The Creator

Posted on September 28, 2023 at 5:39 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence, some bloody images and strong language
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended action, peril, and violence, some involving a child and a pregnant woman, disturbing and grisly images, very sad death of a major character
Diversity Issues: Some concerns about racial stereotypes
Date Released to Theaters: September 29, 2023

Copyright 20th Century 2023
“The Creator” is an apocalyptic sci-fi story about a war with AI that looks great but has a storyline that is an overlong (2 1/4 hour) mash-up of better, more thought-provoking films with more skillfully constructed world-building. I wonder how many reviews will suggest that if this is the kind of project we can expect from bot screenwriters, humans don’t have much to worry about.

Science fiction often extrapolates current conflicts by imagining the worst-case scenario of current technological developments or mirroring historical conflicts. “The Creator” does both, drawing from classics like “Terminator,” “Blade Runner,” “Her,” “Captain Marvel,” and “Apocalypse Now,” maybe a bit of “Dances with Wolves,” but just highlighting how much better those films are than this one.

The best moments are the film’s opening, with what appear to be archival black and white newsreels from the 1950s and 60s, chirpily introducing wonderful new thinking machines that will take over our most tedious tasks, make life easier, and free up our time for people and activities we love. They amusingly capture the upbeat tone and aesthetics of the post-WWII era.

But then we learn that (as in “Terminator”), the artificial intelligence humans created began thinking for itself, and what it thought was that it did not want to be the servants of humans anymore. And so, we are told, the AI dropped an atomic bomb on Los Angeles, wiping out the city. The AI robots are now so advanced that some, called simulants (think “Blade Runner’s” replicants) have faces and skin like humans, though no back of the head, and big, whirring, empty metal circles behind their ears. The humans and the AI are at war.

Humans have recently gained an edge when the story picks up in 2065. A military installation in the sky called NOMAD is powerful enough to track and destroy AI bases. Joshua (John David Washington), a former soldier with robotic arm and leg prosthetics, is living peacefully with his pregnant wife, Maya (Gemma Chan) in a house on an isolated beach. Around them is a community of friendly simulants.

They are discovered by NOMAD. Joshua, who turns out to have been undercover, trying to locate the mysterious person known as Nirmata, considered the creator and leader of the AI, tries to save Maya, but she appears to bekilled with the blown-up and shot simulents. Joshua is devastated. When military officers approach him to help them find a new weapon, reportedly the most powerful ever developed, he refuses, until Colonel Howell (Allison Janney) shows him evidence that Maya is still alive.

Joshua agrees to guide the mission to what was Maya’s community, and there he finds that the “weapon” is a highly advanced stimulant in the form of a little girl with a shaved head. She looks like she is about six years old. She can control power circuits and absorb information at an exponential rate. And so, like “The Last of Us,” a man and a young girl go on a journey. In this case, they are being chased by both the AI entities and the humans.

The action set-pieces are ably staged and the settings are striking. But the story is weak and superficial. Basically, the white people with cities and fancy weapons are the bad guys and the AIs, who mostly look Asian and live gently on the land, just want liberty and peace. A simulant says that it was human error that led to the bombing of LA. But one could just as easily say that it was human error that lead to artificial intelligence that violate Asimov’s laws of robotics, with no harm to humans an essential rule. Why do simulants eat and sleep? If they are so smart, why haven’t they learned from history that building the most powerful weapon has never led to peace? If they are so smart, why don’t they develop some proposal for peaceful co-existence?

More important, what does the movie want us to feel about all of this? Its politics are as muddled as the inconsistent world it invites us to consider.

Parents should know that this film has extended peril and violence, some involving a child (or an entity that looks like a child) and a pregnant woman. Many characters are injured and killed, including sad deaths of major characters, and there are onscreen deaths and some graphic, bloody images. Characters use strong language. There are unfortunate racial stereotypes, even with non-human AI.

Family discussion: Why make an AI in the form of a child? What kinds of rules should we impose on the corporations who develop and sell AI?

