Too tight?: A victim gets into the deadly gameplay of ‘Saw X’.
SAW X **** (118 minutes) MA
Oh, wow. Ten films into the franchise and Saw X delivers the last thing you’d expect – an outstanding, brilliantly conceived gift box of twists and surprises replete with a degree of plot ingenuity that places it atop all but the very first Saw film, which was back in 2004.
With John Kramer, aka Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, in a top performance), at his most prominent here, we are presented with a razor-sharp scenario that blends the franchise-spanning idea of morally justified violence with the concept of an avenging angel.
The opening 40 minutes totally engages you emotionally as we are drawn deep into the life of John Kramer, who is facing some of life’s Big Questions. He seeks answers, hoping only for goodness.
Superbly directed by Saw veteran Kevin Greutert, from a screenplay by Peter Goldfinger & Josh Stolberg, the film is a shocker in all the right ways.
With a knockout premise that proves totally captivating from the get-go, and clever, strategic use of humour, the tension builds to a marvellously satisfying pay-off worthy of the series. Oh, and with lots of gore. Lots.
Alongside Tobin Bell, there’s a solid performance from Saw regular Shawnee Smith, who some may remember as Linda from Becker.
We’ve had some wonderfully original horror fare this year, so it’s a sizeable irony that the 10th film of a horror franchise turns out to be among them.
THE CREATOR *** (133 minutes) M
The visions of the near-future are unquestionably beautiful, often awe-inspiring as The Creator takes us to the tech-saturated 2065, a world where humans are determined to lay waste to all the remaining robots roaming the Earth, especially in a place called New Asia.
Powered by artificial intelligence to help humans, the androids have apparently turned against their masters – now there’s an original concept for a sci-fi film – and are now blamed for setting off a nuclear device in Los Angeles, so they’ve all got to go.
The main weapon deployed in this endeavour is a giant trillion-dollar flying wing called Nomad, an aircraft as majestic as it is lethal, locating unwanted droids with a targeting device that covers huge swathes of landscape before dropping missiles.
The design and visual effects work that has gone into The Creator is exquisite and totally convincing, from the vehicles to the jet fighters, giant tanks, weapons and robots, each of which have high-tech holes running through their headgear.
The cities are luminous, giant structures rise out of the landscape. The film is like a scenic tour of the future and it’s all absolutely wonderful to behold. Such grandeur is definitely worth the price of admission. See it in Imax if you can. Please.
Story-wise, well, The Creator is yet another case of a great-looking movie saddled with a rather meh drama.
Retired special forces agent Joshua (John David Washington) is sent into the jungles of New Asia to locate a super robot reputedly able to vanquish humankind. It also possesses the psychic-like ability to control technology, Charles Xavier style.
When Joshua finally gets to it he discovers the weapon is in the form of a robot child and – guess what! – he forms an attachment to it that conflicts with his mission, which trigger-happy colleague Colonel Howell (Allison Janney) is all-too-eager to complete.
Coursing through the many impressive action sequences are a host of themes about the relationship between humans and their mechanized creations, and there’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
Essentially The Creator unspools as a mashing of such films as I, Robot, A.I, Avatar and, of course, Blade Runner. The film’s witty opening sequence , we even see the Tyrell Corporation motto, “More Human Than Human”. Hmm.
Given the Asian locale, the film at times resembles a thinly veiled allegory of the Vietnam War as giant American tanks – again, beautiful to behold – do battle with the lightly armed but agile locals. Think Apocalypse Droid or Full Metal Robot.
Nothing really amiss with any of this, in essence.
The trouble is that while director Gareth Edwards (who co-wrote with Chris Weitz) has a great eye for conjuring a futuristic world stuffed with androids, military hardware and spaceships he continues to struggle when it comes to directing live human beings.
We saw that with his 2014 debacle Godzilla and again with 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a film that went so far off the rails director Tony Gilroy had to be brought in to clean up the mess.
So while it boasts visuals that are often staggering – brilliant Australian Greig Fraser was co-cinematographer with Oren Sofferand, and also served as a producer – The Creator doesn’t quite pack the emotional punch that it could have.
So enjoy the film’s sensational visuals, even if its drama falls short.
And a friendly caution: Because of all the present-day buzz about A.I. it’s tempting to regard any sci-fi film with androids as some sort of topical, deep-and-meaningful commentary about how A.I. and humans interact.
Don’t be fooled. Lovely as it is to look at, The Creator is but another Humans vs Robots movie.
Nothing wrong with that, of course. Just don’t mistake it as anything deeper.