DUBAI: British filmmaker Gareth Edwards began his career by jumping into the world of visual effects, persuading production houses such as the BBC to let him do their special effects for free in exchange for him directing an episode or two of their shows.
While all that may seem a lifetime ago for the 48-year-old director – having since led blockbuster movies such as “Godzilla” (2014) and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016) – the experience helped him chart a unique path in Hollywood filmmaking.
For his latest original sci-fi theatrical, “The Creator” – hitting theaters in the Middle East on Sept. 28 – Edwards and his team traveled more than 10,000 miles to 80 different locations spread throughout Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Japan, Indonesia, the UK (at Pinewood Studios near London), and the US (in Los Angeles).
Rather than designing the film upfront, they took the unconventional approach of shooting scenes first without sets, leaving the production design work until after it wrapped, during postproduction.
Edwards used the so-called reverse engineering method on his first film, “Monsters,” which he found to be a much more efficient process.
He told Arab News: “Being able to shoot organically was much easier knowing there was a powerhouse visual effects company behind the film. Industrial Light and Magic went out on a limb to help the realism of the film, allowing us to film actors without motion capture suits, or have tracking markers on location everywhere.
“But to prove that we could make a large-scale sci-fi film on a small budget with minimal green screen, we went on a location scout and filmed a short film. I put a 1970s cinema lens on a little digital camera. We went to Nepal and Japan and everywhere.
“And then we gave ILM this footage of like monks going into temples in Angkor Wat (Cambodia). And we’re like, ‘okay, make that a robot.’ I didn’t take any tracking markers. I didn’t put any dots on their faces. I didn’t measure anything. And they did it. And they did it in a few days. It went really successfully, and it cost very little,” Edwards said.
In “The Creator,” Joshua (John David Washington), a hardened ex-special forces agent grieving the disappearance of his wife (Gemma Chan), is recruited to hunt down and kill the Creator, an elusive architect of advanced artificial intelligence who has developed a mysterious weapon with the power to end the war – and mankind itself.
Joshua and his team of elite operatives journey across enemy lines, into the dark heart of AI-occupied territory, only to discover the world-ending weapon he has been instructed to destroy is an AI in the form of a young child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles).
Most of the movie is set in the world of New Asia – an amalgamation of Southeast Asian countries. And Edwards gives a nod to Star Wars creator George Lucas for the inspiration behind the setting.
“The thing he got right about science fiction was that it’s not just about the future, it’s also about the past.
“He would take stories and ideas and concepts of spirituality, religion, mythology, stuff from a 1,000 years ago, and combine it with the far future of spaceships and robots. And then it would feel important because it was really about all that spiritual past.
“And I think when you look around the world for places that are like that, for me, Southeast Asia is that combination. You go to the cities in the capitals of these countries, and it feels like something from ‘Blade Runner.’
“But then you look down an alleyway, and you go around the corner, and there’s a temple, and a Buddhist monk, or something. And there’s this really ancient tradition combined with that, that I felt was really exciting,” he added.
For Edwards, who took seven years to return to the big screen after “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “The Creator” is his chance to tell an original story in a way that spoke to his childhood experience of going to the cinema.
He said: “When I was young, every single movie every week, was a brand-new original film. And now this is such a rare thing.
“‘The Creator’ is really a love letter to the movies that I grew up with, you know, the science fiction and fantasy films that I wanted to kind of bring back to the younger audience today,” Edwards added.