After months of anticipation, Marvel’s Secret Invasion finally premiered this week on Disney+. The new miniseries starring Samuel L. Jackson got off to a pretty solid start in my opinion. Not only were the performances of Jackson, Ben Mendelson and Olivia Coleman all strong. The darker, more serious tone is a good change of pace after the last few shows like She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel were generally more lighthearted. Now, I also think the show does a good job of making you feel paranoid, questioning what’s real and what’s not. But that leads into my only real criticism of the show.
After an intense opening sequence, the show makes history by being the first Marvel project to begin with credits. And the title sequence is very strange looking. Sometimes you know exactly what you’re looking at. At other times you don’t. It’s clearly meant to resemble the series’ overarching theme of things not being what they seem. Watching it, I thought it was just a very stylistic choice. While many have shared similar sentiment, those same opening credits have drawn a lots of criticism too. Here’s why.
In an interview with Polygon, series director Ali Selim revealed that the credits were created along with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Regardless of how much AI was used, use of the tech at all has become a very heated topic in the entertainment industry and there’s good reason for that.
Now, I sort of understand the director’s reasoning for using the technology. Once again, it’s meant to echo the series’ mission to confuse and mislead the audience. However, Selim admits that he still doesn’t fully comprehend AI. And he’s not the only one because there is a lot more to it than what it can create. So many artists are against the technology out of the fear that studios will want to have computers generate their ideas instead of hiring real people to try and bring them to life. And this fear is very real, because it’s already started to happening across other job sectors (think about the last time you tried to contact customer service for anything).
There have been art shows where people who’ve used AI have won over artists that spent weeks and months working on their art. There are numerous cases of AI stealing images of other people’s work to create their own. One of the catalysts for the ongoing WGA strike is the concern of AI being used to write scripts. When you combine that with the fact that writers are not paid anywhere near enough, their frustrations are completely justified.
The name of the company charged with bringing the opening title sequence for Marvel’s Secret Invasion to life is called Method Studios. In that same Polygon article, the company revealed that it generated the art with the prompt “Skrull cubism.” It also promised that “no artists’ jobs were replaced by incorporating these new tools.” In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, they quelled any additional audience concerns by saying a “custom AI tool” was used exclusively for this project.
While I can understand the thought process, because of the timing, I don’t think it was a good idea.
The most disappointing thing about this is the fact that this criticism is eclipsing a show that is pretty good. The acting, the directing and the writing all the things that were made by real people I thought were great. We’ve seen videos of AI replicating the works of directors like Wes Anderson and while it’s funny to watch it’s still ultimately a hollow experience. A computer can replicate certain shots that are similar to Anderson’s, but it can’t understand his reasonings for why his movies look like that. It can’t replicate the performances of his actors.
Every aspect of filmmaking from the writing to the directing an also the act of creating an opening title sequence takes hard work. It’s a shame that right now the hard work everyone else has put in the show will probably be overlooked because of this. Although it’s unclear if Marvel will remove the sequence from future episodes, we can only hope that this is a one-off experiment. At the very least, I hope the studio will take into consideration how out-of-touch AI is before ever trying to use this technology again.