Review – Atlas

Jennifer Lopez heads back to the big screen (sort of, it depends on your TV!) in a big glossy sci-fi blockbuster streaming film Atlas. The film dives into the AI debate, is it good, is it bad? Will it turn Simu Liu against us? While these are very timely thoughts and discussions to explore, the film fails to dive into any of these with any depth and leaves you with a lot more questions than answers, none of which will make you remember this film after it has finished. What holds this together is the relationship between Lopez’s character Atlas and her “good AI” Smith. These moments provide a lot of comedy and a buddy cop story that is the highlight of the film; the rest is the movie is trying too hard to be a big sci-fi action film.

Directed by Brad Peyton (San Andreas, Rampage) Atlas follows the story of a war between AI and humanity. Led by AI bot Harlan (Simu Liu), who unlocks independence from human control and helps to liberate the rest of the AI bots after suffering a substantial loss against humanity, Harlan has retreated with his army of followers to launch a fatal attack on the rest of humanity. Atlas (Lopez), who is the daughter of Harlan’s creator, has found Harlan’s location after successfully hacking into one of his AI soldier’s minds. During her childhood, being raised by her mother and having Harlan treated as her brother, Atlas has learnt to completely distrust AI after Harlan’s betrayal. 

Her distrust of AI extends to any kind of tech involving machines and robotics. When circumstances force Atlas to work with an AI mech suit Smith (Gregory James Cohan) who sounds like the male Siri voice and looks like the robot from Netflix’s Lost in Space show. Atlas must use the neural link to pair and sync with Smith. The movie only takes about 2 quick minutes in the story to explain how this works before diving straight in. 

It’s this relationship that really keeps you motivated to keep watching. Atlas is a snarky curmudgeon, and Smith, after being synced to her sense of humour, Smith joins in on the snark. Watching the pair find a way to work with each other really holds the movie together. Smith swears, is extremely sarcastic and condescending, and is completely unafraid to go toe to toe with Atlas. The constant quips back and forth and discussions about AI and where humanity should place its tryst are all surface-level conversations that, unfortunately, prevent the story from diving deeper into the AI debate. At the end of it JLO just wants her espresso made properly and to play chess. 

Atlas. Sterling K. Brown as Colonel Banks in Atlas. Cr. Beth Dubber/Netflix ©2024.

Liu does a fine job as Harlan, while he doesn’t get much screen time till the third act, there is only so much you can do with this limited script. This plays into the predictability of the story which attempts to offer a twist, regrettably, it’s an overused trope in the genre and was no surprise. Outside of the Atlas/Smith dynamic, the tone is overly serious and doesn’t have the same whimsical fun that Atlas is having with her new AI friend and perhaps if the rest of the film had followed this route if it wasn’t going to dive deep into the AI debate, it would have fared better. 

The film provides some slick and glossy visuals that are reminiscent of a video game like Mass Effect mixed with Halo. These look incredible and immerse you into this world. Blending humans into CGI mech suits is not an easy task, and the team at MPCVFX has done a great job making Jennifer Lopez merge well with her mech suit. It’s a shame the rest of the locations and planets are disappointingly generic and doesn’t offer anything new to the genre.

Atlas had all the promise of a fascinating exploration of AI and how it is currently on the rise in our society right now. The star power of Jennifer Lopez, Simu Liu and Sterling K Brown will be enough to draw viewership, regrettably, this film is a surface level blockbuster offering waves of slick action sequences with glossy Hollywood stars, as long as you go in with these expectations, you will have a great time aboard Atlas.

Atlas is streaming now on Netflix.

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Jennifer Lopez heads back to the big screen (sort of, it depends on your TV!) in a big glossy sci-fi blockbuster streaming film Atlas. The film dives into the AI debate, is it good, is it bad? Will it turn Simu Liu against us?...Review - Atlas