Call For Comments: Can AI be a movie critic?

From Mav: There’s been a lot of talk in the press and academia and just general chatter online about AI. Is it theft? Is it plagiarism? Is it ethical? Is it creative? Is it copyrightable? Is it the latest greatest thing that will change the world? Will it bring about the downfall of civilization? Is it preventable? Is it controllable? Is it inevitable? There’s a lot of big questions that we need to deal with and honestly, part of me is a little tired of dealing with them. So instead I want to deal with a relatively small one.

A week or so ago, our friends over on the Wisecrack YouTube channel did an episode about the value of cultural criticism and snobbery… it’s a good video that you should probably watch, but I don’t really want to rehash most of it so much as just comment on a point that host Michael Burns makes near the very end of the episode. He argues (well, really he mentions in interpreting the work of Daisy Alioto) that A.I. doesn’t really have “taste” and therefore can’t really perform the job of the cultural critic. That would make me safe from A.I. Wheeee!

The problem is, I don’t think I believe it. In fact, I fear that I may be eminently replaceable by A.I.!!!

Well, sort of. I don’t think what I ACTUALLY do is replaceable by A.I. as we know it today. Largely my job as a cultural theorist or professor or whatever is “think deep shit and then teach students to be able to think deep shit like I do”. There’s more to it than that, but that’s the easiest way of putting it. The key is, the job in many ways is “have an expert opinion that is original and valid and explainable”. This is how literature critics, film critics, art critics and any cultural critics really work. In fact, in a manner of speaking it’s how intellectuals in other fields work too. Whether it’s psychology or medicine or economics. Being a phd level scholar in a field is basically “thinking deep shit”. Since modern A.I. doesn’t really “think”, the “think deep shit” part sort of fails right out the gate. It doesn’t “think” at all.

But I don’t think “thinking” is the part of the job MOST people actually care about. Most people are trying to absorb content that frankly… isn’t very deep. There’s a reason Buzzfeed dumped their entire news staff in favor of just keeping people who pump out bullshit listicle articles. And frankly, AI is really good at that. In fact, I asked ChatGPT to give me a list of the top 10 best superhero movies and why and it gave me this:

  1. The Dark Knight (2008): Directed by Christopher Nolan, this film is considered by many to be the best superhero movie ever made. It features a gritty, realistic take on Batman and the Joker, and a standout performance by the late Heath Ledger.
  2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018): This animated film offers a fresh and visually stunning take on the Spider-Man mythos, featuring a diverse cast of characters and an engaging storyline.
  3. Avengers: Endgame (2019): The epic conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Infinity Saga,” this film brought together nearly every major superhero from the franchise for a thrilling and emotional ride.
  4. Black Panther (2018): Directed by Ryan Coogler, this film was a cultural phenomenon upon its release, featuring a predominantly black cast and crew and exploring themes of identity, heritage, and power.
  5. Logan (2017): This film offered a more mature and introspective take on the character of Wolverine, featuring a standout performance by Hugh Jackman and a powerful story of redemption and sacrifice.
  6. The Incredibles (2004): A classic Pixar film, The Incredibles offers a fun and engaging story about a family of superheroes struggling to balance their personal lives with their superhero duties.
  7. Batman Begins (2005): The first film in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, this movie helped redefine the superhero genre with its realistic and grounded take on the Batman mythos.
  8. Wonder Woman (2017): Directed by Patty Jenkins, this film was a critical and commercial success, featuring a powerful and inspiring performance by Gal Gadot and a strong focus on female empowerment.
  9. Iron Man (2008): The film that started the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man introduced audiences to the charismatic and flawed character of Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr.
  10. X2: X-Men United (2003): Widely considered one of the best X-Men movies, this film expanded on the characters and themes of the first movie while offering exciting action sequences and impressive special effects.

And frankly, that’s pretty much as good as anything I’ve seen on most of the sites that do constant lists like this… something specifically devoted to the hot property of the day, and not one film is older than 20 years. Seriously, there have got to be 5 sites that have published more or less that list in the last week.

Whether they’re being written by a human or an A.I., they’re basically algorithmically generated. I also asked ChatGPT to write me a positive and a negative review of Captain Marvel and it did… fine. I also managed, after some goading and massaging of the A.I., to get it to give me a theoretical review of a non-existent movie film adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, starring Brie Larson, Emma Watson and Frances McDormand and directed by Greta Gerwig, a movie that is so much something that I personally want to see that it could only have been designed by an algorithm tweaked specifically to appease me… and piss off a bunch of idiots on 4chan.

