A24 Catches Heat Over ‘Embarrassing’ A.I. Posters for Its New Film ‘Civil War’

Six promotional posters for Alex Garland's new film, "Civil War," have come under fire on social media.

Kirsten Dunst in Civil War (2024). Photo: A24.

Over the past decade, A24 has steadily built a reputation as a powerhouse in independent film. From horror (Hereditary) to sci-fi (Ex Machina) to comedy-drama (Ladybird), the production company has proved an unrivaled tastemaker, a point perhaps best epitomized by the sweeping success of Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Its recent pivot to begin producing big budget blockbusters, however, has recently courted controversy. On April 17, A24 released the promotional posters for Civil War, the latest film from director Alex Garland about a dystopic future in which America is ripped apart by violent internal factions. The posters were not created by graphic artists, but by an A.I. image generator, a point confirmed by a source close to the production company.

The series of six posters depict iconic American scenes beset by war. The Sphere smolders in the rubble of Las Vegas. New York’s Washington Square Park is encircled by camouflaged tactical trucks. The wreckage of a Miami street glistens in neon pink. One of Chicago’s Brutalist Marina City Towers is aflame.

The posters have come under fire for a range of reasons. First, none of the scenes are in the film. This has led some to suggest A24 is misleading potential viewers by offering a scale of visual effects chaos beyond the $50 million budget.

“None of this happens in the movie,” one user wrote under A24’s Instagram post. “I don’t understand this campaign. You are selling a movie that doesn’t exist and it’s very bizarre”.

Others were alarmed by the wonky details present in Civil War’s posters, somewhat typical of A.I.-generated images. The sight lines of the New York scene are off-kilter, its streets and pathways misaligned and incongruous. A car in the Miami poster has three doors. Chicago’s Marina City Towers are depicted separated by a river, when in fact they stand side-by-side.

Most baffling, perhaps, was the Echo Park poster that seemed to show a gunboat stalking a giant swan. “Why is a gunboat hunting a swan in Echo Park Lake?” wrote one user on Instagram. “Real swan boats don’t even look like that,” wrote another, before adding, “the park is also missing the walking path.”

An A.I.-generated image of Washington Square Park in New York, its fountain and arch surrounded by tanks.

Promotional poster for Civil War (2024), shared on A24’s Instagram account. Photo: @a24 on Instagram.

A24’s decision to offer up scenes outside of the film is not extraordinary. Posters, along with trailers, are created to present viewers the feel and temperature of the film. Oftentimes, they stray from the strict reality captured on scene. Civil War’s poster follow this trope, offering hypothetical scenes of destruction for a film that is one giant hypothetical. The difference is that A24 used A.I. rather than an VFX, graphic, or CG artist.

“You would be nothing without the artist who have created the work under your banner,” one user wrote on Instagram. “This is nauseating, embarrassing, and a complete surrender of your creative integrity.”

A24 did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s the latest instance of Hollywood receiving criticism for using A.I. in promotional material. Last year, Marvel used A.I. for the opening sequence of Secret Invasion. More recently, the horror film Late Night With the Devil used A.I. art images in the film. The use of A.I. was also one of the central issues hashed out during 2023’s Hollywood strikes, when writers and actors sought protection from studios using A.I. to replace their labor.

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