The year is 2065. And the United States is at war.
Ten years ago, mankind was at peace, and even thriving thanks to the AI robots they had created to make their lives better. The bots could assemble machines, perform complex medical procedures and even provide childcare—and, more often than not, better than their human counterparts.
But then AI, programmed to protect humans, detonated a nuclear warhead in Los Angeles, killing millions of unsuspecting humans in seconds.
American humans swore revenge. First, they deactivated every robot they could get their hands on and destroyed them. Then, they began hunting down the rest.
Thus far, they’ve managed to eliminate every AI on the planet—except for those in New Asia. There, people still live in harmony with the robots, treating them as equal citizens.
Joshua and his pregnant wife, Maya, are two such people. Maya was raised by AI after her real family was killed. To her, the bots are family. And they’ve taken better care of her than any humans ever could.
What Maya doesn’t know is that Joshua is a double agent, working undercover for the United States.
His mission: to find Nirmata, an AI programmer revered as a sort of god to the bots and rumored to have created a weapon that will end the war in AI’s favor.
Unfortunately, Joshua’s mission is compromised when American soldiers attack his and Maya’s home. He tries to convince them to leave. But then they reveal the truth: Maya’s a double agent, too—only one working for the bots. And she knows where Nirmata is.
Maya evades capture and abandons Joshua for betraying her. But as she and her robot friends flee, they’re blown up by United States’ own powerful superweapon, Nomad.
For five years, Joshua stays out of the war. He returns to Los Angeles to help in the fallout cleanup efforts. And Nirmata continues to elude the Americans.
But the American government is tired of searching. It wants the war to be over. And if officials can finally find and destroy Nirmata’s weapon, that just might be possible.
Of course, that means recruiting Joshua—the only person who’s been even nominally close to locating Nirmata—to their cause.
At first, Joshua refuses. He wants nothing to do with the people who murdered his wife and unborn child. But when they show him a surveillance tape of Maya alive, he quickly signs on.
If there’s a chance, however remote, that Joshua can find his wife, he’ll take it. Especially because if Maya survived, then maybe their baby did, too.
Joshua will do whatever it takes to be reunited with his family. And if that means finding the weapon that Nirmata created, he’ll do it.
But that weapon isn’t just a series of 0’s and 1’s. It’s the most advanced AI ever created. And it looks and acts just like a human child.
And Joshua can’t kill it—not yet at least—because not only does it know exactly where Maya is but it’s also Joshua’s last link to her.
This is a war film. And should be noted that both sides of the conflict ultimately desire peace. But while this is an admirable trait, it doesn’t excuse the horrendous violence they commit against each other. That said, the self-sacrifice we witness from many characters (almost always to protect the ones they love), is inspiring and heroic.
We learn that AI were not programmed for violence or destruction; that was something they learned later from humans. AI also promise that if they win the war, they won’t seek revenge against the West. They only want to be free. And that desire for freedom is part of the key programming for the AI superweapon child, Alphie. Additionally, we learn that Alphie was programmed to love, not hate, so many of her tactics are non-violent in nature.
There’s quite a bit to unpack here. And it all has to do with the personage of AI robots.
As Christians, we know that AI doesn’t have a soul. A soul is something uniquely designed by God and granted only to human beings, His creation. The best that AI can do is follow its programming and try to fulfill the original intent of its own, very human, creators.
But this tale wants us to question that truth. Joshua constantly reminds people that AI bots aren’t real people—that they aren’t killing living beings but turning off machines. But many, especially Maya, refuse to accept that. The robots talk like humans, act like humans and even look like humans due to advanced cloning technology. They express emotions and demonstrate sentience. We see AI sacrifice themselves to save those of the humans they care for. Human children weep over the destroyed bodies of their AI caretakers. Some AI have even developed their own sort of religion. Many characters say that this is all the result of programming, but some folks change their minds after witnessing all this.
The debate goes further than citizenship though. Joshua describes heaven to Alphie: he says it’s a place where good people go when they die. (Obviously, this isn’t true, but Christ’s sacrifice isn’t recognized in this story, so heaven becomes a works-based paradise.) Alphie laments that she and Joshua will never go to heaven because, by Joshua’s own admission, he’s not good, and Alphie isn’t a person.
One element of the film that is challenging on a spiritual level (and which, in my opinion, actually contradicts some of the soul/heaven theories posed here) is a piece of technology that allows for the scanning of a deceased person’s brain. Afterwards, the scan can be uploaded to an AI bot, allowing that person to “live” temporarily—usually just long enough to say goodbye and deliver any final messages. This scan can be done instantly (allowing for an extended “revival”) or even several hours after the person’s death (resulting in just seconds).
As I mentioned before, there’s a religion that some AI bots follow. Its doctrine says that AI was created to serve as slaves to the humans. It speaks of a savior that will save them from that slavery. And Nirmata, as the creator of that savior, is revered as a god. (We’re told at the beginning of the film that the word “nirmata” is a Nepalese-made word meaning “godlike creator.”) Additionally, AI entities seem to pray on a few occasions, they hold a funeral for one of their deceased, and some AI monks resemble Buddhist monks.
Alphie’s full name is Alpha Omega. Genesis 2:23 is quoted. A colonel tells a deceased soldier that she’ll see him in Valhalla (a type of heaven from Norse mythology for warriors who die in combat). Someone is accused of “playing God.”
Neanderthals are briefly discussed as a lesser species that modern human beings wiped out. And AI is similarly compared as the evolved species that will wipe human beings out.
A married couple snuggles and kisses in bed (the woman is wearing slightly revealing pajamas and the man is shirtless). A woman jokes that her husband is not the father of their child. We see a shirtless man in one other scene.
