Should You Watch ‘Atlas’? Review of Jennifer Lopez’s Second Netflix Movie

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Atlas. Jennifer Lopez As Atlas Shepherd. Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix ©2024.

Atlas. Jennifer Lopez as Atlas Shepherd. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix ©2024.

From ASAP Entertainment & super producer Greg Berlanti (“Arrow”, “You”), Atlas brings multi-hyphenate megastar Jennifer Lopez back to Netflix after her popular breakout hit The Mother, which was reported to be Netflix’s most-watched film of 2023 and a Top 10 Netflix film all-time in terms of hours viewed.

Directed by action film director Brad Peyton (Rampage, San Andreas), the film follows Atlas, a top military intelligence officer who has spent years pursuing Earth’s first AI terrorist Harlan, a renegade robot created by Atlas’ mother and raised alongside Atlas in her youth. Brought in on a mission to pursue & capture Harlan on a nearby planet, she is forced to confront her deep distrust of artificial intelligence, her lack of field experience, and her emotional trauma after Harlan’s destruction of her family and our world as we knew it.

However, when plans go awry, Atlas has to don an AI driven mechanical armored suit and work with the AI program known as “Smith” in order to survive. Faced with enemy hostiles and limited resources, she has to bond with “Smith” to gain their full potential and take on Harlan before time, and her oxygen, runs out.

Beyond Lopez in the titular lead, Atlas displays a well-known, veteran cast featuring Simu Liu (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) as AI terrorist bot Harlan, Sterling K. Brown (American Fiction, This is Us) as Colonel Banks, Abraham Popoola (Extraordinary) as Harlan’s top lieutenant Casca, Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Murder Mystery 2) as General Jake Boothe, & Gregory James Cohan (The VelociPastor) as the voice of mech suit AI “Smith”.

In fact, the cast is the only reason to watch Atlas. With video game transitional-level CGI and a script devoid of strong, foundational connections, Atlas becomes hard to take for much of its runtime.

Atlas. Jennifer Lopez As Atlas Shepherd. Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2024.

Atlas. Jennifer Lopez as Atlas Shepherd. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024.

The film takes implausible lengths to try to establish a bond between Lopez’s Atlas & the “Smith” AI. Using her reluctance to expose her past with Harlan as an excuse why the synching system won’t work is simply a pathetic manipulation. Essentially, using “Smith” as a therapist to achieve full sync and escape Harlan’s clutches is poor writing & scientifically ridiculous. Forced flashbacks & exposition often replace genuine realizations & relationship-building.

Director Brad Peyton noted that their pitch was that they thought of the film as Castaway if Wilson could talk back. I can’t express enough how naive that thought is. Wilson was an expression for Tom Hanks’ character slowly becoming more desperate, lonely, & mentally unstable over a long period of time. Wilson was a lifeline and a need for connection that could not be reached until he gave it a face. The hubris to think that the level of connection to Wilson can be achieved by an AI asking a few questions over a short period of time is as thin and short-sided as the script itself.

The only thing that DOES work in any form in this film is when real-life established actors interact with each other. Though he plays a robot, Simu Liu as Harlan finally getting to play off Lopez’s fear & distrust in the final act of the film lets the audience finally see what their interactions feel like and what makes Harlan a force to be reckoned with. Sterling K. Brown brings the most personality and wit in the film performing alongside Atlas & General Boothe, breathing life in-between cold, lifeless CGI-driven violence.

Nothing epitomizes how ineffective this movie’s construction is more than the final moments of the story. Even though they use chess matches & cerebral tactics as the link between Atlas & Harlan, the film ends up in a basic CGI fight that barely engages in advanced thinking. And of course when the fight is over and the emotional shift focuses on the bond between Atlas & “Smith” once more, they force one more conversation based on the most rudimentary things we know about Atlas like how she likes her coffee. As the two are forced to part, I felt absolutely nothing and would love to hear from anyone who actually felt something.

Atl Mrkt 01 V3001 1

Atlas. Jennifer Lopez as Atlas. Cr. Ana Carballosa/Netflix ©2023

This is a tough beat for Jennifer Lopez who continues to show her dedication to roles that simply don’t deserve it. She may be looking to branch out to more action-centric films as she evolves her career like Charlize Theron or Kate Beckinsale before her, but she seems to be dumpster diving for the scripts to do it in. For an actress/artist who seems to pour everything into what she does, I hope she finds better soon.

Overall, Atlas is a sci-fi action/adventure film that doesn’t satisfy in any of the 3 genres. The action is overly CGI-generated with unimaginative, video game-level construction. The adventure never lives up as the mission most often gives way to emotionally exaggerated & tonally forced conversation between Atlas & “Smith”. And, of course, the Sci-Fi only serves to have a philosophical debate over whether AI creations are alive & when is a good time to give ourselves over to them. Jennifer Lopez always seems to put all of herself into her roles, but this one was too hollow to fill in the first place.


Watch Atlas If You Liked

  • The Mother
  • Pacific Rim
  • I Am Mother
  • Aliens

MVP of Atlas

The supporting human cast.

While Jennifer Lopez overacted her trauma or talked to no one in front of a green screen, it was the supporting cast that brought out the best of what this movie could have been capable of.

Simu Liu, Sterling K. Brown, & Mark Strong gave gravitas, depth, & occasional charm to a movie that desperately needed it as it avoided human interaction by design.

If we only had more flashbacks to Atlas’ youth to get more Harlan/Liu, the movie would have been better served. More conversations on strategy would have shown more of Atlas’ value to the mission & authority as an analyst/expert on Harlan. It would have also given us more of Brown & Strong who tried their best to give the mission a little more color & authority.

1/5Terrible

★☆☆☆☆

A movie about trusting a better AI to help defeat the previous AI who ruined our trust & almost destroyed all of humanity. Sounds like a movie only an AI could write or love. I sure didn’t.

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