The Creator explores a future where A.I. detonates a nuclear explosion in Los Angeles killing a million people – a bit like in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 nightmare. A decade later, in 2065, undercover soldier Joshua Taylor (John David Washington) lives with pregnant wife Maya (Gemma Chan) in an unnamed country in ‘New Asia’ and a raid ends with her being killed by NOMAD – America’s satellite weapon that tours the globe, raining down death from high in the earth’s atmosphere. Chaos and mass destruction rarely thrills so often or looks so good.
Five years later, Colonel Jean Howell (Allison Janney) offers Taylor – now a broken ex-soldier earning a living in a scrapyard – a return to Asia to help defeat the AI-loving East, who apparently have a weapon that could destroy NOMAD. It’s a somewhat hackneyed enticement plot device seen in many war and crime films but Janney sells it well. All facial scars and harsh chat, her gung-ho character is a treat. Last time Janney was quite so tough on screen she got an Oscar for her role in I, Tonya. When Howell leads a crew way behind enemy lines, Taylor discovers the weapon is actually a child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles).
Director Gareth Edwards created the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Weitz. His last two features – Godzilla and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the latter also co-written with Weitz – married booming, boisterous thrills within a pre-existing franchise world. The Creator is his best film to date, delivering on the promise of his debut Monsters – and on a massive scale.
Chaos rarely thrills so often or looks so good on screen
Edwards works with production designer James Clyne, alongside directors of photography Greig Fraser and Oren Soffer, to present a gorgeous visual aesthetic. Among several impressive sequences combining Asian location shooting and crisp CGI, a third act battle sequence is a real showstopper. Blade Runner, RoboCop, District 9 and Elysium are all reference points, but this impressive marriage of robots and nature has never been carried off quite like this.
Thunderous action sequences rage throughout as the fight between imperialist America and the rebellious east blazes on – the film can be read as a Vietnam allegory. Washington, the best he’s been since BlacKkKlansman, is a convincing leading man here: strong in deed and, eventually, ethics. Hardcore genre buffs will moan that the questioning of what it means to be human isn’t as developed as it is in, say, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, but this is still a spectacular blockbuster.
In cinemas worldwide Sep 29.