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

Jennifer Lopez, whose considerable star power cauterises the plot holes, and Simu Liu looking well-dressed and menacing, slug it out in this fairly enjoyable AI-versus-human battle 

Updated - May 24, 2024 05:32 pm IST

Published - May 24, 2024 12:30 pm IST

A still from ‘Atlas’ 

A still from ‘Atlas’ 

Just when you crave mindless pyrotechnics on screen, the universe — via Netflix — answers with Atlas. Brad Peyton who kept us deliriously amused with San Andreas and Rampage returns with this lovely sci-fi actioner, which pretends to be discussing deep and meaningful things like whether AI has a soul in its trillion lines of code, when it actually just wants to have fun blowing things up.  And blow things it does in jolly spectacular style.

Director: Brad Peyton
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Simu Liu, Sterling K. Brown, Mark Strong
Story line: An analyst with a deep distrust of AI has to overcome her misgivings to save the world
Run time: 120 minutes

In the future, AI becomes self aware and led by Harlan (Simu Liu) turns on human beings. After several attacks including one on Bengaluru which leaves “over 500,000 killed in an AI-controlled drone strikes,” Harlan flees to a planet, GR-39, in the Andromeda galaxy.

The International Coalition of Nations (ICN) is formed to fight the threat and Harlan is declared public enemy no 1, the first AI terrorist. 28 years later, a grumpy counter-terrorism analyst working for the ICN, Atlas (Jennifer Lopez), is woken up by her smart home — she had fallen asleep playing chess with it.

That she is brainy is obvious from her winning streak in chess of 71, and her genius-level IQ is indicated by her glamourously wild Einstein hair. General Boothe (Mark Strong), who refuses to abandon Atlas “because she is not user-friendly”, has an assignment for her. Casca (Abraham Popoola), Harlan’s fearsome AI soldier has been captured and Boothe wants Atlas to interrogate him.

A still from ‘Atlas’ 

A still from ‘Atlas’ 

Atlas (why would parents burden their child with such a name), has some history with Harlan and Casca, as it was her scientist mum Val Shepherd (Lana Parrilla) who created Harlan. Using the principles of a smartphone, she created a cognitive intelligence... and see where that led. Atlas tricks Casca into revealing where Harlan is holed up and the ICN decide to send out a mission led by Colonel Banks (Sterling K. Brown) to capture Harlan or rather his CPU. 

Atlas insists on going along as she knows Harlan best having spent 28 years studying the little critter. Though she tells the crew to eschew all digital trails, coming to the first briefing with printouts, they do not listen and it is up to Atlas to save the world overcoming her distrust of artificially intelligent beings starting with her AI companion, Smith (Gregory James Cohan).

There are nicely-visualised explosions, GR-39 is interestingly visualised, and the final battle is vaguely reminiscent of Terminator with Harlan’s single glowing eye. Lopez’s considerable star power cauterises any plot holes while Strong and Brown do their thing— the former being the wise mentor and the latter the wise-cracking tough guy. Liu does not have much to do apart from look menacing, which he does with aplomb and nice clothes.

While not as relentless as Lopez’s Mother, Atlas, with its regular-as-clockwork battles, wisecracks and explosions, offers a suitable adrenaline fix.

Atlas is currently streaming on Netflix

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