AI-generated Wes Anderson 'Star Wars' trailer goes viral and divides fans
In recent weeks, content creators and film fans (as well as intrepid Euronews Culture journalists) have been embracing the trend of making videos that resemble Wes Anderson’s off-beat and hyper-stylized directorial style.
Now, a Star Wars trailer in the style of the director behind The French Dispatch, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Fantastic Mr. Fox has stoked debate among fans of both the indie filmmaker and the treasured space opera series.
The trailer for The Galactic Menagerie was created by the YouTube user Curious Refuge, with the help of an artificial intelligence software – reportedly AI programme Midjourney - to generate the images.
The synopsis for the trailer reads: “Welcome to the Galactic Menagerie, a whimsical and visually stunning fan-made fake trailer that reimagines the classic Star Wars universe through the eccentric lens of Wes Anderson. This enchanting mashup brings together iconic Star Wars characters with Anderson's trademark symmetrical compositions, pastel colour palettes, and quirky humour.”
Yep, sounds written by a machine trying to pass for a human alright.
The trailer does entertainingly mimic Anderson’s signature visual style, as well as offer up a cast list that includes several Anderson regulars.
And it’s here that the pitfalls of AI reveal themselves.
AI programmes are still struggling to properly render and recreate human faces, leading to that ‘uncanny valley’ sensation towards the end of the trailer.
Timothée Chalamet looks like the bastard lovechild of Jason Schwartzmann and Alden Ehrenreich battling an allergic reaction to shellfish; Scarlett Johansson appears to have been replaced by a gormless animatronic doll; Edward Norton is played by a wax figure of Edward Norton which as melted due to close proximity to an overzealously cranked up radiator; and Jeff Goldblum looks like a bequiffed Jeremy Strong who has undergone buccal fat removal.
In all fairness, the AI fairs better with Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe, who look just about human. As for casting Adrien Brody as Chewbacca and Owen Wilson doing his trademark ‘Wow’ in a Darth Vader voice, it's hard not to applaud.
Take a look at the video for yourself:
Since the mock trailer was published on Saturday 29 April, it has racked up more than 300,000 views on YouTube and upwards of one million views on Twitter.
Many have responded with enthusiasm, with the most love found on YouTube.
One fan wrote: “I want to see this so much more than any contemporary official Star Wars project.”
“Wow, I need this in my life – this would be actually fun to watch,” wrote another, while someone else added: “The detail in this is astounding. I actually thought this was a Wes Anderson short. Very, very well done!”
There are those, however, who aren’t convinced. And they seem to be in the majority.
Taking to Twitter, one critic said: “An artificial intelligence will never be able to grasp the sincerity of the emotions, expression and humanity painted onto the screen by Wes Anderson. All ai is capable of is mocking how an image is structured. It has no comprehension of Mise-En-Scène. It does not feel.”
Another claimed that “the lack of humanity, artistry, and soul is almost tangible” in the video, while another Twitter user highlighted the reductive pitfalls of this trend: “I love that the entirety of Wes Anderson’s films can apparently be boiled down to pastel colours, symmetrical framing and Futura font. Must be wonderful to have your entire career become a meme.”
Another take read: “You robbed both Star Wars and Wes Anderson films of what makes them charming and unique with this AI crap. Congratulations.”
Corroborating was the following conclusion: “Tell me you understand neither Star Wars nor Wes Anderson without telling me.”
One more added, diplomatically: “Very cool as a concept… But whoever made this has no idea what makes either Star Wars or Wes Anderson movies great.”
While debate rages on, three more (real) Star Wars movies have been confirmed, although none of them will be directed by Anderson.
However, fans of the director can console themselves, as Anderson’s new film, Asteroid City, not only has a galactic theme but gets released soon after its Cannes premiere. ETA: 23 June 2023.
So, do you love or hate the mock Star Wars trailer? Should Lucasfilm snap up Wes Anderson for a future Star Wars project?
Or should we collectively steer ourselves back to saner shores by recognizing that this is just a fan-made trailer, deep-breath, everything’s fine, and that while we should keep a watchful eye on the ever-worrying progresses of AI in art, in this case there are more pressing things to worry about. Like the upcoming Exorcist remake / reboot from the makers of the new Halloween trilogy, for example. While keeping an open mind, I for one would very much like to see that project jettisoned to a galaxy far, far away…