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Marvel uses AI for new show's opening credits: Why do studio execs hate human creativity?

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Marvel Studios' Secret Invasion
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Marvel Studios' Secret Invasion Copyright Marvel Studios
Copyright Marvel Studios
By Jonny Walfisz
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'Secret Invasion' Marvel's latest show for Disney+ is facing a backlash from people invested in the arts for using AI-generated opening credits.

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It took barely more than a hundred years since the invention of film for studio executives to find a way to reduce a wondrous artistic medium to assembly line content. I am, of course, talking about the artificial intelligence created opening credits to new Disney+ show ‘Secret Invasion’.

The show, which is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) continues the story of Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, as he attempts to save the Earth from an alien invasion of Skrulls. Alongside Jackson, the show has an all-star cast including Ben Mendelsohn, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Coleman and Don Cheadle.

Incredible acting quality for a likely sub-par quality drama. So far, so MCU. Where ‘Secret Invasion’ has broken the mould though is in its opening titles. Director and executive producer Ali Selim has confirmed that the titles were designed by Method Studios using AI.

When you watch the titles, the fingerprints of AI-created art are blatant. Green-hued images shift amorphously around blandly generic images of cities, people, aliens, and even an egregiously badly rendered face of Jackson himself.

Selim told Polygon that while he doesn’t “really understand” AI, the use of it fits within the foreboding themes of the show. “We would talk to them about ideas and themes and words, and then the computer would go off and do something. And then we could change it a little bit by using words, and it would change,” he said.

But while Selim can wave his vague artistic justifications for using AI in the opening sequence, the decision reeks of an industry that has long been growing to prioritise financial efficiencies over art.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is in its second month of striking against the industry’s move towards streaming platforms that have ruined writers’ ability to live off residuals, and cut down writing teams and budgets. One of the WGA’s chief complaints though is the need for regulation against AI taking roles from writers in the future.

As the internet is awash with Wes Anderson AI parodies and ChatGPT written short stories, real artists are concerned that industry executives will increasingly see them as slower and more expensive versions of their AI counterparts.

With ‘Secret Invasion’ those fears have been shown to be founded in reality. Jeff Simpson, who worked on the visual development team for the show Tweeted: “I’m devastated, I believe AI to be unethical, dangerous and designed solely to eliminate artists careers.”

Simpson is absolutely right. While AI has the potential to be an incredibly useful tool for human advancement, the increasing desire to use it in art is indicative of a vile trend that devalues creativity as a human endeavour.

AI’s greatest uses will be in removing tiring drone or dull work from professions ranging from legal, medical and economic fields. The desire to replace the act of humans working on self-expression is a grim fantasy. The entire point of art is a way of people showcasing their innermost thoughts and feelings.

However, the extraction of a person’s inner-self to create art is not the motivating factor of a studio executive, whose main concern is, and always will be, the bottom line. Profitability is the only metric of importance to these kinds of people, and quickly produced assembly line content is  - to a myopic executive mind - the best way to continue that finance-centric model.

Of course this has also come from Disney. Once a bastion of creative brilliance, in recent years the monopolistic company has consumed almost every studio in its orbit only to degrade its output to an endless stream of sludge. 

Think of how instead of creating new stories, it insists on simply remaking classic animations in live action. Think of the endless parade of MCU and Star Wars products, each with less personality than the last. Think of how this once plucky studio which hand drew beloved characters like Mickey Mouse, has now opted to procedurally generate the opening titles of its latest show. Then think about which artistic corners they’ll cut next.

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