Why are the reviews around The Creator so divergent?

A brief survey of ratings around the Internet have a mix of perspectives which vary widely. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a fair to middling 78%. Yet the headlines of every reviewer I came across lauded The Creator as a dynamic new film of non-franchise speculative fiction. These were sentences written with enthusiasm.

How can their views be this far apart? Critics, usually pan and discredit science fiction films and when I want a review, I normally have to go to the fan enthusiast websites like SCIFI.radio or Gizmodo, because their audiences KNOW the material and have a degree of enthusiasm the regular critics can’t match.

They review for the geek in us, where normal critics are using much more sophisticated algorithms to determine if a film has artistic merit, creative writing, unusual cinematography and has a novel thematic arc not looked for, or considered relevant, in genre fiction.

Okay, all of that is my opinion. Based on what I see when I read a review from the New York Times and say… Polygon.com, for example. The reviews may be of the same length but the Polygon review will touch things the audience cares about, where the New York Times critic will talk about how they perceived the film and why it matters to them. If you like it, they are indifferent to that fact. Their film review is about them sharing their opinion.

Frankly, I am not surprised. The movie challenges a number of perspectives which affect the worldview of people in this nation and possibly around the world and are likely to polarize anyone who sees it. For the record, I welcome challenging films. I seek out anything which can shake up my worldview and keep me engaged with learning more about the world.

Such challenging ideas may include:

  • This is a tale of artificial intelligence, even as Humans in our own world are grappling with the threat of AI. The threat of AI to our entertainment, our employment and our expression of creativity. Such a film is sure to trigger someone, and frankly if you aren’t disturbed by what Humans are doing under the guise of using artificial intelligence, you might not have been watching the news.
  • Making matters worse, we have another “fear the future of AI” tale where machine intelligence starts as a tool, then becomes a friend, and finally an enemy, ala “Skynet” in the Terminator franchise. Another installment of “Colossus Syndrome” — when a super-intelligent AI threatens the world — rears its mechanical head. Could be tired, could be awesome depending on how they sell it.
  • We also have a story where a child (or an AI in the shape of a child) is placed in danger and is, at least for some time, is the MacGuffin, (the object being sought in a movie script) in this tale of renegade AI. To make it worse, the child is super-intelligent and has good screen presence. Any time you threaten children you stand to polarize your audience.
  • The final straw in the craw of modern movie goers, particularly in the speculative fiction crowd, is any time the lead protagonist, the good guy of the story is not white. Whenever the main character is anyone other than a white, already famous male actor, there is always a disproportionately vocal segment of so-called fans who complain bitterly on every media format possible.

With nothing but the trailer at hand, I can see a tale of environmental collapse, a humanity on the brink of war as they struggle with their society breaking down around them.

I can see a MacGuffin chase following a defending hero, escorting a precocious child, and a challenging moral quandary where humanity has to contend with the creation of a thinking machine and what to do when that machine decides to think for itself.

It has everything a two hour movie needs to be successful. A dynamic lead, strong cinematography, excellent special effects visuals, coupled with great robot designs. It would take a master of incompetence to screw up such fertile ground. It has the potential to be really great if it is executed with any degree of sophistication.

I can’t wait to see it.

“As a future war between the human race and artificial intelligence rages on, ex-special forces agent Joshua is recruited to hunt down and kill the Creator, the elusive architect of advanced AI.

“The Creator has developed a mysterious weapon that has the power to end the war and all of mankind. As Joshua and his team of elite operatives venture into enemy-occupied territory, they soon discover the world-ending weapon is actually an AI in the form of a young child.”

The film stars John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Ken Watanabe, Sturgill Simpson, and Allison Janney. Gareth Edwards directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Weitz.

The Creator releases September 29, 2023 (USA).


Thaddeus Howze
Thaddeus Howze

Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.