Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Written by: Gareth Edwards and Chris Weitz
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here and now and is not going away. The fear that it will turn against humans has been the subject of many films and most popular being the Terminator film franchise by James Cameron. Here Gareth Edward known most for his 2016 film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, brings a CGI-heavy spectacle that tries hard to get viewers to care about the characters but mostly feels too stoic at parts that it is too disjointed a film emotionally that make sit hard to want to rewatch it.
Here comes the spoilers.
In the year 2055, a nuclear bomb is detonated destroying Los Angeles, and this sets the government of the Western world on a war against AI. In order to eradicate all AI from the planet they built the USS NOMAD which is an advanced orbiting space station that can launch attacks from space. A decade later a soldier named Joshua Taylor (John David Washington) is undercover and married to Maya. The government believes that Maya is the daughter of Nirmata, the architect of newer AI machines. When forces attack their home, a pregnant Maya runs away but gets killed by a NOMAD strike. We jump again 5 years to see Joshua working at a clean-up site when he is approached by Army officials who recruit him to locate and destroy a new weapon engineered by Nirmata, “Alpha O”, believed to be capable of destroying the NOMAD platform and thus shifting the balance of the war in favor of the AI. They show him a video of Maya still alive, and he accepts the mission.
On the mission, he gets separated from the team and finds the new weapon is just a robotic “simulant” in the form of a young child. It is revealed that the girl has the ability to remotely control technology. He calls her “Alphie” and disobeys orders to kill the simulant. He goes on the run to his former commander to seek guidance. It is revealed that human error caused the nuclear detonation in Los Angeles, and it is now decided that NOMAD needs to be destroyed. They get ambushed and get taken to Los Angeles where Joshua is forced to kill Alphie. Yet this is a ruse as they escape to a ship that takes them to NOMAD. Eventually, they destroy NOMAD. Alphie goes to New Asia and is welcomed by people celebrating NOMAD’s destruction.
So, what is wrong with this film? First and foremost, the character of Joshua. We never get a real sense of his dedication to the cause of eradicating all AI. I think possibly inserting a flashback of his friends and family being killed in the nuclear detonation in Los Angeles is a start. This would help his stoic performance tremendously. A man who lost everything to find love with Maya was the last bastion of humanity he rediscovered in himself. That would enhance the scenes between him and Maya and eventually Alphie as she represents the child he never got to have. His sacrifice as he gives up his earlier convictions for eradicating AI would be more profound. We needed a bigger ‘why’ to his motivations.
The director has a good eye for action and crafting epic CGI scenes. Yet he keeps missing the emotional heartbeats of a film that would elevate it from good to great. I hope he grows in this regard and begins to focus on the heart of the story rather than the aesthetics.
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