Title: The UFO Chronicles (2023) Director: Brian Cunningham // Matt Niehoff Writer: Brian Cunningham Studio: ThoughtFly Films IMDb Plot: Written, performed, and illustrated by AI. Join us as we recount the riveting history of UFO sightings and alien encounters. Joe Says: The UFO Chronicles is a triumph for that cutting edge feel of new technology but the bland docu comes across as nothing deeper than a term paper read by Alexa.
In 1993, FBI Agents Mulder and Scully pressed into the pop-culture world that the truth is out there. UFO encounters and stories and tall tales certainly were not anything new in the 90s but The X-Files did succeed in bringing that awareness and all its incorporating conspiracy theories back into the mainstream consciousness at a time when AOL dialup was still the rage.
The new documentary, The UFO Chronicles: A History of Mysterious Sightings, does its best to recount those times as well as the supposedly-long history we mere Earthlings have with extra-terrestrial contact. Yet co-directors Brian Cunningham and Matt Niehoff try something new with their movie. The UFO Chronicles is written, performed, and illustrated by AI software. Yes, a triumph for that cutting edge feel of technology but the bland docu comes across as nothing deeper than a term paper read by Alexa.
Written using the ChatGPT Language Learning AI service, The UFO Chronicles plays as a string of Wikipedia entries. All of the usual highlights are mentioned: Roswell; the Betty and Barney Hill abduction; the 2004 USS Nimitz “Tic Tac” encounter; the “Fire In The Sky” story; the men in black conspiracy. Been there, Klaatu. And done that, ET. There is no analysis, no interviews, no personal reporting. Only one entry read after another and all of it narrated by a deep fake avatar that looks like a cross between Robert Stack and the cool dad of the neighborhood.
Added to the movie are illustrations created using the Starry AI Image Generator – readily available on the App Store. These illustrations are interesting but incredibly repetitive.
And that is all there is. No grainy video. No handheld shots of streaks in the night sky. And absolutely nothing new presented. The UFO Chronicles seems like a “True Crime” program that fills time on Bravo TV in-between reruns of Real Housewives episodes.
Cunningham and Niehoff have presented a unique style of storytelling using new, and available, technology. But simply because the technological means are obtainable, does not immediately translate into a good movie. Looking at you, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
The truth is no doubt out there. But it is going to take earnest and human reporting to finally write that story. Siri can wait.
A version of this review appears on Cinefied.