Less impressive as a science-fiction story than as a technical achievement.
One the one hand: as a science fiction film, The Creator says a lot less than it could. It remixes all the hits, from Akira (1988) and Ghost in the Shell (1995) to Blade Runner (1982) and, well, Blade Runner 2049 (2017), both without saying anything new and missing an opportunity it creates for itself to do so. Despite compelling performances from young Madeleine Yuna Voyles and Allison Janney (as always), its characters are as thinly-drawn as its predictable plot. The film conflates “AI” with “android”, and in doing so fails to ask any questions or address any tensions surrounding the topic. Instead, it presents a vague but not-at-all-veiled allegory about militant American imperialism, by having the victimised robots played by Asian actors in third world locations. This heavy-handed approach lacks internal logic to a distracting degree: why would machines wear clothes, live in houses, have biological human urges? Do they aspire to have equal rights to humans, or equal life to humans? It also misses the chance to actually, y’know, sci-fi: if this AI was truly “intelligent”, what are the less human-looking ways in which it might evolve? How terrifying might we find that? How might the film then work to humanise the vision of AI it presents? And how much more important, and timely, might a film which accomplishes all that ultimately be? (Am I just describing Her (2013)?). In any case: with the version of The Creator we got, we’ll never know.
On the other hand, The Creator‘s film-making does what more contemporary sci-fi, and more big-budget cinema in general, should do (as Barbie and Oppenheimer also demonstrated to huge commercial success in the same year): use CGI in support of, not as a replacement for, resourceful, tactile film-making. After being unceremoniously ousted during production on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), writer-director Gareth Edwards returned to the DIY VFX, guerilla sci-fi approach he used on his breakthrough feature debut Monsters (2010). His vision for The Creator was initially budgeted at USD $300 million, but his approach brought it in under USD $80 million; and instead of large crews and sound stages, the tiny crew shot in 80 different locations. He explains that one decision which made this possible was to use a relatively tiny consumer camera – the Sony FX3: