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THE UFO CHRONICLES: A HISTORY OF MYSTERIOUS SIGHTINGS (Documentary, 2023)
Directed by Brian Cunningham, Matt Niehoff.
Written by Brian Cunningham.
THE UFO CHRONICLES: A HISTORY OF MYSTERIOUS SIGHTINGS is exactly what the title suggests. It’s set up to be an educational documentary, looking through the ages, and giving examples of different occasions when unidentified flying objects were seen in our skies. The difference between this documentary and most is that this one is completely written, performed, and illustrated by Artificial Intelligence. Even the aged, blue suited host of the program is computer generated.
There’s a big online debate about the rise of AI technology and how it may soon replace human artists, writers, and such. Being in the comic book industry, I have talked firsthand with those who feel this is the end of times as comic book companies, looking to save a buck, will utilize this technology which proves to be much cheaper than paying humans for their services. It is a valid fear as the almighty dollar and how to save it is the main purpose of most industries. Still, past advancements in technology has spurned similar criticism and while machinery has replaced many in the work force, the human element remains crucial in the creative process. So personally, I feel the need for that human touch is never going to go out of style, even though I respect the opinions of others who fear the opposite.
That said, having watched THE UFO CHRONICLES: A HISTORY OF MYSTERIOUS SIGHTINGS, I don’t think anyone is going to be losing their jobs just yet. While the film does a decent job of recounting these instances in the past where the skies were lit up by strange shaped objects, it simply lacks any type of humor or soul. There’s a crucial element in documentary filmmaking where the best ones capture the humanity of whatever the subject matter and communicates it in a personal and original way. No matter who is behind the lens, the decision of where to point the camera and how to guide the story requires a human hand. That’s non-existent in this computer generated documentary. Sure, it functions as a nice list of sightings, but not much else. You can get the same kind of info on a wiki page.
The imagery varies from interesting to nightmarish. The AI simply hasn’t been developed enough to give accurate depictions of basic artistic fundamentals like perspective or composition. It also seems to have a problem with fingers and hands, which, in actuality, is the exact parts of anatomy many human artists struggle with. Whenever there is a human in the picture, it is evident that the tech has a long way to go. That said, the images do an impressive job of conveying a feeling, which is an aspect I wasn’t aware of, but couldn’t help but notice. Many times the imagery didn’t match exactly what the narrator was saying, but the image conveyed the feeling of what was said and thus, communicated the intent well. The tech almost works as some kind of abstract expressionist painting in a lot of instances. I found this to be the most interesting by-product of the entire documentary.
THE UFO CHRONICLES: A HISTORY OF MYSTERIOUS SIGHTINGS does serve well in being a humorless reference for those who might be looking for stories to tell or retell about this strange phenomena. Some of the images can be used as a source of inspiration. It methodically sites facts, without any kind of nuance or opinion. Many say there should be more of that, especially in the journalism and educational profession. And while stating the facts is a good resource, as an entertaining documentary, it simply runs through the motions and turns out to be rather boring in the process. As is, THE UFO CHRONICLES: A HISTORY OF MYSTERIOUS SIGHTINGS serves as an interesting experiment, but I hope this doesn’t become a popular trend.