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Marvel criticized for AI use in ‘Secret Invasion’ opening credits

Bynewsmagzines

Jun 21, 2023
Marvel criticized for AI use in 'Secret Invasion' opening credits

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Marvel Studios has been a global entertainment juggernaut for the last 15 years, turning beloved but sometimes obscure comic book franchises into massive successes in film and TV.

But its latest TV series, Secret Invasion, debuting on the Disney+ streaming service and starring Samuel L. Jackson in his iconic role as former S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury, has been met with an immediate backlash upon its premiere today, June 21, 2023 — over the use of AI to generate the imagery of the title cards in the opening sequence of each episode.

“Very disappointed that Marvel Studios decided to use AI for the opening credits of Secret Invasion,” tweeted a photographer with the handle “@HairyShortStack” on Twitter, including screenshots of the title sequence showing a variety of eerie, green-tinged imagery of city skylines, explosions, and deformed human figures resembling Nick Fury.

Other Twitter users called the opening credits “ugly,” “disgusting” and “repulsive,” and lamented the company’s treatment of human visual effects (VFX) artists, and concluded that Marvel had chosen to use AI in this case to replace human artists.

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Human artists from Method Studios credited

However, at least one Twitter user countered these objections by noting that Method Studios, a VFX and motion graphics subdivision of larger parent Company 3, had been credited in the end credits as the creators of the Secret Invasion main title sequence, and that real human artists’ names were listed among the team that worked on the sequence.

Marvel has worked with Method Studios and Company 3 previously on such hit projects as Spider-Man: Far From Home and Avengers: Infinity War, among others. Method Studios also lists Top Gun: Maverick, Blade Runner 2049 and Elvis among the diverse set of Hollywood films for which it has helped create graphical elements.

In an interview with Polygon, Secret Invasion director and executive producer Ali Selim confirmed that Method Studios used AI to design the opening titles of the series, and stated that AI was chosen as a creative medium because it reflected some of the series themes — in which shapeshifting aliens called Skrulls masquerade as human beings, much like how AI can sometimes produce convincing impressions of humanity or human creativity.

Creative justification for using AI

“When we reached out to the AI vendors, that was part of it — it just came right out of the shape-shifting, Skrull world identity, you know? Who did this? Who is this?” Selim told Polygon.

Selim did not elaborate on exactly which AI tools Method Studios deployed for this project, and the VFX production firm did not respond to the reporter’s questions at the time of the article’s publication.

VentureBeat also reached out to Marvel Studios and Method Studios and some of the artists credited with the title sequence to get more information on how it was designed and their reaction to the backlash taking place on Twitter, and we will update if and when we hear back.

Strike context

The use of AI to create Secret Invasion’s opening credits comes at a particularly fraught time period between major Hollywood studios and the creative community: as of the time of this article’s publication, the Writers Guild of America union representing Hollywood film and TV writers has been on strike for more than seven weeks (nearly two months) over disputes about renewed contracts and residual payments in the streaming and AI era, with no immediate resolution in sight, and the SAG-AFTRA union representing film and TV actors remains in negotiations with the studios over some of the same issues with authorization to strike if a resolution for their guild is not met by June 30 — 9 days from now.

Meanwhile, it is worth pointing out that leading creatives within the massive Marvel moviemaking operation believe that it is inevitable AI will disrupt the filmmaking businesses. Joe Russo, co-director of several of Marvel’s most financially successful films including Avengers: Endgame, told the outlet Collider on a panel discussion earlier this year that he believed AI would be able to create a feature film within two years, and that he himself sat on the board of several AI companies.

“The value of it is the democratization of storytelling,” Russo was quoted as saying, about AI. “That’s incredibly valuable. That means that anyone in this room could tell a story, or make a game at scale, with the help of a photoreal engine or an engine and AI tools. That, I think, is what excites me about it most.”

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