20th Century Studios’ “The Creator” was released in theaters on Sept. 29th, digital on Nov. 14th, and will arrive in physical media formats including 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD on Dec. 12th, 2023. Here’s a review of the Digital 4k, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos viewing at home.
“The Creator” is an action/sci-fi film from Welsh director Gareth Edwards that is pioneering in terms of how the movie was filmed and its technical aspects, with an entertaining story that relies heavily on tropes but also offers some original concepts to chew on. In essence, a single robot child has the power to save AI in a war seemingly instigated by humans (somebody had to be the bad guy in the film).
You do get the feeling though when watching this movie that it is different from other films sharing the genre. That’s no mistake. Traditional methods of creating futuristic environments before shooting were bypassed, as Edwards proved some innovative filmmaking techniques using natural footage combined with VFX could work, enough so to get the film greenlit. Combined with the location shots (filmed in places such as Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, and Tokyo), there were about 1,800 VFX shots in the film produced by Industrial Light and Magic.
The Digital 4K presentation is embedded with Dolby Vision HDR to expand the color depth on supporting screens. The image can be grainy, but that high ISO look just supports the overall aesthetic of the film, a merging of vintage lenses with new compact camera technology. Having seen the movie in the theater as well as on a home theater projection screen and 4k HDR TV, I can attest to the excellent image quality that carries through. The only screen the movie does look so good on is a computer screen (as seen on both a 16” MacBook Pro and LG HDR 4k monitor), where the grain, color, and black levels all seem to get crushed. But that’s not uncommon.
What camera was “The Creator” shot with? One of the remarkable aspects about the film is that it was shot on a prosumer digital cinema camera, the small, full-frame Sony FX3 combined with vintage Kowa anamorphic lenses. Mounted with a gimbal and other supporting equipment it can be easily carried around in a run-and-gun style. So, many of the scenes were shot as if the cameramen were embedded war photographers.
At home, “The Creator” doesn’t have quite the impact as a full-size theater, but does deliver an immersive experience nevertheless. The wide cinematography from Oren Soffer (working under the guidance of Greig Fraser) encompasses the viewer in 2.76:1 aspect ratio (which will display black bars on the top and bottom of a 16×19 display). The 4k resolution is very sharp. Beautiful bokeh is evident in backgrounds where the subjects are in close frame. The Dolby Vision HDR keeps the bright skies in check, and shadow areas (albeit noisy in darker scenes) hold detail with ease.
The audio is offered in Dolby Atmos, the object-based format that places effects across the 3-dimensional sound stage. The battle scenes are clearly the most immersive moments, delivering a good dynamic range of low and high frequencies through explosions and gun fire. Hans Zimmer composed yet another unmistakable original soundtrack for “The Creator,” giving the film a more polished quality than what might have been expected from the video image.
The 55-minute bonus feature offers a behind-the-scenes view of the unconventional film production, from the way it was shot in an almost documentary style to the way the artificial elements were made look real through the VFX that pulls the final image all together.
There’s a great moment in the bonus feature where Director Gareth Edwards mans a camera that follows the protagonist Joshua (John David Washington) through a tunnel. It’s not the only shot in which he operates the camera, but the scene gives you an idea of how small the filming teams were, even though a larger staff may have been gathered nearby. For filmmakers and enthusiasts, the making of the movie documentary is in some ways more interesting than the film itself.
Should you buy “The Creator” in digital? Although the digital 4k presentation delivers a quality image, I’ll be waiting for the arrival of “The Creator” on 4k Blu-ray which should play at 3x the bitrates of streaming from Apple TV.