears
The second part of the presentation was harder to understand because some details were missing. Before showing the clip, Edwards hinted that Joshua thinks Maya might be in the location they’re going to. In the scene, we see Joshua working with special forces, entering a big farmhouse, and holding their guns ready. The location is said to be a lab carrying a weapon.
Joshua, leading a small team, opens a large glass door and steps into a vast, empty room with a dining-style chair in the center, surrounded by stuffed animals. A television plays in front of the chair. Joshua approaches the chair, anticipating danger, but instead finds an A.I. bot with a child’s face named Alphie, portrayed by Madeleine Yuna Voyles.
From the side, a female presence appears, who Joshua hopes is Maya (but is not). The older woman (a scientist) reveals herself and shoots Joshua in the shoulder-ish area, disabling him, and she exclaims at Alphie to run. In the next scene, we see Alphie breaking out of the roof and several A.I. villagers fleeing from the soldiers in a field. It’s warfare that feels like a Vietnam commentary in its inception.
The Creator scene 3: The bridge
We will refrain from providing deeper details regarding the scene above to maintain surprise. However, it is worth noting that the atmosphere is charged with both tension and emotion. The sequence involves a suspenseful fight on a bridge between Harun and other A.I. (including Alphie and Joshua). On the other side of the bridge, the special forces team awaits and is led by Colonel Howell (Allison Janney).
The film introduces a new tech in this sequence utilized by the Americans. It’s a robot in the shape of a massive metal trash can that is an indestructible piece of machinery that can run through anything and detonate once it reaches its destination. The machine is basically a suicide bomber for soldiers unwilling to do it themselves. The weapon is a terrifying and realistic notion considering the evolution of warfare (including drones). We cannot say much more, but the sequence is gripping, surprisingly emotional, with ample stakes.
Overall thoughts on my early look at the film
As a whole, the film looks remarkably promising. From the presentation, it seems like Edwards is embracing unconventional locations (fields, farms, secluded beaches, etc.) to depict ambitious ideas. Most directors would take huge swings and make a massive green screen environment with Blade Runner aesthetic. Here, the director returns to his Monsters roots and takes advantage of natural environments to tell a sci-fi wonder. Adding to this, the technological ideas in the footage ignite the imagination.
Edwards incorporated the Volume in various shots, the same LED screen technology used to create backgrounds in The Mandalorian. This technique can be unpredictable in how effective it is. Matt Reeves also used it in The Batman, but in IMAX, it was noticeable that Robert Pattinson was walking in front of a giant television screen, especially towards the end. However, in the footage provided for The Creator, this was not noticeable at all.
Readers need to remember that the footage consisted of only three scenes, lasting approximately 20 to 25 minutes, in a movie that spans over two hours. Despite this, The Creator has the potential to fulfill a science fiction craving in 2023 that Dune Part Two can no longer satisfy.
The Creator releases in theaters on September 29, 2023. Are you interested in checking this one out? Let me know on social media or in The Cosmic Circus Discord what you think.