May 26, 2023
As Chris Miller humorously points out, there is a pattern emerging that is causing some serious eye-rolling for cinefiles just like me. A harmless scroll through my Twitter feed has become a daily surprise to see what beloved film has been reimagined through AI into the styling of a Wes Anderson film (the satire is obviously lost on those who reimagined the Matrix into a Wes Anderson style 🤦🤦🤦).
Those who aren’t familiar with Wes, he is an Oscar nominated American film director famous for films such as Royal Tenenbaums, Grand Budapest Hotel and the French Dispatch. He has become the shorthand for an ‘indie’ director, a modern auteur with a distinctive visual style that can typically be identified from just one frame. What these AI Wes Anderson film recreations have done is reduce his signature symmetrical shots, pastel colours and futura fonts into tasty eye candy.
But what are these Wes Anderson AI reimaginations actually trying to do? If anything they have become cheap wins with click bait titles for social engagement, chasing clout instead of moving culture. The irony is knowing that Wes is this meticulous filmmaker, a 25+ year career to perfect his style with a high attention to detail, ensuring that the shade of orange in Mr Fox’s corduroy suit is perfect. And that AI is by design chaotic and coincidental. The AI has been taught what Wes Anderson is, but not what the actual purpose is.
Thinking about AI in our industry, it is hard not to avoid the echo chamber of articles that state the end of creative jobs because of AI. Artificial Intelligence will try, but it will never be human. It will never be able to celebrate with you in a pub after a lengthy pitch presentation with the team. Such is true with these Wes Anderson reimagines, yes the characters in the Royal Tenenbaums look like dolls playing a dollhouse but they also act in humorous and human ways. What these AI ‘parodies’ are failing to do with the ‘bag of Wes Anderson tricks’, is to bring to life any real human emotion, something that is always core to his films. And even when he ditches his distinctive visual style, emotional scenes become more poignant and make you feel uneasy, such as the tragic scene of Ned’s death in Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The symmetry is gone, the blood is slowly rising from the shaky seas and the fearsome screams of Bill Murray. It's everything this Tarkovsky meme could ever say from daring yourself to try something new and unexpected.
What has been refreshing about the Wes Anderson TikTok trend is the reinvigorating of the mundane. It is that much needed palette cleanser to these dull, lifeless AI stills, with the TikTok trend bringing to life the vibrant beauty of working in a wood shop, the playfulness of skating in half pipe or waiting for your first baby to be delivered. Yes I can already feel your head shaking in disapproval, what is this Wes Anderson gatekeeping? Why can TikTok do it but not AI? You can argue we’re already in a culture that circles the drain for ideas, a cycle of rebooting and remixing, and the Wes Anderson AI reimagined only reinforces this through using existing intellectual property such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.
We’re an industry that should champion originality and create ideas that will inspire the culture not chase it. So while we’re in the midst of an artificial intelligence arms race, these Wes Anderson reimagined films will unfortunately be the default beta testing for their platforms. I just plead that these AI creators would use a different prompt.
And just a final thought from actor Jared Gilman from Moonrise Kingdom…