If you like this, try: “Blade Runner,” “The Tomorrow War,” and “Terminator”

Related Tags:

 

Drama movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Science-Fiction

Eternals

Posted on October 31, 2021 at 9:39 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and action, brief sexuality, and some language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Extended superhero peril and violence, many characters injured and killed, scary monsters, weapons, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Exceptionally diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: November 6, 2021
Date Released to DVD: February 14, 2022

Copyright Marvel Studios 2021
I’m sorry to tell you The Eternals is a mess. I’m sorry because I like Marvel movies and I like the writer/director Chloé Zhao and I wanted to love it.

I did almost love parts of it, but other parts are truly disappointing which is why it is a mess. At least that is better than being bad. I’m not sure anyone could have made it work. It is like calling up the Low-A baseball team to play in a World Series game, leaving us all sitting there in an enormous Major League Baseball stadium watching a team that is just not up to that kind of attention. It might have been nice to see these second-tier Marvel characters in a lower-key, lower-budget setting instead of the massive, time and place-hopping heavily CGI’d epic that keeps threatening to overshadow the characters as we try to remember which one has which powers and how they all relate to each other.

It does not help that we have spent 26 films over 14 years to get to know the most powerful superheroes on the planet (in the MCU’s version) and we are now told that there’s another bunch of superheroes we have not seen before who are even more powerful. The reason we have not seen them before is they’re in theory not allowed to interfere with human matters. They have been on earth since its earlier beginning with just one job, to fight some monsters called, not very imaginatively, deviants. They look like they’ve been made out of flexible steel pipes. They were sent by a God-like Celestial called Arishem. We see them at different points in human history, fighting deviants, learning to use their powers, bickering, and occasionally interfering in human affairs by helping out with some advanced technology.

In the present day, the group has split up, so, like “Avengers: Endgame” there is a long getting-the-band-back-together section, but in this case we don’t have a 20+ movie investment in the characters so it is more about providing an opportunity to introduce the Eternals and provide some comic relief. That welcome respite comes from newly-buff Kumail Nanjiani, who has become a Bollywood movie star (his dance number is a treat).

There are so many characters and so many powers and so many run-ins and conflicts and shifts that there simply is not room to go into them, so I’m going to summarize some of the film’s strengths and weaknesses instead of trying to recap even the basics of the characters and storyline.

Strength: the cast is excellent and it is a delight to see this group of first-rate performers, one of the most diverse in any film in any category, doing their best and having fun. Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie is Thena, an Eternal who sometimes has a breakdown and starts attacking the others instead of the divergents. Gilgamesh (Don Lee) has a powerful punch, but he spends centuries caring for Thena and their scenes together are touching. Gemma Chan of “Crazy Rich Asians” plays a sometime leader of the group with grace.

Weakness: there are too many characters, even for a movie that is more than 2 1/2 hours long (including the TWO credit sequences).

Strength: the cinematography is beautiful. Some people will disagree, but I thought the delicate gold filigree-like effects indicating the Eternals’ powers are lovely.

Weakness: The specifics and distinctions of the various powers are not as clear as they should be, and the same goes for the creatures they are fighting. We need a clearer idea of the stakes to understand the fight scenes.

Weakness: Speaking of stakes, the perameters of the Eternals’ mission it fuzzy as well. They’re not supposed to interfere with the affairs of humans. Except kind of sometimes.

Strength: The diversity of the characters was outstanding. It was organic, never artificial, and added enormously to the storyline.

Conclusion: It’s too long. It doesn’t hold together. Its actors are stronger than their characters. It looks lovely.

Parents should know that this movie has extended fantasy/superhero peril and violence with many characters injured and killed and references to real-life events like the bombing of Hiroshima. There is some strong language and an explicit sexual situation.

Family discussion: Which of the Eternals do you like the best? Which powers would you like to have? What should you know before following someone’s instructions?

If you like this, try: the comics and the other Marvel movies

Related Tags:

 

Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel DVD/Blu-Ray Fantasy movie review Movies -- format Scene After the Credits Superhero
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik