by Rob DiCristino
If nothing else, we can say this for Gareth Edwards: We always know when we’re watching a Gareth Edwards movie. Since garnering mainstream attention with his 2010 feature debut Monster, the English writer/director has established himself as a potent stylist in the sci-fi genre, particularly through his impressive visual compositions and nuanced atmospheric design. In 2014’s Godzilla and especially 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (which remains just a rewrite or two away from being one of the franchise’s best entries), Edwards presents worlds of tactile wonder teeming with texture and life, worlds made truly captivating through a careful synthesis of scale, depth, and point-of-view. They’re filmmaking basics sorely neglected in this age of plasticine cartoonery, and Edwards seems to miss them just as much as the rest of us do. But even the most photo-realistic computer animation means nothing if it isn’t conveying an emotion, Edwards knows; effects are only special if they’re in service of characters and ideas.
You may already be thinking that you’ve seen this all before — and you have — and Edwards makes no attempt to play coy about his influences. Nearly every action sequence or philosophical debate evokes some cocktail of Blade Runner, District 9, Minority Report, or Children of Men, while character designs take healthy inspiration from Ex Machina, Akira, Edge of Tomorrow, and The Matrix. There’s even a Cylon-esque battlestation called N.O.M.A.D. — which hovers ominously in the upper atmosphere as it scans the landscape for synthetic targets — a pair of trash can-shaped kamikaze robots straight out of WALL-E, and a consciousness up/downloading mechanic shoehorned into the background just for good measure. But while The Creator’s various story concerns clash with belligerent ferocity in a rushed final act that came out of an entirely less patient blockbuster, the effort is ultimately made watchable by Edwards’ bravura blend of fascist Western futurism and the old-world, handmade cultural touchstones of the East.Dial of Destiny production offices spent on thumbtacks, Edwards has delivered a charming and thought-provoking drama with just enough edge to be worth a second thought the next day. That used to be enough for most movies. Maybe one day, it will be again.
The Creator is in theaters now.