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  • Nate Adams

'Atlas' review: Jennifer Lopez battles artificial intelligence in awful Netflix sci-fi thriller

Courtesy of Netflix


Jennifer Lopez looks tired and bored. 

That’s all I kept thinking while screening Brad Peyton’s lame Netflix sci-fi tentpole “Atlas,” which plays like one of those films you’d see characters in a Judd Apatow comedy watching. Coming from the studio who just last year haggled with various unions over the use of artificial intelligence and the existential threat it poses to humanity, “Atlas” wants to find a middle ground. Like, hey, maybe A.I. isn’t so bad when used for the right purposes, but at the same time, we also acknowledge it can be very cost effective. Even taking the A.I. component out of the film, “Atlas” is just an ugly, routine, and formulaic venture that borrows and recycles hundreds of plots into an airless thriller that’ll be forgotten in approximately two days. 

Lopez can be an ass kicker in the right project and even though I didn’t care for her last Netflix vehicle, “The Mother,” at least she got to levy some hand-to-hand combat and show off her agility. In “Atlas,” she’s holed up inside one of those “Avatar” exoskeleton suits for nearly 85% of the movie and left to communicate with an A.I. device named Stuart while traversing around a planet that, ironically, looks like it was visually created using ChatGPT. 

The pop star slash musician plays Atlas Shepherd, a government data analyst assigned with tracking down and thwarting a terrorist plot by a rogue A.I. named Harlan (Simu Liu, stale). She has to track down Harlan for personal reasons, of course, because Shepherd is the daughter of the scientist who created him and of whom feels partially responsible for his ability to recruit and corrupt all sentient A.I. androids and robots. 

Working alongside Colonel Elias Banks (Sterling K, Brown, collecting what I hope was an easy paycheck), Atlas suits up, despite her initial reluctance to accept the gig because of her troubled past, and even through she’s told over and over again nothing will go wrong, within a matter of seconds, everything does, indeed, go wrong. It’s almost comical to the point of satire that we then find Atlas stranded on a deserted planet with the only hope of survival and completing the mission falling into the hands of…… artificial intelligence mechanism named Stuart. 

At this point, “Atlas” starts to resemble something akin to a buddy comedy with the two cracking jokes about their current predicament until they’re forced to confront A.I. enemies in a battle that looks plucked from the Playstation 2 circa 2003. In a nutshell, that’s all “Atlas” really is: the most boring video game you’ve ever played. One where the stakes are so thinly veiled, and the performances are stilted beyond repair. The only redeeming quality I can think of is that if you put it on as background noise at a social gathering and everyone was either drinking or ingesting edibles, it could be amusing to see the various reactions among the crowd. Other than that, this movie sucks. 

Grade: F 

ATLAS is now streaming on Netflix. 


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