The 'Civil War' AI controversy, explained

Alex Garland’s much-debated Civil War continues to spark controversy, this time over the release of AI-generated promotional images.

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On April 17, Civil War distributor A24 released six posters to advertise the film, each depicting a different American city marked by war. New York City’s Washington Square Park is overrun by military vehicles, the Las Vegas Sphere lies in ruins, and gunmen advance towards San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

However, viewers online were quick to note that these posters appeared to be AI-generated. Tells that these are AI include a car with three doors on the Miami poster and impossible architectural elements like missing or misshapen windows.

One of the most egregious giveaways lies in the Chicago poster, which shows a view of the Chicago River and the corncob-shaped towers that make up the Marina City apartment complex. In real life, the towers are next to each other. However the poster separates them, showing one on a (non-existent) island in the middle of the river.

The backlash to A24’s Instagram post of the AI-generated posters was swift. “This sucks! AI sucks!” one commenter said. Another wrote, “For a company that seemingly values artistry, using AI-generated works for advertising is a real bummer.”

A source close to Civil War confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the images were indeed AI-generated. “These are AI images inspired by the movie,” they told The Hollywood Reporter. “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.” Mashable has reached out to A24 for further comment.

The Civil War posters are just the latest in a string of movie and TV-related AI controversies, including Late Night with the Devil‘s AI-generated interstitial images, True Detective: Night Country’s allegedly AI-generated background posters, and Secret Invasion‘s opening credit sequence. Notably, Civil War‘s posters are marketing materials and not actually used in the film itself, meaning the decision to make them would not have fallen to Garland.

AI use in media has become a hot button topic among audiences, especially following 2023’s WGA and SAG strikes, during which both unions fought for protections against AI being used to replace their work. The disappointed — and often angry — reactions to instances such as the Civil War posters point to a wider audience rejection of AI technology in film and TV overall.


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