I watched new movie The Creator last night and was struck by how many of its elements were reminiscent of other films.
I was perfectly pleased with the plot, visuals, characters and action and found it to be an original, engaging and at times emotional story, but those similarities kept drawing me out of the movie and left me wondering: were these subtle references, deliberate homage or accidental influences?
Here are the movies The Creator brought to mind as I watched it:
- Platoon and Apocalypse Now – Or any Vietnam War movie really. This is the most obvious parallel, with most of the action set in lush jungle as a sweaty squad of superiorly-armed American soldiers fight insurgents who are hiding among Asian villages. Tunnels and traps, propaganda-driven American arrogance, the unnecessary killing of villagers… A clear indictment of American military interventionism.
- Chappie – There were similarities in visual style and movement between The Creator’s most interesting invention—the AI robots that have gained sentience—and Neil Blompkamp’s 2015 creation.
- Elysium –The movie’s large American military space station—NOMAD—was not only similar to that in Elysium due to its hulking but untouchable presence in the Earth’s sky, but also (later on) due to its modern, technological affluence contrasting the poverty on Earth.
- Blade Runner – The general colouring and neon lasers left me with a Blade Runner feel, particularly in the cyberpunk-esque metropolis scenes. Director Gareth Edwards himself has said the movie was an influence. Strangely, I had a feeling during one battle that the famous ad-libbed line from the original Blade Runner movie – ‘I watched C–beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate’ – might have been an apt description of what I was viewing on screen.
- Edge of Tomorrow – A mech battle suit was similar to those in Edge of Tomorrow but seemed to have had no specific or prolonged purpose. A strange inclusion.
- Terminator – Allison Janney as a tough veteran soldier gave strong Sarah Connor vibes.
- Dr Strangelove – The American general portrayed by Ralph Ineson and his affectingly deep voice has a strong resemblance to the shadowy, bespectacled characters in Kubrick’s classic.
- Anime – In addition to the extensive Asian flavour throughout the film, a simple black title screen with a description of a main character (‘The Child’, ‘The Mother’, ‘The Friend’) was used to separate sections (acts? chapters?) of the film. The font chosen and the inclusion of Chinese characters seemed familiar to me, but from where? Was this inspired by a specific anime, or is there a classic Asian movie that uses such mid-movie titles?
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – There should be no surprises that there are many visual (and even character) similarities between these two movies: Edwards directed both.
- Star Wars – The battle scene where massive American tanks/troop movers attack a shanty rebel city: do I get more Star Wars vibes? Perhaps Return of the Jedi?
I’m sure there are more influences in there, these are just the ones that jumped out to me based on my viewing history. Interviews with Edwards confirm a few and hint at the others, but are there even more I’ve missed?
Perhaps more importantly, though: did these similarities add to the movie or detract from it? I’m still mulling that over. Familiarity can be a positive feature of a film, leaving audiences feeling safe and comfortable and drawing on their affection for previous movies. But was there enough originality to make The Creator stand alone?
My feeling is yes, mainly due to the way Edwards shapes viewers’ attitudes towards the AI robots over the course of the movie, and in doing so makes us reflect on our xenophobia, self-interest and existential fears.
We might just be the monsters we are worried about.
It’s a powerful message. And it is a realistic future before us.