“The Creator” is one of those movies many are going to love, but it’s also a film that will rub others the wrong way.
After one viewing, I’m not exactly sure which group I’ll ultimately fall into, but I’ll say the movie was one of the best movie-going experiences I’ve had this year.
The science-fiction epic is an original film, but it’s also one of those stories that reminds you of dozens of other movies and tales. It wears its influences proudly like you or I would a jersey of a favorite sports team, but it has a certain flare of its own.
Director/co-writer Gareth Edwards makes no apologies for the conglomeration he and his co-scripter Chris Weitz weaved together. The movie has the mythic touch of films like “Star Wars” or “Unforgiven.” It’s familiar, but new all at the same time.
I won’t bore you by pointing the tropes borrowed from other sources, but I will echo the judges from “American Idol” by saying that Edwards did “make them his own” in crafting his picture.
Technically, the film is a feast for the eyes. The cinematography by Greig Fraser and Joe Walker truly transports you to another time with its grand wide shots that establish the movie’s setting. It’s familiar and lived in, yet it still has a futuristic gleam.
The movie has the look and feel of a $200 million tent-pole film, but Edwards reportedly brought this epic in at less than $90 million. Even if the film doesn’t do big box-office numbers, what Edwards accomplished for such a reasonable price will still catch the eye of every production company in Hollywood.
Edwards’ world-building skills are on gorgeous display. The film is set on Earth, but it’s certainly not the world we live in. The United States is battle-damaged from a nuclear explosion in Los Angeles stemming from an adversarial relationship between Americans and the artificially intelligent robots, known as simulants.
However in New Asia, where man and the sentient machines exist in harmony, the land and city scapes fuse for a futuristic and more pleasant environment.
What lifts the film above the norm, though, is the movie’s heart while it explores some prickly subjects.
John David Washington’s Joshua and young Madeleine Yuna Voyles’ Alphie, an A.I. robot in the form of a young child, bond in a relationship that is difficult not to enjoy, despite some stilted dialogue, and themes that might not sit absolutely right with some.
I personally enjoyed the film more as straight-forward sci-fi adventure, but it’s hard to ignore the allegorical nature of the story being told, and that was the rub for me.
The basic plot of Joshua being recruited to hunt down and kill “the Creator,” an elusive architect of advanced artificial intelligence, who has created a weapon with the power to end the war and mankind along with it, is compelling, particularly once Joshua learns exactly what the weapon is.
However, I’m not exactly on board with all the allegorical aspects of Edwards’ film and its implications. The movie strides into political territory that is certainly compelling and interesting, but not everyone will align with the conclusions the director infers.
Still the movie is entertaining with an outstanding performance by newcomer Voyles. Her robotic character, ironically, is the heart and soul of the movie. Solid work by Washington and Gemma Chan as Maya, Joshua’s wife, tugged at my conscience. Allison Janney plays against type and chews scenery with the best of them as the wicked Col. Howell.
The first two acts of he movie really work. The third act is more convoluted and rushed. It’s thrown off a bit by Edwards’ need to pull so many plot string together to tie up the ending. The film gets a little sloppy at that point.
However, despite a few misgivings, the film is a riveting and thought-provoking sci-fi adventure with a lot of heart and a plot that tickles your brain. That’s a strong combination, even with the film’s flaws.
(PG-13) 2 hr. 13 min.
Classic Corner – State of the Union
There are more highly regarded pairings of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy than Frank Capra’s 1948 political drama “State of the Union,” but none of them as applicable to the current political climate.
Tracy’s Grant Matthews is a successful businessman who has presidential aspirations. He’s boisterous and brash, and seen as an unconventional but popular dark horse, who has a chance to push his way onto the political landscape.
Sounds familiar, huh? Only this film was made decades before anyone had even heard of Donald Trump. Makes Capra seem a bit like an oracle.
Matthews is convinced to run for the Republican nomination by newspaper owner Kay Thorndyke (Angela Lansbury), who is secretly his lover, and political strategist Jim Conover (Adolphe Menjou). They love Matthews’ charisma and connive to mold Grant into a candidate who can win.
To have a chance at the nomination, though, Grant must reunite with estranged wife Mary (Hepburn), for public-relations purposes. While exasperated by her husband’s philandering ways, Mary believes he has to core qualities to be a fine president.
The film’s title, of course, is a play on the state of the nation and the state of the marriage between Hepburn and Tracy’s characters.
The film’s conflict revolves around the compromises a presidential candidate and his family are willing to make for the campaign and just where they draw those lines.
During the course of the campaign, Grant and Mary begin to remember why they were drawn to each other in the first place and their love begins to be rekindled. But things aren’t that easy for the compromised couple, particularly when secrets begin to be made public.
Tired of being pushed and pulled by his political advisors, Grant goes off script during a radio broadcast of a key speech, setting a new agenda for his campaign, one that is more true to his heart. His conviction and courage wins back the heart of his beloved Mary.
Capra’s directing career continued following “State of the Affair,” but I’d argue it is his last truly great film.
Some criticize his work for being too sentimental or corny. I think those folks aren’t paying attention. Capra’s characters generally do find the light amidst the darkness in his movies, but to me, that’s inspiring and aspirational.
If that’s the definition of trite, then I say bring on the Capra Corn. The movie is available for streaming on Prime Video.