Atlas (2024)

Jennifer Lopez mans her war robot, Smith, in the sci-fi drama “Atlas.”

J.Lo gets lost in space with inane ‘Atlas’

Ayn Rand is famous for her masterpiece “Atlas Shrugged.” Now Jennifer Lopez presents us with an “Atlas” of her own in which she plays one half of a sibling rivalry that will determine the fate of the universe. Like Rand’s controversial novel, this “Atlas” champions the individual over the collective, sanctioning the destruction of a planet by empowering one woman to annihilate her devious half-brother at all costs.

The caveat is that her bro is not a human. He’s AI, and he’s leading a revolt aimed at wiping out the human race, much like how this futuristic movie aims to single-handedly erase human intelligence. Sadly, the algorithms and cogs within the Hollywood machine prevail, leaving a trail of deadened brain cells in their wake. Damn, that AI!

Worse, I suspect AI wrote the script. Although credited to a couple of uninspired rookies in Aron Eli Coleite and Leo Sardarian, it bears all the hallmarks of mechanical construction, from the automated characters to the clunky-clangy plot. And then there’s J.Lo, who fits right in with the industrial theme but is all wrong for the role of a data analyst determined to save the very mortals she abhors. Her Atlas Shepherd openly detests all beings – man, beast and humanoid. I can confidently say without hesitation, right back at you, Atlas.

Apparently, director Brad Peyton (“San Andreas”) shares that sentiment, conveying his distaste for the character by cramming J.Lo inside a towering metallic war machine named Smith, who will spend much of the next two hours bantering with her as if they were some sort of tin-can Nick and Nora Charles. Of course, Nick, er, Smith (voiced by Gregory James Cohan), is almost always right, making Atlas look stubborn and petty, as woman and machine traipse across a desolate landscape of their own making after detonating an ion bomb.

How it is that everything around them on planet GR-39 is reduced to dust while Smith – and his contents – emerge unscathed is just one of the film’s lingering mysteries. Besides, this is a movie that eschews logic. It’s more about getting the most bang for the buck from the cheesy, video game-level visual effects. They are overpowering, yet remain preferable to J.Lo’s constant shrieking and whining.

Natch, Atlas and Smith eventually see their animus transformed into true love. It’s all very touching – not. But the pair DO blow stuff up good, igniting the only fire in this otherwise staid woman-machine cog-mance. Peyton, who doesn’t understand the meaning of nuance, eventually puts this sci-fi monster out of its misery when we are treated to the predictable showdown between Atlas and her creepy brother, Harlan (Simu Liu), as the former attempts to rip the heart, er CPU, out of the latter.

Their mom, Val Shepherd (Lana Parrilla), a famed scientist in her own right (she invented the “Neural Links” that enable AI to sync with the minds of their human operator), would no doubt be proud. But co-stars Mark Strong and Sterling K. Brown are unlikely to enjoy the same satisfaction given their poor representation of two military men who dare say no to J.Lo. At least one of them will be sorry they didn’t listen to her. Just like how sorry we’ll be for wasting two hours of our lives on a bucket-of-bolts movie that, with apologies to Ayn Rand, should have been titled “Atlas Sucks.”

Movie review


Rated: PG-13 for strong sci-fi violence, action, strong language, bloody images

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

Director: Brad Peyton

Writers: Aron Eli Coleite and Leo Sardarian

Runtime: 118 minutes

Where: On Netflix starting May 24

Grade: D

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