It has taken Rogue One: A Star Wars Story director Gareth Edwards seven years to complete his next film – but the timing has turned out to be impeccable.
If you have gleaned anything from the cryptic PR campaign for The Creator it is probably that this sweeping sci-fi epic is about one of the buzziest subjects of 2023: the world-changing miracle and/or looming existential threat of artificial intelligence (AI).
Somewhere a marketing department is breathing a huge sigh of relief because trying to generate hype for a would-be blockbuster that is not an adaptation, sequel or reboot of existing IP can seem like an impossible mission. But the AI hook is a slippery one.
Despite being set on Earth 50 years in the future, The Creator is mostly concerned with what you might call old-fashioned ideas about artificial intelligence. This is not really about the current proliferation of chat bots. The advanced AI in question has already been decanted into robot bodies, from purely mechanical droids to “simulants” who look eerily human except for the empty Pringles tube where their ears should be.
From Frankenstein to Blade Runner, we love a tangible automaton or replicant. Perhaps it is just easier to wrestle with AI issues – do sentient machines have a soul, can they fall in love, do they have the right to strike if they are being exploited? – when there is something there to physically grapple with.
The Creator depicts a world where a vengeful US has not just banned AI but actively seeks to wipe it out using a terrifying orbital missile platform that can strike anywhere in the world. But the AIs that are thriving in Asia and elsewhere are rumoured to have developed a devastating weapon of their own. John David Washington – no stranger to being the human face of slightly convoluted blockbusters after Tenet – is an ex-soldier caught up in it all, with a cute little moppet in tow.