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"Atlas" 4K Review

AI is the big buzzword these days. From being stuffed into everything from Google searches to movie plots, it's unavoidable. While some view AI as the Great Liberator of Mankind (by freeing people from work so they can spend all their time consuming), there has always been the dark dystopian view that AI would revolt and destroy humanity a la SkyNet from the Terminator series and this is the angle taken by this weekend's Big Netflix Original movie Atlas, a movie about AI which feels written by AI, but not smart AI, more like Siri.

While the opening credits roll we are infodumped the background of the story: In the future AI is integrated into all our tech which is fine and dandy until the day a super AI cyborg named Harlan Shepherd (Simu Liu, Shang-Chi) manages to transcend his programming to take control of all the tech and launches a genocidal attack killing three million humans before hopping a rocket to parts unknown. Right off the bat, the news footage confuses because it appears to be near future before the whole rocket thing appears leading to my wondering when this movie is set. (I had to look it up and it starts in 2043 before jumping to 2071.)

 After the jump we meet the grown up Atlas Shepherd (Jennifer Lopez), a messy woman with mussed hair who lives alone (no cat?) and plays holo-chess with her computer to show us she's really smart. Her mother created Harlan and he was sort of a brother to her, so when another cyborg associate of Harlan's is captured, she's called in to interrogate its head to find out where Harlan is hiding. She tricks him (or does she?) to reveal the location, an uninhabited world in the Andromeda galaxy. (More on this later.) She convinces General Boothe (Mark Strong) to allow her to go on the military mission to capture Harlan over the objections of Colonel Banks (Sterling K. Brown).

 Atlas wanted to be a Ranger, but washed out on the test which becomes a problem when the assault ship is attacked approaching the planet and she's thrown into a mech suit that falls from the sky only firing braking rockets at the last second preventing a big movie-ending splat. Coming to, she makes the acquaintance of Smith (voiced by Gregory James Cohan, star of the absolutely insane movie The VelociPastor which is about a priest who can turn into a dinosaur to fight ninjas and I'm not making this up!), the AI controlling her mech suit. For the suit to work at its best, Smith needs her to put on on a "sync" device which will allow them to join consciousnesses which is no bueno for Atlas due to her traumatic past with Harlan.

After finding almost all the other Rangers dead in their suits, the goal becomes to get to the rescue pod before the suit's energy is depleted while Harlan's minions chase her down. Will Atlas be able to save the Earth whose fate she figuratively has on her shoulders which has to be the reason she has that name, right?

A year ago J.Lo had another bad Netflix Original actioner called The Mother (not to be confused with the other Jennifer L's mother!) which was so by-the-numbers that I mused on how it felt written by AI despite a trio of highly pedigreed scribes typing it up. This time it's clear that the ScriptGPT AI used to cobble together the skeletons of many other movies and videogames hasn't advanced much in a year resulting in a so-bad-it's-bad mess from two feature rookies, Leo Sardarian & Aron Eli Coleite.

The howlers start immediately with Harlan's hiding planet being located in the Andromeda galaxy meaning we're supposed to believe that in just 20 years not only will AI develop to the level of totally human-looking robots, but that we will have the ability to fly to a place 2.5 MILLION LIGHT YEARS AWAY!!! That means (for the real science-challenged) at the speed of light (very fast) it would take 2.5M years to get there, but we're supposed to believe it's possible to travel there in a couple of days it appears and communications are instant. To quote the Critical Drinker, "What? The? F*ck?"

There's also a running gag about how Atlas needs coffee (shades of Capt. Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager) leading to a bit where in a future of rapid intergalactic space travel, the coffee vending machine sputters and fails like it's a 1980s buddy cop movie. And in a genuflection to modern woketardedness, a female-voiced mech named Zoe announces that her pronouns are "she" and "her" because in 2071 they're still trying to make that stupid fetch happen. (It's not going to happen.)

Mostly it's Lopez talking to herself and she does OK with the material as lame as it is? Will she get over her guilt for propagating this war in the first place and learn to trust Smith? Will we not notice how the entire plot is cobbled together from movies and videogames like Titanfall and the villain's motivation is the same tired "Humanity is going to destroy itself, so I'm going to kill them all first to save them" claptrap from The Day the Earth Stood Still to Godzilla: King of Monsters? Will J.Lo every make a good Netflix movie?

For those looking for good visuals and sounds for your top-tier payment to Netflix, it's an adequate Dolby Vision and Atmos presentation with bright colors and immersive audio, but in service of a forgettable dumb script. (Reminds me of how the Blu-ray of Green Lantern was a favorite demo disc despite being a terribad movie.)

Score: 4/10. Skip it.


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