‘The Creator’ offers an interesting take on AI in the world of sci-fi

The Creator
John David Washington as Joshua in ‘The Creator.’
20th Century Studios

In a time where artificial intelligence is a part of many conversations across the board, director Gareth Edwards’ new film ‘The Creator‘ is coming out at an interesting time. 

Edwards, who also co-wrote the new sci-fi feature that hits theaters this Friday, has always been a fan of the genre—and part of the idea for this particular film came off of the heels of filming ‘Star Wars’ when he was on a road trip. 

“I’d just put some headphones on, I was looking out the window. And we went through this tall grass, sort of farmland area, and there was this factory that went by and it had what looked like a Japanese logo on it,” he explains at a global press conference for the film. “And I thought, just because [of] the way I’m wired, like in science fiction, what [are they] doing in there?”

That partial notion of the idea led Edwards and co-writer Chris Weitz to create a world where humans and AI are at war—well more so, the United States of America is fighting off the last leg of an artificial intelligence population in a land dubbed “New Asia” in the 2060s. The war itself is said in the film to have been started by a huge explosion in Los Angeles where many people lost their lives and AI was left to blame. 

The Creator
20th Century Studios

In response, the US has built a weapon set to destroy what’s left of the intelligence, in a time where AI has grown to have human-like features and work side by side with people in the Eastern part of the world. ‘The Creator’ follows Joshua (John David Washington) undercover while trying to find Nirmata, aka the creator of AI and its evolution in New Asia. 

After losing his pregnant wife (Maya, played by Gemma Chan) during a surprise attack, the film flashes five years to the future where the US military once again recruits Joshua to go back to New Asia after showing him a video of Maya (seemingly alive) to find a new weapon that the East has come up with to end the war. This leads Joshua to the young Alphie (played by Madeleine Yuna Voyles), an AI child he finds in hopes of leading him back to his wife. 

“I don’t want to give too much away, but a lot of people, when they view stories, they view them as straight lines—beginning, middle and end, like a train track,” says Edwards. “I always liked to view them as a circle. Like, you’re kind of like a clock [and] you’re going round, and you’re orbiting something on this journey.”

Edwards continued: “What I find really useful about that is essentially, your character as they travel through the film does a hundred- and 80-degree U-turn. They basically get the opportunity to see things from a completely different perspective because of the situation they’re being put in. I think that’s one of the great things about storytelling, whether it be novels or cinema or whatever…Whatever the audience’s preconceptions are, you’re able to show them different perspectives and see things from other points of view.”

What’s interesting about this film is not just the point of view of the story, but also, the way ‘The Creator’ was conceptualized, edited and shot as well. 

The Creator
Madeline Voyles as Alphie in ‘The Creator.’ 20th Century Studios

“[We] went to eight different countries and shot the movie a lot more like an independent film, to some extent,” says Edwards. “And then when it was all finished, we had a big chunk of the budget for industrial light and magic and some other vendors. Basically, we edited the film, got frames from each shot in the movie, gave them to the production designer and the concept artist. And what normally happens a year and a half earlier was then happening during the edit…they were painting and designing all the sci-fi just on the shots we were actually using.”

During the film, audiences will follow along on the journey through the volcanoes of Indonesia, Buddhist temples in the Himalayas, the ruins of Cambodia and floating villages while following Joshua and Alphie. And it’s that bond that begins to be built through the characters that fuels a lot of the story and a lot of the perspective you walk away with—which might not be what you expect from a movie surrounding AI in this day and age.  

“I started writing this in 2018, when AI was up there with flying cars and living on the moon. It was something maybe you would see in your lifetime, but probably not,” explains Edwards. “I sort of feel like every major technological breakthrough that’s happened in the last century or so—like electricity, computers, the internet—they always have seismic changes on industries. And you know, there’s a big bump in the road that we have to get over.”

“But on the other side of it, when the dust finally settles, I think we all look back and go, I’m glad we have electricity, I’m glad we have computers and I’m glad we have the internet. I think this will be another one, [but] the next few years or more will probably be a little tricky,” Edwards finishes. “But I think the upside is, it’s such a powerful tool that’s gonna just help so many things in the world, that I think the positives are gonna outweigh the negatives.”

The Creator
Gemma Chan as Maya in ‘The Creator.’20th Century Studios

Catch ‘The Creator‘ in theaters Sept. 29.