The Galactic Menagerie

Curious Refuge/YouTube

Why Wes Anderson fans hate this AI-generated ‘Star Wars’ video

Viral on TikTok and Twitter, this Wes Anderson/’Star Wars’ mash-up sparked a debate over AI cinema.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Wes Anderson has one of the most distinctive visual brands in contemporary cinema, known for his symmetrical framing and meticulous, colorful production design. No one else is doing it like Wes—and ironically, that makes him a perfect target for AI copycats.

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This weekend saw the arrival of an instantly divisive Wes Anderson AI video, envisioning Star Wars in Anderson’s trademark style. In some ways, it echoes a familiar subgenre of mash-up fanart (historically accurate Disney princesses; Simpsons-style Marvel characters, etc.), but like a lot of AI-generated content, it provoked very divisive reactions.

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One of the main criticisms of AI art is that it can’t create anything “new.” Generators like DALL-E 2 rely on pre-existing images scraped from the web, which are basically digested and regurgitated into similar-looking output. That’s why they’re so good at creating generic portraits and copying popular, well-documented art styles.

AI content creators have discovered that certain keywords work particularly well as image generator prompts, such as “dashcam footage,” “Balenciaga,” and “80s dark fantasy” (which generates images that resemble Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal). Wes Anderson is another obvious choice because his visual style is so recognizable, so you can essentially plug in his name and get vaguely Grand Budapest Hotel-looking versions of popular characters like Batman and the Avengers.

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Right now, most of the film-related AI discourse involves AI fans saying “Wow, it’s so over for Hollywood!” while film buffs use exactly the same imagery as proof that AI is worthless.

In this case, we have a “trailer” that consists of minimally-animated Star Wars ripoff GIFs. None of it looks as good as a real Wes Anderson movie (obviously), and the creator—a video tutorial service named Curious Refuge—is not trying to tell a story or make something that resembles a real movie. It just puts familiar Star Wars characters in the color palette and symmetrical framing we associate with Wes Anderson, without the visual flare of a human artist with deeper knowledge of either source.

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Creatively speaking, it’s giving us nothing. But since Hollywood is currently dominated by nostalgia and recycled branding, some viewers are primed to enjoy this kind of content. On TikTok, this video earned a relatively positive reception, attracting comments like “Not a Wes Anderson fan but they nailed it,” “I’d watch this,” and “this is absolutely brilliant satire! I would actually go see that movie.”

Meanwhile, in the toxic wasteland of Musk-era Twitter, it inspired a more contentious response, with detractors posting reactions like “My friends and I would have beat A.I. Wes Anderson’s Star Wars to death with a hammer.” (We also had Moonrise Kingdom actor Jared Gilman derisively commenting that if everyone is so excited about Wes Anderson, maybe they should actually watch his new movie when it comes out.)

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There’s no evidence that the Anderson/Star Wars mash-up creators want to be filmmakers, and this obviously isn’t a real attempt to supplant a beloved filmmaker. It’s a pretty basic prompt-generated slideshow video, probably posted with the intention of going viral to promote the channel. Unfortunately, it’s also a very effective piece of ragebait for people who like to argue about movies online.

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As proven by the recent influx of Wes Anderson-style TikToks, Anderson’s aesthetic is easy to parody. But while those TikToks are made in a spirit of fun and creativity, Anderson’s critics often target his distinctive visuals as a flaw, accusing him of being shallow, twee, or a one-trick pony.

As a result, Wes Anderson fans are very defensive of his qualities as a storyteller, arguing that his movies are far more complex than just a showcase for candy-colored symmetrical framing. In a similar vein to “Martin Scorsese is for sexist film bros” and “Marvel CGI is ruining cinema,” it’s a recurring discourse on Film Twitter. So when you combine this with the AI art debate, you can see why an innocuous mash-up video provoked such backlash.

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This kind of AI generator can’t compete with human creativity, and likely won’t make anything resembling a “real” film for quite a while. But considering Hollywood’s current allergy to original stories and obsession with recycled IP, it’s easy to imagine studios embracing this technology no matter how bland and lifeless the output actually is.

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