I couldn’t get it to be as sexist as I would want it to be to fit … SOME websites… but that’s because ChatGPT itself has safeguards installed. If I wanted to build my own, it easily could generate the nonsense that incel geeks crave. But frankly I could also create an AI whose job is to cater to theoretically liberal millennials and zennials with ridiculously trivial derivative nostalgia content… in other words, you get Space Jam: A New Legacy. And… a bunch of people making very obvious claims about why Space Jam 2 was lame (for those who haven’t seen the film… this is the literal plot… and also accurate criticism). Could it happen? Well, I literally just asked ChatGPT to give me a list of it’s top ten superhero movies that don’t exist yet and who should be cast in them and I got this:

  1. Moon Knight – Starring Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector/Moon Knight, this film could explore the character’s complex psychological struggles and unique abilities as he battles the criminal underworld of New York City.
  2. The Spectre – A supernatural detective story featuring Keanu Reeves as Jim Corrigan/The Spectre, a ghostly avenger tasked with delivering justice to the wicked.
  3. Doctor Fate – An epic adventure film featuring Mahershala Ali as Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate, a powerful sorcerer tasked with protecting the world from dark magical forces.
  4. The Question – A gritty, noir-inspired detective story featuring Rami Malek as Vic Sage/The Question, a masked vigilante with a troubled past and a knack for solving crimes.
  5. Ms. Marvel – Starring newcomer Zoya Hussain as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, this film could explore the character’s unique powers and struggles as a Pakistani-American teenager navigating life in Jersey City.
  6. Nova – An action-packed sci-fi adventure featuring Taron Egerton as Richard Rider/Nova, a cosmic hero tasked with protecting the universe from dangerous threats.
  7. She-Hulk – Starring Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, this film could explore the character’s legal career as well as her superhuman abilities.
  8. The Blue Beetle – An exciting superhero adventure featuring Diego Boneta as Jaime Reyes/The Blue Beetle, a young hero who discovers a powerful alien artifact that grants him incredible abilities.
  9. The Runaways – A team-up film featuring a group of young heroes, including Zendaya as Nico Minoru, Finn Wolfhard as Chase Stein, and Millie Bobby Brown as Gert Yorkes, as they try to take down a dangerous villain.
  10. Ghost Rider – A dark and intense horror film featuring John Boyega as Robbie Reyes/Ghost Rider, a supernatural antihero who exacts vengeance on those who deserve it.

And… that’s pretty much as good a listicle as a dozen sites have published today, I’m sure. Does it say anything? Not really. Is terribly creative or innovative or useful? Nope. But it’s seriously what’s on MOST “movie critic” sites and frankly, that’s probably what most people are looking for. So does that count as “being a critic” does it count as “being a writer”? Who’s to say?

I mean yes… I think I’m better than that and we did a whole show critiquing Space Jam 2 and nostalgia bait cameo films . BUT, does anyone care? It all depends on what the purpose of content is. I would argue that criticism is content and therefore subject to the same questions of art as to having implicit, subjective or objective value with or without correlating it to money. In other words, I don’t think I can be a GOOD critic, but if we’re judging purely based on financial value, crappy criticism is kind of “worth more” than good criticism.

On the other hand, a major sticking point of the current WGA strike is trying to ensure that studios don’t use A.I.s to just write movies and TV shows… and the studios saying “but we may wanna!” and the thing is, if A.I. can vomit out derivative content of IP to generate a movie… why can’t create

There’s a lot to unpack here. But I want to know your thoughts before we do it. So let us know your feelings in the comments. Also… admit it… you want to see my Herland movie… you know you do! (Some alternate AI movie posters below).

4 Comments and 0 Webmentions for “Call For Comments: Can AI be a movie critic?”

  1. From what I’ve read of attempts to make it speak critically, it manages to be a messy, mostly incoherent morass of verbiage that’s basically a rehash of preexisting opinion so … yes?

  2. “AI can certainly analyze and interpret films, literature, and culture to a certain extent, but whether it can fully serve as a film or literature or culture critic is still up for debate. One of the primary strengths of AI is its ability to process vast amounts of data quickly and accurately, which makes it well-suited for analyzing patterns and identifying trends. This ability can be applied to film, literature, and culture analysis, allowing AI to identify themes, motifs, and patterns that might not be immediately obvious to human viewers or readers. However, AI’s analysis is typically based on data and patterns from the past, which may limit its ability to offer truly innovative or creative critiques. While AI can identify trends and make predictions based on those trends, it may struggle to offer truly original insights or understand the nuances of cultural context or human emotion that are crucial to many forms of artistic and cultural expression. Additionally, AI lacks the capacity for subjective experience and interpretation, which is often essential to a rich and nuanced critique. The subjective experience of the critic is an important part of how film, literature, and culture are evaluated, and while AI can identify patterns and make judgments based on those patterns, it may struggle to offer the same kind of nuanced analysis that a human critic can provide. In summary, while AI can certainly play a role in film, literature, and culture analysis, it is unlikely to fully replace human critics in the near future.”

  3. No. It can’t. It’s not alive. It doesn’t know what it’s watching, and it’s never been hurt by a movie, book, what have you. Looking at you Prometheus and Batman Forever. Alternately, it can’t feel elation, nor can it feel anything. It can’t be moved by anything. It can’t feel fear. It’s a program that relies on others to provide data for it to make a judgement. Whereas I can look at a comic book and deem it bleh, good or rotten in a heartbeat, based on nothing more than viscera. A human brain is about ten times better than an AI and about a million times better with regard to creative processes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *