For “The Creator,” writer/director Gareth Edwards developed a world in the not-so-distant future where mankind and AI are locked in a battle for survival.
As it has throughout history, war has spurred technological development: the U.S. Army deployed a massive orbital defense platform called Nomad to hunt down AI targets, and the AI leader known as The Creator manufactured a weapon to disable it — the child Alpha Omega aka Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles).
TheWrap sat down with Edwards to talk about the film’s AI war with humanity, its origin and who emerges victorious at the end of the film.
Spoiler alert: Read on for major plot reveals from “The Creator.”
Let’s start at the very beginning. Mankind — specifically the U.S. — declares war on AI after Los Angeles is nuked and over a million people are killed. In response, AI is banned and destroyed in the U.S., but Asia embraces the technology, where it proliferates. How challenging was it to bring the audience up to speed?
What’s always hard in a movie — every single time without fail — is what you would call the exposition scene where you have to kind of set up the whole film to the audience. You can spot them in every film. The Holy Grail in “Apocalypse Now,” or the map scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in the school where they talk with the experts about the Ark of the Covenant. There’s always that scene that sort of sets up the movie. And for us, we had so much to set up. In the first 15 minutes of the film, we had a lot of ground to cover, and it was a real feat for our editors to find that solution. Half of that battle was trying to explain to the audience why you might be afraid of or want to eradicate AI.
The newsreel is a very effective way to set everything up. Did you intentionally choose to not show an extended sequence of L.A. getting nuked — ala “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”?
It wasn’t important to the story, what happened in L.A. specifically and why it happens — only the fact that it was caused by AI. I wanted to just keep it as a backdrop.
I like the moment where Joshua (John David Washington) is recycling AI at Ground Zero where the bomb went off and its just a sh-tty construction job. I like taking things that you would expect to be this massive moment and just leaving it.
It’s like Sept. 11. We’ve seen that imagery so many times that we’ve sort of become numb to it. It doesn’t have the impact it had the first day we saw it, when it changed the world. Our movie is set in a time when this terrible thing happened and no one bats an eye at it anymore.
Speaking of 9/11, there’s a line where Harune (Ken Watanabe) says that AI did not cause the bombing; it was a coding error instead. Did humans start the war, intentionally or not?
Whenever you make a movie, you pull from parallels in the real world. Everything is kind of a metaphor for something. Without getting too political, we went to the war in Iraq based on weapons of mass destruction. It turned out it wasn’t actually the case. We’re very capable of doing this because we’ve done it.
It’s very difficult because its getting harder and harder to trust information. In terms of AI, I get more worried about the future in terms of trusting information than I do about it replacing someone’s job. Being able to create imagery and videos that feel 100% but aren’t actually the person themselves… how to police that is important.
Speaking on technology, you introduce this concept of resurrection — that the memories of the recently deceased can be downloaded into a drive. Is that a technological advancement you see in the near future?
One of the concepts in the movie was trying to create an AI brain. When I was writing it, it felt that we were very far away from doing that. I felt like it would maybe make sense that you could scan a brain and kind of digitally recreate it, and, without understanding how it worked, you could basically copy and paste a person.
The second you have that technology, there’s some interesting things you can do with it. Like, could you scan someone who had just passed away and paste them and get them working again? And I liked the idea that you can do that, but you only get 10-20 seconds. You don’t get them for forever, and it also is affected on how long ago they died. But that’s just a little trick that, you know, police and paramedics might use to kind of learn about what happened in an event.
That technology is put to use in the final scenes, when memories of Joshua’s wife Maya (Gemma Chan), who turns out to be The Creator, are downloaded into a synthetic body so they can be reunited one more time.
The idea of resurrection is a very mythical theme. And when you look at classic storytelling through the ages, the idea of a messiah or a chosen one like the Buddha and the idea of reincarnation or resurrection is very much a concept that I felt like I should get it into this film.
In the end, Alphie and Joshua succeed and Nomad is destroyed, but Joshua heroically dies saving her. Does that mean AI wins the war?
I always personally translate it as a happy ending. I’m happy for our Alphie and the future of the world. But it’s interesting how some other people have interpreted it as this sort of sinister moment where maybe [mankind] was tricked. And this is the beginning of the end. And I like that. I like it when an ending is nicely balanced between interpretation. We’re not telling you how to feel about it. It’s up to the audience.
“The Creator” is playing now in theaters.