A24’s New AI-Generated ‘Civil War’ Ads Generate Controversy – Hollywood Reporter

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A24 has released a series of epic new posters touting its acclaimed film Civil War.

There’s just one problem. Well, perhaps more than one. Or none, depending on your point of view. We’ll explain.

The five images (below) tease post-apocalyptic scenes in major United States cities that have been torn apart by conflict. The Sphere is blackened wreck amid a smoldering Las Vegas. There is a floating gun unit in a lake outside Los Angeles. There are troops on patrol in San Francisco. A Miami street lays in ruins. There are tour boats full of refugees on the Chicago River. All scenes suggesting war-torn destruction in iconic locations.

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Except … none of these scenes are actually in the movie. They’ve caused some to wonder if the campaign is giving potential moviegoers a false expectation of what they’ll see in the film. Civil War is A24’s most expensive production to date, costing around $50 million. Yet the images make the film look like a movie with twice that budget.

“None of this happens in the movie,” wrote one reader on A24’s Instagram post. “I don’t understand this campaign. U are selling a movie that doesn’t exist and it’s very bizarre. I love a24 with all my heart but i am so bloody confused about what happened with this film.”

The other potential issue is the images are AI generated, resulting in some backlash over the use of the technology. The AI work also resulted in some notable geographic and landmark mistakes and a bit of “uncanny valley” weirdness. For instance, the two Marina Towers buildings in Chicago are on the same side of the river in reality but are on opposite sides in the art. While a shot of wreckage in Miami shows a car with three doors. Some believe the giant swan is in a Los Angeles lake is likewise an AI fail, but that’s probably meant to be a paddleboat — though it doesn’t really look like a paddleboat, either.

“You know DAMN well how the film community feels about the use of AI Generated content,” wrote one reader. “And the backlash [to AI generated stills featured in the horror film] Late Night With The Devil was more than enough to make that transparently clear to everyone: WE DO NOT WANT THIS. How stupid of your marketing team to even think this was acceptable. We are trying our hardest to fight against the push of opening Pandora’s Box with this shit and here you are willfully ignoring everyone’s concerns in that matter.”

The ads were posted on Instagram and used as physical posters in a couple locations. A source close to the movie said the images help imagine the nationwide impact of the film’s fictional war. “These are AI images inspired by the movie,” a source said. “The entire movie is a big WHAT IF and so we wanted to continue that thought on social — powerful imagery of iconic landmarks with that dystopian realism.”

Civil War poster

A24

Civil War poster

A24

The recent Late Night with the Devil controversy seems like the closest comparison, if a rather imperfect one. The IFC Films/Shudder release used AI to help create some title cards for the 1970s-era late-night talk show that’s in the film. The usage received strong backlash on social media. The film’s directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes defended the usage, saying, “In conjunction with our amazing graphics and production design team, all of whom worked tirelessly to give this film the ’70s aesthetic we had always imagined, we experimented with AI for three still images which we edited further and ultimately appear as very brief interstitials in the film.”

In any case, the marketing effort is certainly causing some online buzz as Civil War heads into its second weekend. The film from writer-director Alex Garland opened to a notably better-than-expected $25.7 million, a record for the studio. After all the discussion of the film’s politics, or lack-thereof, it also drew an equal number of moviegoers that self-identified as liberal and conservative according to exit polling.

Ironically enough, before Civil War, Garland was perhaps best known for his 2014 directorial debut, Ex Machina, a film that warned about the dangers of AI.

A24

A24

A24

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