PLOT In the war against A.I., a human soldier finds his loyalties shifting.
CAST John David Washington, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, Allison Janney
RATED PG-13 (action and some adult themes)
WHERE Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE A slick-looking sci-fi epic that lacks a beating heart.
In Gareth Edwards’ “The Creator,” the rise of A.I. has split humans into two camps: Those who live peacefully with non-humans, and those who want to destroy them. Joshua, a battle-scarred soldier played by John David Washington, is in the latter group — at least until he encounters an A.I. in the form of a child. Suddenly, the difference between humans and A.I. is not so clear.
This was already obvious to screenwriters, who went on strike to prevent studios from giving their jobs to A.I.“The Creator” is exactly the kind of movie an A.I. would write — and that isn’t meant as an easy wisecrack. Like almost every movie, “The Creator” is the result of ingesting dozens of classics (in this case, sci-fi films like “Blade Runner” and “Children of Men”), then remixing and reworking them in the service of a new story. This movie was written by two humans, Edwards and the versatile Chris Weitz (“American Pie,” “Cinderella”), but somehow it never fully comes to life.It certainly looks terrific thanks to Edwards (“Godzilla,” “Rogue One”), a former computer-graphics whiz, who filmed all over the world (including Thailand, Vietnam and Nepal), then added special effects later, avoiding the usual green screens and elaborate set building. As a result, even the biggest action sequences — like the one in which building-size American tanks invade a small jungle village — feel remarkably real, not canned.
Just about everything else, though, feels naggingly familiar. Washington’s conflicted Joshua seems directly modeled on Harrison Ford’s replicant-killing cop in “Blade Runner.” Allison Janney’s role as the ruthless Col. Jean Howell strikes all the same notes as Stephen Lang’s Col. Miles Quaritch in “Avatar.” The wide-eyed young A.I. that Joshua nicknames Alfie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) has an appealing Buddhist-messiah vibe — she can manipulate technology merely by pressing her palms together in prayer — but she also recalls Haley Joel Osment’s sentient android in “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”
“The Creator,” like its hero, eventually loses sight of its mission. What began as a story about one man discovering his humanity balloons into a dystopia-themed epic about one man saving the world. It doesn’t help that the action-packed climax is utterly implausible, even by the high-tech rules of this world. Could an A.I. have made a better movie? We may never know.