Secret Invasion Opening Created By AI: How Bad Is This?

It's been revealed that Marvel used artificial intelligence to create the opening credits of Secret Invasion. Is this something to be concerned about?
Secret Invasion Credits

Are you my lifelong friend, or a shapeshifting creature from outer space pretending to be them? Was that an opening credits sequence created by an artist with great passion for cubism or the machination of an artificial intelligence algorithm that was fed the synopsis for the show and given some general instructions about what it should look like? Not sure yet about my friend, but the opening credits of Secret Invasion are definitely not by a real artist, at least not in the traditional sense, as Polygon revealed today.

Secret Invasion and Relying on Artificial Intelligence

After watching the intro for Marvel’s latest series, I had two thoughts: 1) that was way too long, and now I don’t even remember where we were in the show, and 2) that was not very attractive to look at and felt slightly out of place. Of course, that could have been a piece of criticism for a human-created credits sequence as much as an AI-generated one. It is not necessarily bad because an algorithm designed it.

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As the director of the series, Ali Selim told Polygon this was done from an intentional point of view as part of the story and to build on the themes of the series. But is that true or is it an excuse to mask the fact that they just were looking for cost-cutting measures? It’s definitely hard to say, particularly when we don’t really have a hold on what this could have cost Disney.

They used a company called Method Studios which, just like a visual effects company, also had to get paid and also needed time and money to render the entire sequence. In fact, paying an artist could have even been cheaper.

Olivia Colman Secret Invasion
Olivia Colman as Special Agent Sonya Falsworth in Marvel Studios’ Secret Invasion, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

In a way, this could also be seen as the next evolution of filmmaking after substituting practical effects with computer-generated images. We have convinced ourselves that the best visual effects are a combination of both of those sources, and ultimately, audiences don’t care how they are achieved as long as they don’t notice them.

This is something we could have said about Secret Invasion‘s intro as well. Machine learning algorithms are already used in so many aspects of our lives without people knowing about it, from scientific research to your Netflix recommendations. So is this that bad or is it just another tool at the studios’ disposal?

Secret Invasion Emilia Clarke
(L-R): Emilia Clarke as G’iah and Ben Mendelsohn as Talos in Marvel Studios’ SECRET INVASION, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Des Willie. © 2023 MARVEL.

Why Marvel using AI on Secret Invasion is deeply troubling

If nothing else, this is just very bad timing on Marvel’s end. We are about to finish our second month of a writers’ strike that has shattered the industry and forced so many projects to be delayed and so many jobs to be cut. One of the most contentious points that the writers are trying to convince the studios about is banning the use of artificial intelligence to generate scripts, as it’s seen as a major threat to so many jobs in the industry and ultimately, the death of art itself.

After all, art hails from human experience and our ability to communicate our deepest fears, insecurities, hopes, and dreams to the rest of the world, not from an algorithm, as smart as it can ultimately become. And let’s remember, an AI algorithm needs something to be trained with, which in this case would be human-written scripts. So for the computer to learn, for now, we still need to teach it. (One of the writers’ biggest fears, however, is that studios will generate first drafts through AI and then hire them, at a lower rate, to punch them up.)

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Marvel using artificial intelligence just sets a very bad precedent for the industry. The company in many ways has paved the way for inclusivity and diversity by making Oscar-nominated, billion-dollar-grossing superhero movies starring and made by Black people.

Also, Marvel Studios has opened up ways in which the genre can evolve, to its biggest success of all, bringing families and groups of friends together to experience something as a community, which is what every filmmaker aspires to do. So to see them add more fuel to the fire that is AI, one of the most controversial topics over the past few months in the entire world, is just oddly disappointing.

black panther chadiwck boseman

What’s clear is this — there hasn’t been this much talk about an opening credits sequence in many years. Perhaps the Internet backlash will convince studios not to pursue this with future projects, and could even add more leverage to the writers’ requests in their negotiations with the studios. Who knows, maybe this will inspire real artists to come up with truly great opening sequences like we used to have. (I am not looking at you, Succession, you are one of the few that are saved from that assessment.)

What do you think about Marvel Studios using artificial intelligence to generate the opening credits of Secret Invasion? Do you feel indifferent about it, or do you strongly disagree with their decision? What other aspect of filmmaking do you think could be threatened by AI? Let us know your thoughts on our social media!

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