Ken Watanabe plays AI warrior Harun in “The Creator,” a cautionary tale about the current and future applied uses of artificial intelligence. (Photos courtesy 20th Century Studios)

By IZUMI HASEGAWA, Hollywood News Wire Inc.

If you ask ten American movie buffs, there will be no one who doesn’t know Ken Watanabe. No matter what movie he appears in, no matter how short his scene is, his presence gives off a strong aura from the screen.

Watanabe plays an AI soldier, Harun, in the new movie “The Creator.” He is a loyal and brave AI who protects the main character’s wife, Maya (Gemma Chan).

He appears in a battle scene with a human army that views the AI as an enemy, filling the scene with a tense atmosphere and enveloping the viewer with a sense of suspense. At times, he may come off as exaggerated, but his dramatic acting is very realistic and transports us into that world.

In the movie, Joshua (John David Washington), a former Special Forces member, accepts a mission to infiltrate an area occupied by AI in order to find out the whereabouts of his wife Maya. In the place where the creator of the AI was supposed to be, there is an AI in the form of a young child, Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles). Alphie seems to know the whereabouts of Maya, so Joshua takes the AI with him on a journey to find her.

The yoroi armor-like costumes and samurai-like movements made it feel as if I were watching a historical drama. As expected, the director, Gareth Edwards, is a big Japanese movie fan. One of the works he used as a reference is “Lone Wolf and Cub,” and the story of Joshua betraying military orders and escaping with the child appears to be a rehash of that story.

Although Japanese language appears here and there in this movie, most texts are odd and will look very strange to Japanese speakers. A big production like this should have the budget to have proper Japanese. If you like Japanese movies, I hope you also like to see proper Japanese on the screen. I’m appalled at the continued lack of authenticity from Hollywood.

John David Washington as Joshua and Madeleine Yuna Voyles as the robot Alphie.

The theme of this film is the relationship between AI and humans. The timing of this movie comes when debate over AI is heating up. The film depicts the deep bond between AI and humanity, and depicts not only the bonds between humans, but also the bonds between humans and animals.

Do humans only have friendship and love for those made of flesh and blood? Shinto, the foundation of Japanese culture, believes that everything has a soul. Therefore, we can naturally accept the idea that machines also have souls.

When I was interviewed on the History Channel, I said, “Western culture has a tendency to think of machines as attacking humans, but in Japan they think of machines as helping humans.” Japan, the country that gave birth to Astro Boy and Doraemon, also developed the helper robots Aibo, Pepper, and Asimo.

Western people, however, tend to worry about machines trying to exterminate humanity, as exemplified by the movie “The Terminator.” It is interesting that “The Creator” also shows how the West (mainly Americans) views AI as enemies, while Asian people love AI and coexist with it.

Unfortunately, perhaps because too much effort has been put into special visual effects, there are not enough parts that question what makes humans human, and what humanity there is in an AI that treats humans with compassion. It was missing a lot.

No one could top the TV drama “Battlestar Galactica,” which depicts the relationship between robots and humans and makes the audience think deeply about humanity. 

— Translated by Jerry Jorgenson


“The Creator” is rated PG-13 and is now in wide release. Run time: 2 hours, 13 minutes.

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