The use of artificial intelligence in the new Marvel superhero series Secret Invasion has sparked anxiety and anger in Hollywood, at a time when television and film writers are already striking over their uncertain futures.
Director Ali Selim revealed in a recent interview that the Disney+ show – a paranoia-rich spy thriller about shape-shifting aliens that stars Samuel L Jackson – used AI as well as human illustrators to generate its opening credits.
The abstract sequence in question blends green-hued urban landscapes, spaceships and shadowy human characters, many of whom gradually reveal themselves to be the reptilian extra-terrestrial "Skrulls" of the series.
Selim told the Polygon website that the use of AI was intended to provide a sense of "foreboding."
"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?'" he said.
"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."
"It felt explorative and inevitable, and exciting, and different," said Selim.
But the revelation did not sit well with many in Hollywood, where fears are mounting that AI could replace jobs for script writers, designers and even actors.
The refusal of studios like Netflix and Disney to rule out allowing AI to replace human scribes was one factor that led to the writers' strike, now in its eighth week.
Jeff Simpson, who is credited as the show's visual development concept artist and worked on a different part of the series, tweeted that he was "really concerned about the impacts of this."
"I'm devastated, I believe AI to be unethical, dangerous and designed solely to eliminate artists careers," he wrote.
Jon Lam, a storyboard artist, said the use of AI was "salt in the wounds of all Artists and Writers in the WGA strike."
The Writers Guild of America has asked studios and streamers for binding agreements to regulate the use of AI.
Under the proposals, nothing written by AI can be considered "literary" or "source" material – industry terms that decide who gets royalties – and scripts written by WGA members cannot "be used to train AI."
But according to the WGA, studios "rejected our proposal," and countered with an offer merely to meet once a year to "discuss advancements in technology."
Method Studios, the company credited with creating the main titles for Secret Invasion, said AI was "just one tool among the array of tool sets our artists used."
No artists' jobs were replaced by the use of AI, it said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. – AFP