AI: Not Always A Marvel

Marvel's new trailer has raised many questions about whether AI will replace human professionals, and when it should not be used.

AI: Not Always A Marvel

Superhero franchise Marvel have sparked renewed debate about the pros and cons of AI, following the news that the opening credits of its highly anticipated TV series, Secret Invasion, were created using artificial intelligence.

While AI has already proven an incredibly powerful and useful technology, with applications across every sector of the economy, Marvel's use of it was widely criticized online for being poor-quality, and for potentially replacing human animators at a time when the Writers Guild of America strike is specifically seeking protections against creative roles being replaced by AI.

In a recent interview with Polygon, series director Ali Selim discussed how the opening sequence had been produced by AI technology from Method Studios. The trailer features morphing watercolor-style renderings of the show's main characters, inspired by the plot of shape-shifting "Skrulls" who invade Earth.

Selim explains that the AI experts were asked to capture the concept of the show's shape-shifting narrative, and that he was intrigued by the technology's ability to convey the desired sense of foreboding for the series. The process involved discussing the visuals created and evolving them using textual prompts.

A Controversial Statement

The use of AI in the creation of Secret Invasion's opening credits triggered a wave of criticism on social media, primarily due to concerns about potential job displacement for graphic designers and animators.

Clarification from Method Studios stated that many artists had worked on the trailer, and that the AI-generated imagery had been a starting point that paid human professionals had adapted. "AI is just one tool among the array of tool sets our artists used. No artists’ jobs were replaced by incorporating these new tools; instead, they complemented and assisted our creative teams," explained Method.

However, the criticism remained that the result had been inferior to the usual standards for Marvel trailers.


Director Ali Selim has said he sees AI as an explorative and exciting artistic tool (though in this instance, the consensus seems to be that it did not provide superior results). While the controversy was driven by misunderstanding, this episode raises a number of questions about the role and impact of AI.

  • Why should AI be viewed any differently to any other labor-saving technology, even if it does replace human workers—just as technological innovation always has done?
  • Or does AI offer such significant productivity gains that the sheer level of unemployment that would result could threaten the social order?
  • What happens in a two-tier system, where one country's regulation of AI puts them at a competitive disadvantage to other countries, who do not have the same scruples? What happens when that advantage becomes military as well as economic?

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