Coming off of two major IP blockbusters, The Creator marks Gareth Edwards’ return to original sci-fi films. The Nerds of Color joined their fellow journalists and fans for a three-scene sneak preview of the film, which teased the size and scope as well as some of the film’s inspirations.
During the Q&A, Edwards said the forthcoming sci-fi epic is a cross between Lone Wolf and Cub, Blade Runner, Rain Man, and Apocalypse Now. And the preview certainly delivered on all of that while still being its own thing.
The Creator will deal with a lot of big themes like what it mean to be human and what it means to be alive and can love transcend those divides and boundaries. And these questions are viewed through the sci-fi lens but is still very timely considering that A.I. plays a role. So, considering Joshua’s (John David Washington) journey and how his relationship with robots and A.I. evolves, it makes sense that The Creator’s previous title was “True Love.”
Here’s the plot synopsis:
Amidst a future war between the human race and the forces of artificial intelligence, Joshua (Washington), a hardened ex-special forces agent grieving the disappearance of his wife (Gemma Chan), is recruited to hunt down and kill the Creator, the elusive architect of advanced A.I. who has developed a mysterious weapon with the power to end the war… and mankind itself. Joshua and his team of elite operatives journey across enemy lines, into the dark heart of A.I.-occupied territory… only to discover the world-ending weapon he’s been instructed to destroy is an A.I. in the form of a young child.
Without getting into plot specifics, Edwards talked about the plot where the world is divided on the subject of A.I. While the West has banned it, the East has come to embrace it. Since then, Asia has developed A.I. until it is near human-like. So now there is this war between the two nations, with the West on a mission to wipe out A.I. and hunting down Nirmātā — the Nepalese word for The Creator.
The first scene we saw takes place early on in the film, where Joshua (Washington) and his pregnant wife Maya (Chan) are having a sweet and tender moment in bed on the beach of Thailand. Unbeknownst to them, the US has sent their agents to storm the beach, which seems to harbor A.I. and robot sympathizers. During the raid, Maya discovers Joshua is actually a mole sent to infiltrate the A.I. community. As he desperately makes an appeal for her to come with him because of the family they are about to have and that their love is real. However, Maya runs off with the family, and witnesses the boat she is on getting bombed.
For Edwards, the goal was to make the film as realistic as possible. He wanted his actors and himself to have total freedom on set so that he could shoot in 360 degrees. That’s not easy to do with the number of lights needed to illuminate critical scenes. However, lightweight LED camera equipment has made it easier to move lights and cameras out of the shot. So what would have taken 10 to 20 minutes to remove now takes about four seconds, according to Edwards.
Our second scene sees Joshua joining a new US strike team sent in to infiltrate an underground lab in New Asia. He is going there because he believes that his wife could be there. And the US needs him because he may know the layout of the underground lab where they believe the newest creation is being stored in.
We saw a little bit of this in the previous trailer, where agents are trying to hack into a console to open a giant metal door where the weapon is being stored. However, the lab’s security kicks in and wipes out the agents except Joshua, who finds out that the very thing behind the door wasn’t a weapon but a child named Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) sitting on a chair watching television. The chair is surrounded by child’s playthings like blocks and stuffed animals, extenuating the innocence and youth of this creation. As Joshua tries to assess the situation, he is shot by a scientist, who commands Alphie to escape through a ceiling hatch.
Meanwhile, the US military is carrying out an attack on the village where the underground lab is at. As the battle between AI soldiers and the US military goes on, innocent AI robots are being killed. The scene itself is reminiscent of that of Apocalypse Now, where there is a dichotomy between the peaceful and serene nature of the film’s setting and the fire and destruction that is going on in the background.
To capture the futuristic feel of the film while keeping it grounded, Edwards searched over 80 locations from Nepal and the Himalayas to the volcanoes of Indonesia, temples in Cambodia, Thailand, and Tokyo for the mega city stuff. But one interesting location to note is the particle accelerator in Thailand. It had everything that Edwards wanted, including the circular structure. And it almost didn’t happen because the scientists weren’t comfortable with the idea of having explosions in their multi-million-dollar facility. But that all changed when the scientists found out that Edwards directed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and would allow him to shoot in the facility as long as they got to be in it.
The third and final scene is one of the more emotionally heavy ones. We won’t go far into it, but it has echoes of Lone Wolf and Cub as well as Rain Man. The former comes takes shape when we see how Joshua is very protective of Alphie. The latter though is very interesting as she makes what looks like an emotional connect with clunky R2-D2 robot with limbs. And there is something very special about that connection that explores the idea of A.I. having the capacity to be human. And there is more to this scene, but the US has carried out another attack on an Asian village, which forces Ken Watanabe’s Harun to staunchly defend it from their unwelcomed infiltrators on a rickety bridge.
Edwards wasn’t sure what he would have done if he didn’t find the right kid. Luckily, he found Voyles. The director said he and everyone who saw Voyles’ audition left them in tears. And every scene that they tested for was more heartbreaking than the next. The director said her performance was so convincing that he wasn’t sure if she was method or not. He adds that she had kept everyone at arm’s reach.
As for the chemistry between Washington and Voyles, Edwards says the two were inseparable. “He became like this surrogate brother or father figure,” he said. “I’m not sure which.”
The Creator opens in theaters on September 29, 2023.