We learn a man is in a romantic relationship with an AI robot. (And we hear about another man who fell in love with a bot.) The AI in New Asia are given human names and assigned genders. However, Westerners struggle with these personifications. And Joshua pointedly calls Alphie “it” for some time.
Some characters (including AI robots) wear revealing outfits. We see several shots of robot exotic dancers. (Some of these bots look human while others look more mechanical.)
A woman curses at some soldiers in a foreign language, but when it’s translated by the soldiers’ computer, her words tell them to “make love” to themselves and their mothers.
This film starts with the revelation that millions were instantly incinerated in a nuclear attack. We see flashbacks of that attack, and the remains of the humans killed by it.
Gunfire is exchanged throughout the movie. Sometimes characters are killed by explosives or tanks, as well. Vehicles are destroyed, sometimes killing the passengers inside. And when characters die, we either see a lot of bloodshed or scattered robotic parts, depending on whether they were human or AI.
Westerners don’t see the destruction of AI as death. They collect the remains of robots and crush them in a giant trash compactor. They deactivate the bots with EMP weapons. They show little pity if an AI bot loses a limb or gets its head blown off. And they even employ some lesser robots as suicide bombers. Additionally, they kill the humans who help AI without hesitation. Many AI die trying to protect their civilian companions. And human children are among the casualties of war.
However, this isn’t to say that the AI are any better. [Spoiler Warning] We learn that the Los Angeles bombing was actually a programming error—a complete accident. But AI still kill mercilessly in their fight for freedom. They brutally beat American soldiers. We hear that a man was tortured to death by an AI robot he had fallen in love with.
A United States soldier cuts off someone’s face (offscreen) to get through a facial recognition lock. Several people are sucked out of an airlock. More suffocate when a spaceship depressurizes. Joshua nearly suffocates when his spacesuit runs out of oxygen. And man is knocked unconscious with the butt of a gun and later wakes with a bleeding head wound.
We hear about many deaths that occurred during the war. Someone talks about how some parents and AI caretakers have ended their lives over the loss of a child. A woman says that human beings raped and killed the Neanderthals. An AI robot asks a man to turn off the machines keeping a comatose woman alive to end her suffering. (The bot’s programming prevented it from performing the task.)
Joshua wears a prosthetic arm and leg, a result of the nuclear attack on Los Angeles. People protest the use of Nomad, the United States’ giant spaceship armed with hundreds of nuclear missiles. Americans continue to drop nukes from Nomad throughout the film. [Spoiler Warning] This same ship is later disarmed. It crashes to Earth, killing its operators (though seemingly nobody on the ground is harmed).
Many people, including Joshua, threaten Alphie physically. And although she’s technically a robot, she’s also a child, making these threats quite unsettling.
We hear the f-word only once (though it’s cut off in one other instance) from a child repeating the words of an adult. The s-word is used 35 times. And there are also a handful of uses of “a–,” “a–hole,” “b–tard,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “d–k” and “h—.”
God’s name is misused five times, twice paired with “d–n.” Christ’s name is additionally abused once.
People drink at a club.
I think the most prevalent thing I noticed in this film was the dehumanizing of human beings. This movie postulates that AI can, in fact, become just like humans—better than humans, even. And as a result, the human soldiers we see here are ruthless, merciless beings. They’re so adamant that all AI is evil that this mindset even extends to the humans helping the robots. We’re told that the West will never stop hunting AI. And even though many of the soldiers are grieving lost friends or family members, that obsessive vengeance leaves nothing in their hearts but hatred.
Characters lie, bribe and betray each other. A colonel regrets that her sons joined the military for her since they both died in battle. A revived soldier (from the brain scan I mentioned in Spiritual Elements) attempts to leave a message for his wife. However, he passes away before he can do so because his commander insists that he relay information on Alphie first.
With a name like The Creator, I certainly expected this movie to have some spiritual drawbacks. However, considering it’s also set about 40 years in the future, I didn’t suspect it would touch on so many current fears regarding AI.
This film postulates that AI will someday become as sentient as human beings, and that it will evolve to be even more human—more compassionate, more caring, more considerate—than we are now.
That’s a problem for a few reasons. Namely, those traits were given when we were made in the likeness of God, our Creator. And while we can certainly teach those things (we already teach them to our children and even hope our children will learn to do them better than us), to suggest that we could teach a machine without a soul to truly care, to truly act with compassion, is a bit disturbing. A robot’s programming may one day mimic compassion, but that doesn’t the robot will actually be compassionate. The Creator hypothesizes that something humans create could supersede what God has already created.
God, of course, isn’t mentioned once in this film. Heaven is discussed as a place for “good” people, but there’s no direct mention of souls (even though it’s implied in the creation of sentient beings). So while The Creator doesn’t seem to be deliberately blasphemous, it certainly poses some spiritual questions that Christians will definitely want to consider before they go see it.
But don’t let that be the only determining factor. This film is filled with some pretty brutal violence from start to finish. Because half the victims are robots, it feels sanitized at times. But when you consider that the creators intended those mechanized characters to feel like real people, it becomes deeply unsettling.
Language is another element. The only mentions of God or Christ that we hear are in the harsh abuses of Their names. The f-word makes a single appearance when a child repeats the words of an adult (which should really make you think about what words your own kids might repeat if they see this film, such as the 35 s-words).
The Creator has a compelling storyline. And star John David Washington is just as entertaining to watch on screen as his famous father (Denzel Washington). But this is a movie you’ll need to consider thoughtfully before making a decision as to whether it’s right for your family.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.