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Quick Reviews: 'The Artifice Girl', 'The Creator' | Sci-Fi, Drama, AI, John David Washington

Franklin Ritch sitting behind a table, John David Washington looking worried
The Artifice Girl (L), The Creator (R)


What a time it is to see highly questionable online chat platforms shutting down, as if these platforms that are barely if at all moderated call the attention of all kinds of weirdos. Examining said subject also is The Artifice Girl, a rather resourceful sci-fi drama directed, written and edited by Franklin Ritch who also co-stars in it. We hack into the story at first by following his character Gareth (Lance Henriksen playing an older version later), a VFX artist known for creating digital replicas as he's being interrogated by government agents Deena (Sinda Nichols) and Amos (David Girard) for using AI chatbot in a form of a little girl named Cherry (Tatum Matthews) in order to lure child molesters before reporting them anonymously. After learning that Cherry is in fact not a real child, Gareth receives an offer from the agents to develop this technology further alongside government officials.

Ritch and the rest of the crew mine a lot of creativity and fascination out of the film's clever premise, namely when it comes to the screenplay but also in the execution for the most part. Simple locations and action are taken to another level with good dialogue that explores the central themes of consent, humanity and evolving identity pretty thoroughly, whilst the time span between acts turns the outcome into a morality play during the second half.

The road to get there can be a bit bumpy, particularly because Ritch's editing and overview of his piece aren't as strong as his writing or scene work since the cutting ranges from workmanlike to something that doesn't quite capture the tension or mood that the scenes themselves are reaching for. That is not to say that those moments don't earn one's attention—they definitely do—much thanks to solid acting across the board, including young Matthews who carries the dramatic burden in the final act deftly, even as she's paired with experienced Henriksen. He certainly doesn't need to prove anything anymore but otherwise this is a successful introduction for the cast and crew.

Smileys: Premise, screenplay

Frowneys: Editing


Franklin Ritch sitting at a table in an interrogation room
XYZ Films


So from artificial intelligence evolving alongside humans, we move on to... more artificial intelligence evolving alongside humans. Director-writer Gareth Edwards goes from putting his stamp on science fiction IP to designing his own world with The Creator, co-written by Chris Weitz, as they also attempt to put morality on the line whilst looking forward to the future. John David Washington plays Joshua Taylor, a former army sergeant who gets hired by the U.S. Army for a mission to eliminate the titular ''Creator'', which is an AI that is believed to have produced a destructive weapon, much to the dismay of humans in the west who are waging war against robots and robot-friendly humans in the east. Joshua is enticed by the chance of finding his lost wife Maya (Gemma Chan), herself being an AI, although his plans are derailed when he discovers the weapon to be in the form of a child whom he names ''Alphie'' (Madeleine Yuna Voyles).

Edwards and his collaborators are dealing with some disorder both within the story and outside of it but one thing that doesn't reflect that at all is the design of this world, which easily becomes the main attraction for audiences. Visual effects (supervised by Ian Comley and Jay Cooper) are utilised tastefully and purposefully here as they not only motivate the storytelling but they're also staged from the characters' perspectives. Along with the metallic and massive soundscapes that drive transitions, ''realism'' and the emotional journeys of Joshua and Alphie, the filmmakers manage to create a compelling ambience that has become increasingly rare these days in sci-fi blockbusters. Not all the potential is harvested on that front either, however, since Hans Zimmer's score filled with lacklustre droning and brass arrangements is notably underwhelming; the jokes about him turning on the AI setting for it write themselves unfortunately.

That music also reflects the script's quality, which leaves much to be desired with its uneven handling of the eastern communities when compared to our ''hero'' and villains from the west, while a flawed story structure doesn't balance highs and lows as well as it should. The opening promises you a slightly more melancholic and sombre tone that you'd might expect and rather surprisingly Edwards is able to return to it in the end after some aimlessness in the middle sections. Voyles plays a big part in that rescue mission since she turns her cold character into something quite emotional, which helps the story to land in a satisfying place. It's not perfect by any means, just like the movie isn't, but at least it has a mind and aesthetic of its own.

Smileys: VFX, sound editing, Madeleine Yuna Voyles

Frowneys: Screenplay, score


John David Washington looking worried in front of a bridge
20th Century Studios

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