Recently, the debate surrounding AI has hit the world of culture, as artists and studios alike grapple with its status in creative industries. Joe Russo, co-director of the Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, has come out with a stark opinion on the matter. In an interview with Collider, he states that it will be “two years” until AI is able to “actually create” a movie. The director further elaborates, saying that AI could potentially be used to “engineer storytelling and change storytelling… You could walk into your house and save the AI on your streaming platform. ‘Hey, I want a movie starring my photoreal avatar and Marilyn Monroe’s photoreal avatar.” Put simply, Russo believes that AI can shape storytelling by curating film projects specifically for individual audiences. The director frames this as a positive development for the film industry, but can it actually be? At this moment, the answer is clearly no.
Filmmaking soars when it has a very human touch at the centre, and there is no way for AI to replicate the soul and devotion that goes into it. Storytelling in film is an endeavour that asks creatives and audiences to expand their minds, to exchange thoughts and ideas long after the cinema lights have dimmed. Technology has already brought ethical dilemmas to the film industry, specifically with the use of CGI to bring actors back from the dead (looking at you The Rise of Skywalker and its depiction of the legendary Carrie Fisher). The use of CGI along with the proposition of AI reminds us of one thing: film executes will always cut as many financial corners as possible, even if the art of film suffers for it. After all, why would you need paid screenwriters if a robot could simply do the job in half the time.
This is why Russo’s opinion is so damaging, it proposes a future film industry which is devoid of imagination. Film will merely become a self-insert fantasy, providing immediate, voyeuristic gratification. Not only this, but the quality of storytelling will degrade significantly - this is because AI works from a database of films, characters and tropes which audiences are known to have watched and enjoyed. There will be no chance to construct anything new or groundbreaking with AI. All those feelings which are born from watching a film will dissipate and that special connection forged on screen will fizzle out.
At a time when more than 11,000 WGA writers have gone on strike in Hollywood, supporting genuine storytelling on screen is now more important than ever. Large conglomerates have already refused to rule out the use of AI in film, instead offering screenwriters an “annual meeting to discuss advancements in technology.” This just shows how easily they view creatives as replaceable, with the response itself appearing as if it has come from an AI chatbot. It’s easy to dismiss Russo’s comments, after all, it’s not a new concept to replace human work with that of robots. But this issue shouldn’t be ignored - in an industry where exploitation is already rife, it is vital that audiences show their support for those who bring our screen to life and discourage the use of AI in films.