Atlas Movie Review

AI is a big talking point now, and Netflix has taken the chance to enter the debate with their latest original movie ‘Atlas’, starring Jennifer Lopez.


The movie is set in the future where humanity has embraced Artificial Intelligence until it turns against them, starting a war and leaving millions dead. The uprising was led by a rogue android named Harlan who flees to a remote planet. The main story follows Atlas Shepherd, a computer analyst who is trying to track him down. When she finds his location, she joins a military taskforce to capture him, but becomes separated from the rest of the group in an ambush. Alone on a hostile planet, she can only survive by staying inside her mech suit which is controlled by an AI program named Smith. To get full control, she needs to sync her brain with Smith, but her bad personal history with the technology means she has a hard time trusting it. 

Jennifer Lopez plays the title character and, naturally, has the bulk of the screen time, which does mean other characters get little chance for development. Special mention has to go to her for performing most of her scenes inside the mech suit.

The main highlight of the movie is the relationship between Atlas Shepherd and Smith. It’s the classic case of a computer that doesn’t understand human nuance and takes everything too literally, like Data in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’, and consequently become one of the most engaging characters. The difference here is the AI is able to learn and adapt to its user’s personality, allowing it to pick up on their sense of humor and become more like them, which keeps it interesting and makes their relationship one that’s able to grow on both sides as they get to know each other better, even managing to throw some running jokes in there.

This does have the negative effect of making any scenes not featuring them seem dull and pointless in comparison. It’s not helped by a plot that’s old and been played out time and time again in other movies, with the trope of AI turning on humanity and trying to destroy their makers. There’s nothing new on offer here, and unlike the Terminator, the AI themselves are just regular looking androids that are more durable than humans, and don’t seem to have any special skills that make them stand out. Simu Liu does what he can with the main villain, but has very little to do, and once again, there’s nothing special about him or his big bad plan, which feels tired and predictable. There are problems with the world building too, as the futuristic setting has space travel yet still seems very similar to our own time.

Netflix movies don’t have the best reputation, but this isn’t a bad film. It’s not outstanding and has plenty of faults, but it’s still enjoyable. Its real focus is on the relationship between Atlas and Smith and in that it lands all its hits. It’s a classic story of two people having to overcome their differences to survive, except one is a computer. There’s also some good action scenes and there’s always something going on to keep you entertained, with the film having enough sense to keep things small enough to be believable. All this is held together by a solid performance from JLO which makes it a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

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