(director/writer: Garth Edwards; screenwriters: Chris Weitz, story by Edwards; cinematographers: Greig Fraser, Oren Soffer; editors: Hank Corwin, Scott Morris, Joe Walker; music: Hans Zimmer; cast: John David Washington (Joshua), Allison Janney (Col. Howell), Ralph Ineson (Gen. Andrews), Ken Watanabe (Harun), Gemma Chan (Maya), Madeleine Yuna Voyles (Alphie), Sturgill Simpson (Drew), Amar Chadha-Patel (Omni/Sekon/Sergeant Bui), Marc Menchaca (McBride), Robbie Tann (Shipley); Runtime: 133; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Garth Edwards, Kiri Hart, Jim Spencer, Arnon Milchan; 20th Century Studios; 2023)

“Gets the visuals right, in this high-tech sci-fi film, but the story wrong.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Brit filmmaker Garth Edwards (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”/”Godzilla”) gets the visuals right, in this high-tech sci-fi film, but the story wrong. There’s too much nonsense, a strained political allegory and a muddled narrative.

Edwards co-writes it with Chris Weitz, in a script that’s too sentimental and too shallow.

The film was budgeted for $80 million, and its money was well-spent getting it to look so beautiful. Otherwise it lacks the drama and logic to map out the possibilities of its AI characters being either utopian or dystopian.

It was filmed in Thailand, Cambodia and Nepal.

The ambitious derivative film, borrowing freely from films such as “Blade Runner,” “A.I.,” “Akira,” and “Apocalypse Now,” richly explores if humans and robots can peacefully coexist. It also tries to compare its futuristic war, waged in New Asia, as being the second Vietnam War.

In 2065, AI has released a nuclear bomb that destroys Los Angeles. Thereby the humans declare war on the AI. The hawkish Colonel Howell (Allison Janney), five years later fight a war using the Nomad warship to destroy the simulants and their war facilities. She recruits the former undercover special forces sergeant, Joshua (John David Washington, Denzel’s son), to join her team fighting artificial intelligence, as she believes he can locate the lab where the simulants make their super weapons. To help recruit him, she informs him that his presumed dead pregnant wife Maya (Gemma Chan), blown up in a botched raid that caused an explosion several years ago, is still alive and has been located in the New Asia area where the simulants
have relocated and where the brilliant AI scientist Nirmata, the creator of the latest in high-tech wartime weapons, resides with the Asian people who are willing to accept the robots. The Asian world has split from the war-like Americans, who are negative to the robots.

Joshua is startled to find that a deadly weapon was created in the form of a cute 6-year-old child, whom Joshua names Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), and forms a surrogate father and daughter relationship with.

Joshua goes rogue and decides to protect Alphie, created with a telekinetic power, rather than destroy her. The film asks if AIs and humans can co-exist as equals. With the filmmaker clearly on the side of co-existence.

A sensitive performance by Washington and dazzling visuals might make for a look at a fascinating world, but it still lacks an involving story about the humans to avoid being superficial.

REVIEWED ON 10/14/2023  GRADE: C+