Sci-fi epic 'The Creator' sees director Gareth Edwards embrace a new filmmaking style
While many of us are still struggling with the idea of artificial intelligence and how it can change our everyday lives, director Gareth Edwards is already thinking of a future where humans and AI coexist, and are even at war with one another.
But Edward’s latest film, The Creator, is more than just another Terminator wannabe.
In his vision of the future, AI is so advanced that they have created “skins” for themselves and are able to live in harmony and co-exist with humans. They have jobs, religion and even families, and live lives that are almost identical to humans’.
However, when a nuclear bomb is detonated in Los Angeles, America blames the AI population for the attack and launches an all-out war against them in New Asia, where the titular “Creator” of AI is allegedly hiding in.
Ex-special forces agent Joshua (played by John David Washington) is brought back into service to hunt down the Creator, who has developed a weapon that could tilt the balance of the war back into New Asia’s hands.
However, during the mission, he ends up having to care for a mysterious AI child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) instead.
The movie also stars Gemma Chan, Ken Watanabe, Sturgill Simpson and Allison Janney.
Edwards on set with child actress Madeleine who plays Alphie, an AI child whom Washington’s character ends up taking care of.
‘Wired for science fiction’
The idea for it came about after Edwards had finished Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2016, and was on a four-day road trip across the US with his girlfriend.
“I had just finished Star Wars, and needed a bit of a break. So we decided to go and see her parents who live on the other side of America,” he recalled during a recent global virtual press conference.
“I wasn’t expecting to think about the next film or get any ideas. But as I was looking out the window, we went through this tall grass in a farmland area, and there was a factory with what looked like a Japanese logo on it.”
With his brain already “wired for science fiction”, Edwards began to wonder what they were doing in that factory.
“Maybe it’s robots or something cool? Then I thought, ‘imagine being a robot built in a factory and you step outside the factory for the first time and then suddenly you see grass, trees and the sky. What would that feel like?’”
That thought kept coming back to him over the course of the road trip, and by the time they got to the destination, he had already got the basics for the entire movie mapped out.
'The Creator' is more than just another Terminator wannabe.
Location, location, location
Unlike many CGI and green screen-heavy sci-fi movies these days, The Creator was shot on location in eight different countries, many of them in Asia.
According to Edwards, there there was a reason for this.
“Normally, when you make a film like this, what happens is you design the world.
“You do all these cool pieces of artwork, show a studio, and they’ll say, ‘You’ll never find anywhere that looks like this. You’re gonna have to build it in a soundstage, it’s going to cost millions, and you’ll shoot it against greenscreen’,” he explained.
But Edwards and his team were adamant that they did not want to do it that way, deciding instead to “forget the literal images” and “design it based on whatever we actually film”.
“So, we’ll do all the design when we finish the movie. Sort of making the movie in reverse,” he said.
Edwards only added the visual effects after the entire movie had already been shot.
Working with a crew that was small enough to make it be cheaper to fly them anywhere in the world compared to building a set, Edwards cherry-picked locations like the volcanoes of Indonesia, Buddhist temples in the Himalayas, the ruins of Cambodia, and so on to film at.
When it was all done, they had a big chunk of the budget left for the visual effects and more.
“Basically, we edited the film, got frames from each shot in the movie, and gave them to the production designer and the concept artist,” he explained.
“So 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!
“Everything that I like about the movie was a result of doing it differently. And so, I just feel super excited, like I never want to go back to the other way of making a film, basically,” he said.
The lead actor of The Creator, John David Washington is the son of Oscar winner Denzel Washington.
Cracks in the armour
Casting actor John David Washington, best known for his roles in BlacKkKlansman and Tenet, was another inspired touch.
Edwards said that he wanted a star who could show “cracks in the armour”, and not just another tough guy hero who never shows any sign of weakness.
“There’s a tendency in this kind of movie (for the actor) to become a tough guy. I’m not really into those films. I never feel any vulnerability for the character, who’s always gonna be fine,” he said.
“I wanted to see cracks in the armour, and a moment in the film where, when people left the room and it’s just him, and he’s not OK. He is broken.
“Around other people, he acts fine, but it’s all a front. I wanted an actor that wasn’t afraid to go there like that. And JD was really into that idea.”
Working with a small crew made it cheaper to fly them anywhere in the world compared to building a set.
The war between humans and AI largely being fought by America and New Asia, which Edwards said was the simplest way to “split the world into two”. As a result, a huge chunk of the movie is actually set in Asia, or to be more specific, South-East Asia.
“One of the big tricks that I think George Lucas did so well (on Star Wars), was to take things from the distant past, like spirituality, religious stories, mythology, and then put them with things in the far future, like spaceships and robots,” Edwards said.
“There’s nothing in between. It’s literally the far past and the far future, wedged together. And more than anywhere else in the world, I think where that happens the most is in Asia.
“In places like Hong Kong, Bangkok or Tokyo, you’re in a metropolis that looks like something from Blade Runner, but if you just go down a street and take a left, there’s a little temple and a Buddhist monk.
“I love those polar opposites, those visual contrasts. I just find them super exciting. And you’re always looking for that as a filmmaker, in stories and visuals, and in every aspect,” he concluded.
The Creator opens at cinemas nationwide today.……
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