People Aren’t Thrilled A24 Made AI-Generated Posters for ‘Civil War’

As if there wasn’t enough debate surrounding A24’s “Civil War,” the movie sparked a new round of backlash over some movie posters seemingly generated by AI.

On Wednesday, April 17, A24 posted a series of five movie posters for “Civil War” on its Instagram. Each depicts a different U.S. city ravaged by war. Las Vegas and the already iconic Sphere are seen as a smoking wreck. A gunned patrol boat is seen in a Los Angeles pond. Chicago’s Marina Towers are set ablaze. And iconic locations in both San Francisco and Miami are under siege.

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Not only are these images not scenes depicted in the movie itself, but Instagram commenters felt there were some dead giveaways that the images were generated by AI (the posters don’t clearly say one way or another). The Los Angeles one in particular shows a massive swan, which presumably is meant to be one of the swan paddle boats seen in Echo Park’s lake, but could’ve easily been a confused AI prompt. The Chicago Marina Towers are also on opposite sides of the Chicago River in the photo whereas in real life they’re on the same side of the river.

“I’m really turned off by this marketing campaign,” one commenter wrote. “AI art is theft and it’s aesthetically awful. Fire the person who approved this garbage. It’s repulsive and insulting to your audience.”

“A24 using AI for advertising might be a sign,” another said. “Maybe it’s the beginning of the end for a company that used to rely on indie aesthetics. It’s incredibly disappointing.”

“For a company that seemingly values artistry, using AI generated works for advertising is a real bummer,” a third said.

“WE DO NOT WANT THIS,” a fourth read. “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 wilfully ignoring everyone’s concerns in that matter. Shame.”

A24 did not immediately respond to IndieWire’s request for comment.

However, a source confirmed to THR on Wednesday that the images were in fact generated by AI while defending the thinking behind the social media marketing campaign (the posters have over 156K likes on A24’s Instagram).

“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,” the source told THR.

Some commenters wondered why a movie about photojournalism would stoop to using artificial intelligence to communicate such a message. Some were surprised a movie directed by Alex Garland, whose first film “Ex Machina” was about an ultimately deadly AI robot, used the tool. Others wondered why a movie with a production budget of around $50 million, one of A24’s largest releases to date, felt the need to cut corners with AI.

But this isn’t the first time the presence of AI around a film, even in the marketing campaign, sparked backlash. IFC and Shudder’s recent release of “Late Night With the Devil” caused similar controversy when it used AI just for a series of ’70s-inspired title cards. The film’s directors and its star David Dastmalchian ultimately defended the decision, with Dastmalchian saying the criticism undermined the work of the film’s crafts team.

“The only thing that makes me sad is that we had such an awesome graphics design team and all the artists were working on making this film so perfect, so it makes me sad that that’s a story that’s getting attention. But I get it,” Dastmalchian said. “I’m absolutely in a place right now where that is something that we’ve learned so much about in the last few years since we made this movie.”

“Civil War” is in theaters now and has already grossed $26 million worldwide.

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