Though his decision to use AI to generate the series’ intro title sequence has been met with near widespread rejection and disgust from audiences, Secret Invasion director and executive producer Ali Selim is standing proud in his creative choice – even though he admittedly doesn’t understand how the technology works.
Making its debut alongside the series’ first episode, Secret Invasion‘s introductory credit scroll sees a montage of various individuals, including Nick Fury himself, having their features molded, warped, and twisted in an unnevering, diffusive art style that Selim has coined as “Skrull cubism”.
However, rather than employ any actual artists, traditional, CGI, or otherwise, to create these sequence’s visuals, Selim and his team instead contracted the visual effects company Method Studios – whose portfolio includes a number of recent blockbusters, including Thor: Love and Thunder, Top Gun: Maverick, and RRR – to produce them using AI.
Unsurprisingly, particularly in light of the ongoing debate around AI image generators’ oftentimes uncredited use of other artist’s works as ‘training templates’, this decision was immediately met with widespread backlash from Marvel fans.
Facing mounting outrage, Selim would eventually provide his side of the story to Polygon.
“When we reached out to the AI vendors, that was part of it,” explained Selim “It just came right out of the shape-shifting, Skrull world identity, you know? Who did this? Who is this?”
Selim would then reveal that though he did not “really understand” how AI-generation works, he was still impressed with its capabilities.
“We would talk to them about ideas and themes and words, and then the computer would go off and do something,” he attempted to detail of the intro’s creation process. “And then we could change it a little bit by using words, and it would change.”
Concluding his thoughts on the topic, Selim ultimately expressed both appreciation and admiration for Method Studios’ use of AI.
“It felt explorative and inevitable, and exciting, and different,” he said.
Unfortunately for Marvel, it seems this AI controversy is the least of their Secret Invasion-related problems.
Not only does the series’ premiere episode currently sit at a rough 66% aggregate score across both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes – ranking it among the studio’s lowest critical debuts – but the main sticking point of many critics is the fact that Marvel has apparently given the MCU’s head honcho the ‘Jake Skywalker‘ treatment.
As of writing, Marvel has yet to offer any public comment on the matter.
However, the said cannot be said of Method Studios, who issued a statement regarding their work to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Working on Secret Invasion, a captivating show exploring the infiltration of aliens into human society, provided an exceptional opportunity to delve into the intriguing realm of AI, specifically for creating unique character attributes and movements,” wrote the VFX studio. “Utilizing a custom AI tool for this particular element perfectly aligned with the project’s overall theme and the desired aesthetic.”
“The production process was highly collaborative and iterative, with a dedicated focus on this specific application of an AI toolset,” they continued. “It involved a tremendous effort by talented art directors, animators (proficient in both 2D and 3D), artists, and developers, who employed conventional techniques to craft all the other aspects of the project. However, it is crucial to emphasize that while the AI component provided optimal results, AI is just one tool among the array of toolsets our artists used. No artists’ jobs were replaced by incorporating these new tools; instead, they complemented and assisted our creative teams.”
“Method Studios’ team of designers skillfully leveraged the power of both existing and custom AI technologies to apply the otherworldly and alien look,” the company concluded. “The entire process, guided by expert art direction, encompassed the initial storyboard phase, illustration, AI generation, 2D/3D animation and culminated in the final compositing stage.”
Secret Invasion is currently working on its world domination plans exclusively on Disney Plus.