Using nothing but a brief line of text as a launch point and an AI tool that’s still in beta, anyone can generate surreal, otherworldly imagery in just one minute or less. So how can this be accomplished? The answer lies in a tool made by MidJourney—a generative art startup that has been attracting some real attention as of late, and with good reason.
MidJourney has developed a neural-net that takes nothing but an input of text, and generates imagery based off of that prompt. Users can type in all kinds of wild inputs and you never know just what you’re going to get. I’ve written before about artificial intelligence assisted artwork, but this is something on another level.
In this case, a Reddit user that goes by phantasm_ai has decided to put MidJourney’s AI to work on creating Retro movie poster designs. Some of the results are absolutely stunning, with a couple honestly rivaling professional designs. I’ve picked out a few of my favorites. Take a look down below.
Star Wars & Pulp Fiction
There’s a few interesting things that MidJourney does. It knows there is often supposed to be text on a movie poster, but it doesn’t know how to read, or even what the text is supposed to say most of the time. So it comes up with shapes and lines that resemble text at a distance but when you actually try to read it, it’s meaningless figures that only resemble letters at a glance. For larger text, it can more accurately figure out what the words ‘Star Wars’ look like and more or less accurately re-create them. The imperfection of the lettering oftentimes even adds to the aesthetic.
One of MidJourney’s strengths is figuring out what kind of general style and compositions retro movie posters might have, and mixing that abstract knowledge with imagery that fits within the movies themselves. The Star Wars poster is correctly set in space, and has a Vader-esque type object taking up the bottom middle of the screen, and there’s something that looks like a spaceship flying away from a sun (or death star), and it’s all wrapped up in this grainy star filled backdrop that’s framed with a beige border. There are so many elements to it that makes one wonder exactly how it knew to assemble all of these elements together.
A Clockwork Orange
MidJourney’s rendition of A Clockwork Orange might shed a bit more light on exactly what is going on behind the scenes of this tool. It’s a fantastic result, mixing some of minimalist aspects of the classic 1971 poster with the general triangular shape of the more commonly known poster, incorporating the bowler hat from another poster variant, and perhaps even dipping into the scene where Alex is forced to undergo the Ludovico test in the film. It’s one of the most iconic scenes in the whole movie, and the internet is certainly full of screenshots from this scene. Perhaps the prevalence of imagery from this scene on the internet is the source of inspiration for the AI when creating the half-realistic depiction of the crazed eyes in the poster? It’s very hard to say, there’s a lot of unknowns, and the nature of neural nets such as MidJourney makes it impossible for anyone to know exactly how they arrive at their results. Still, it’s a remarkably coherent result.
American Psycho & Midsommar
The American Psycho poster gets a laugh out of me mostly due to the depiction of what’s clearly supposed to be a knife. There’s definitely been some confusion here on MidJourney’s part as to which movie is supposed to be represented, because the knife is more iconic of the Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), not American Psycho (2000). However, it still fits well.
The Midsommar poster is a great result as well, juxtaposing a sunny, cheerful color palette and bright landscape with the sinister smiling face in the central flower. It’s a perfect mirror of the blissful Scandanavian setting that Midsommar takes place in while also hinting at the gruesome events that occur during the film.
This one is honestly amazing. You’d be hard pressed to come up with a better version of an Evil Dead poster even if you were a professional artist. MidJourney’s nature lends itself to the content and themes of the film really well in this case. Many of the images generated with MidJourney come out grotesque and not-quite-right due to the lack of understanding of concepts humans innately take for granted. For example, humans have evolved to be really good at reading faces and facial expressions. We can see even slight asymmetries in faces and derive meaning from them. So far, neural nets cannot do this, and this is why many faces generated by such software appear warped, incomplete, or grotesque. MidJourney might understand that faces generally have these eye-like shapes to them, and mouths are below eyes on faces, and mouths have teeth, but it’s not so concerned with symmetry and doesn’t realize that misplacing these elements on a face even by a little bit is really unsettling, so the results often fall into gruesome monster-like renditions of people. And that’s just perfect for making a poster for the Evil Dead movies, given the prevalence of messed up monsters and zombies in the films.
The Matrix & Inception
How can I use MidJourney?
MidJourney is open for beta applications, but a surefire way of getting an invite is to find someone who has purchased a subscription and ask for an invite, or message some people around the r/deepdream subreddit to see if they have any invites to spare. If you make it in, you’ll have a few credits given to you to generate your own artwork, or upscale artwork generated off of someone else’s text prompt. It’s good fun to see what kind of stuff people are telling MidJourney to imagine. Images are free to use commercially with a couple caveats, and everything is structured very openly. You can see what other people are telling MidJourney to come up with, and run with their concepts in a different direction if you want.
MidJourney’s generative art neural net is an amazing, and in many ways unsettling tool. To think that a machine can come up with this kind of imagery using nothing but some text and a bit of tweaking and upscaling is astounding. I can see future iterations of this software really becoming a valuable tool in quick concepting and broad visual exploration for artists of all kinds of disciplines. It may even become good enough in the future to be an alternative for professional artwork.