‘Atlas’ movie review with Casey T. Allen

International star Jennifer Lopez (The Mother, 2023) embraces the role of a reluctant soldier in the science-fiction action film Atlas, which premiered on Netflix May 24th. And while Ms. Lopez gives it her all to fight for planet Earth, this film seems doomed for obscurity from the beginning.

Set in an ominous future, robots with artificial intelligence have risen up against their masters and killed much of the human race under the leadership of a handsome robot terrorist (Simu Liu, Barbie, 2023). Many years after this robot terrorist escaped Earth, a counter-terrorism analyst finds out where the terrorist is hiding beyond our solar system. So a team of anxious warriors fly in their spaceship to a dangerous planet to capture the bad guy without getting killed themselves.

This film truly goes all in with the sci-fi embellishments, filling the distant planet with a lightning storm, a tornado, a sinkhole, and a snowy glacier. But in order to survive, Jennifer Lopez’ stern logical character has to join forces with an artificial intelligence system inside a giant mechanical suit equipped with guns, bombs, and 10-foot-long metal limbs.

Atlas tries to be a treacherous fight for survival and a perceptive social commentary on the dangers of artificial intelligence. But it succeeds at neither because the writing is so vapid, uninteresting, and immature. (Did Jennifer Lopez know a number of the lines she was forced to say in this were horribly lame?) This film packs a wallop of irony being about the growing power of artificial intelligence (or AI), and while I watched it I thought, “Was this screenplay actually written by an AI program with zero oversight from a competent human?”

The screenplay is original with no previous source material, but it’s written with so little wisdom, care, thoughtfulness, and believability, I could only think of other sci-fi films that Atlas has shamelessly borrowed from. These other films include Pacific Rim (2013), After Earth (2013), Chappie (2015), and The Creator from last year. The moments of humor are so uninspired, I was predicting what people would say even before they spoke.

These moments go over the top to say, “Isn’t it funny how exasperating technology can be?” or “Isn’t it special when humans and technology can work in harmony together?” After the film’s ending, I’m thinking, “Won’t it be great when Jennifer Lopez finds a film written well enough to highlight her talents? It must be out there somewhere!”

Brad Peyton is the director of Atlas, and when I learned what other films he has directed (San Andreas from 2015 and Rampage from 2018) I thought, “Now it makes sense why he created such a banal film with grand special effects. It’s his thing!” Ms. Lopez swears a lot in Atlas especially for a PG-13 film, so that surprised me. And her hair looks so wild and has so much volume in this, yet it falls perfectly in every shot, making her look flawless. So at least this clunker has some glamour viewers can enjoy.

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