‘Atlas’ movie review: Jennifer Lopez gamely carries this middling actioner on her shapely shoulders

A scene from ‘Atlas’

For those moments when you yearn for uncomplicated on-screen thrills, the cosmos delivers ‘Atlas’ straight to your Netflix queue. Helmed by Brad Peyton, the architect of past delights like ‘San Andreas’ and ‘Rampage’, this sci-fi spectacle masquerades as a philosophical conversation about AI consciousness, all while gleefully engaging in cinematic destruction. And it does so with an infectious abandon.


Director: Brad Peyton

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Simu Liu, Sterling K. Brown, Mark Strong

Story line: An AI-skeptical analyst must confront her doubts to save humanity

Run time: 120 minutes

In a future where AI has gained self-awareness, led by Harlan (Simu Liu), it betrays humanity. After devastating attacks, including a calamitous assault on Bengaluru with the loss of half a million lives, Harlan retreats to a planet in the Andromeda galaxy named GR-39.

The International Coalition of Nations (ICN) emerges to counter this menace, branding Harlan as the first AI outlaw. Decades later, Atlas (Jennifer Lopez), a surly analyst with the ICN notorious for her distrust of AI, is awakened by her sentient residence after a chess match-induced slumber.

Atlas, a name laden with expectations, has a personal connection to Harlan and his legion, as her mother, scientist Val Shepherd (Lana Parrilla), was the creator of Harlan. Her mother devised Harlan using the basic principles of smartphone technology, which led to unpredicted consequences. Atlas manipulates the captive AI soldier, Casca, into disclosing Harlan’s hideout, prompting the ICN to launch a mission spearheaded by Colonel Banks (Sterling K. Brown) to secure Harlan’s central processing unit.

Committed to her cause, Atlas joins the mission as the leading Harlan expert, despite her reservations against digital technology. Armed with printouts at a digital-dependent briefing, she highlights her point but finds her warnings unheeded, ultimately shouldering the responsibility of facing her AI fears to preserve the human world.

With skilfully rendered explosions and the depiction of GR-39, the climax of the film draws a vague parallel to ‘Terminator’, with Harlan’s foreboding singular glowing eye. Jennifer Lopez’s star quality provides a seal over narrative gaps, with Mark Strong fulfilling the mentor role and Sterling K. Brown offering comedic relief. Simu Liu plays the part of the formidable adversary with subtle menace and impeccable style.

Not as unyielding as Lopez’s ‘Mother,’ ‘Atlas’ intermixes timely explosions, quips, and action for a satisfying surge of excitement.

‘Atlas’ is available for streaming on Netflix.

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