*Warning: the following article contains spoilers for episode one of Secret Invasion*
There’s no “good” or “bad” use of A.I. Nothing coming out of artificial intelligence is beneficial in any way. You also cannot defend the use of A.I. in any movie or show, no matter for what purpose they are using it. It’s morally reprehensible to think that using artificial intelligence in film and television is the future and will do some good. This is why writers (and soon, actors) are on strike. The future of cinema as a visual and aural medium crafted by human beings, who imbue their own human experience inside their screenplays and visual direction, is literally at stake. If you can’t see that, I don’t know what to say because the discussion ends here.
“Oh, it’s because director Ali Selim wanted the audience to immediately question reality and blur the lines between what’s real and what isn’t. That’s why he used A.I. for the opening credits,” is unfortunately not a justification to defend Secret Invasion‘s awful opening credits sequence. Talented artists could’ve done that visual representation of questioning the fabric of reality far better than any A.I. model. You and I know this. Some may not perceive this as bad because it was used only for the opening credits, but that’s usually how it starts. They use A.I. for ONE THING to gradually accustom audiences that, hey, it’s fine to use these programs for certain things before the workload slowly gets replaced by emotionless robots who will never understand one iota of human feeling and the artistic expression that goes behind any great movie or television show.
That’s all I’m going to say about this, but the opening credits of Secret Invasion definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. As someone who wants to get excited for the next venture into the MCU, especially when it’s based on one of my favorite comic runs, seeing the studio cut corners in their creative department is disheartening and disgusting. I’ll never understand why studios want to make A.I. a thing. It’s never going to happen and sets a dangerous precedent for what is considered “ethical” or not when it comes to artificial intelligence. This is why so much is at stake right now in the film and television world. Studios are nothing without their writers behind every great film and show, and to see Marvel use A.I. during a year where they’re already struggling to keep viewers invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be the final nail in the coffin for many.
But how’s the show? Great question. So far, it’s fine. It’s too early to decide whether or not the show will be good, but episode one definitely has me intrigued to see what’s next. Social media reactions weren’t lying when it said the show takes big swings, and it does something completely unexpected by its end that caught me so off guard that I can’t wait to see what happens next. It heavily leans into the political paranoia premise of a Skrull invasion because you don’t know if you can trust the person next to you. The episode opens with a riveting exchange between Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) and Agent Prescod (Richard Dormer), who tells Ross he has uncovered a global conspiracy: Skrulls have invaded Earth and are planning a global attack. Ross kills Prescod and starts to get pursued by a stranger in the street, who turns out to be Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). Ross was actually not Ross but a Skrull masquerading as him.
The action is tense, and Remi Adefarasin’s camera uses colors and shadows smartly. It’s a shame that the editing has to be so haphazard. One-on-one fights are barely perceptible because each close-up quickly cuts to another inane and incomprehensible shot position. It’s been plaguing most MCU shows for quite some time, but it’s especially apparent during a fight between Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and G’iah (Emilia Clarke), Talos’ daughter. G’iah has been working for Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir), who plans to bomb Vossoyedineniye Square on Unity Day to send a message out to the United States and the world. We have a brief scene between U.S. President Ritson (Dermot Mulroney) and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), where they learn that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) left S.A.B.E.R. to assess the current threat.
The episode establishes a decent enough intrigue. However, there isn’t enough meat to the bone to truly hook the audience into the proceedings. For instance, the relationship between Talos and G’iah is terribly clichéd and has been exploited far too many times in better movies and television series. It feels at odds with the increasing tension Selim starts to craft from the minute the show opens and slows the show’s pacing down to a halt. As talented as Clarke is, and as good as she can be in a role like this, her character’s entire arc has already been mapped out from the minute she appears as a devotee of Gravik. She’s going to have a change of heart eventually, and it’s apparent when Talos tells her that Soren has died. How did she die? Gravik killed her, but this will likely be explored in a future episode.
As far as Gravik is concerned, the character seems to be far too dull and stuck inside so many tropes for me to be truly invested in his plight, even if some audience members may end up going, “Maybe he has a point after all,” by the end of the show even if he’s set up as a clichéd genocidal maniac. I’ll admit that he caught me off-guard by shape-shifting into Nick Fury and killing Maria Hill in cold blood, hampering home the tagline that you truly cannot trust anyone. That moment definitely made the stakes feel real and grounded and could (key word is could) develop Gravik into a much more compelling antagonist than he was initially presented. However, the plot’s basis feels far too clichéd for me to be 100% on board with it. Still, I wasn’t expecting Maria Hill to die like that.
Some audience members may be rightfully angry at the fact that they did her dirty like this after so many years in the MCU, but it’s the perfect example of how subversive the show could be and how there will be plenty more twists to come that could change the entire direction of the MCU going forward. The Kree/Skrull War is one of the most exciting Marvel storylines ever crafted, and to see it crafted on the big and small screen will at least keep me engaged for the remainder of the series. Positioning the Skrull invasion as a political thriller with grounded stakes and minimal flashy superheroism is one of the most interesting reinterpretations of any Marvel comic book I’ve seen in the MCU as of late, but I fear they won’t be able to stick the landing. Let’s see what Secret Invasion has in store for us next week.
The first episode of Secret Invasion is now available to stream on Disney+.