Film Review – Atlas



Atlas (2024) is a massive misfire in almost every conceivable fashion. It’s a sci-fi actioner that fails to excite, provoke, or entertain. To say that it underwhelms in nearly all phases of execution would be an understatement. Worst of all, it wastes the talent of Jennifer Lopez. She is one of the few remaining stars that can command a draw from her name alone. Her screen presence and overall swagger makes her endlessly watchable. Whether it is in the rom-com, drama, horror, or action genres, Lopez can pull our attention almost regardless of the situation. Unfortunately, this is one of the rare exceptions to the rule. We’re barely halfway through 2024, but we may have a candidate for one of the worst films of the year.

All the charm, personality, and charisma that made Lopez one of the biggest stars in the world gets absolutely buried here. The setting takes place far into the future, where the rise of artificial intelligence has sparked a war between man and machine. We learn that a renegade robot named Harlan (Simu Liu) has become leader of the A.I. rebellion. He has escaped to a far-off planet to grow his forces for a potential invasion of Earth. Lopez plays Atlas Shepherd, a data analyst who has made it her life’s obsession to track down and stop Harlan. Despite having no combat experience, Atlas somehow convinces commanding officer Elias Banks (Sterling K. Brown) into letting her join his battalion to hunt down Harlan.


J-Lo is capable of many things, but making Atlas feel like a fully fleshed out character is a near impossible task. Atlas is all nervous ticks and bug-eyed facial expressions. One of her main character traits is that she drinks too much coffee. There is background given as to why Atlas wants to take down Harlan and why she has such hatred for artificial intelligence, but that is not enough to make her a multi-faceted person. The writing (Leo SardarianAron Eli Coleite) and direction (Brad Peyton) offer little help. The brunt of the narrative has Atlas stuck inside of a fully sentient mech suit, and her unwillingness to cooperate with its operating system, nicknamed “Smith” (voiced by Gregory James Cohan). The central action has Lopez inside the cramped quarters of the suit’s cockpit, with the camera fixated on her in close up. The result is Lopez trying to give a physical performance almost entirely through her face.

Thematically, Atlas is tone deaf in terms of its handling of A.I. The topic has sparked controversary in the last few years, particularly within the movie business. It’s become such a dire issue that it was one of the central points of the historic writers and actors strikes from last year. There is a very real danger in artists losing their jobs in favor for the convenience of A.I. We’ve already seen its use causing backlash, from the opening credits of Secret Invasion (2023) to the artwork used throughout Late Night with the Devil (2023). For this film to present a story that suggests “not all A.I. are bad” seems incredibly oblivious to the current state of affairs. Sure, the argument can be made that its implementation can be a benefit in other forms of industry – the medical field comes to mind. Unfortunately, the narrative is not strong enough to explore those nuances. 

This is best exemplified in the dynamic between Atlas and Smith. For the suit to function at its highest capability, it must link itself to the mind of its human counterpart. Given that Atlas already despises A.I. to begin with, she resists the idea of having to trust the suit inside her head. It becomes a strange, almost perverse confrontation, with Smith imploring Atlas to let him in. The deeper we examine this back and forth, the more troubling it becomes. Smith doesn’t really give Atlas much to build her trust on. His biggest character development is that he learns how to use curse words. To link with Atlas, Smith must ask her whether she – no kidding – prefers cake or pie. Not exactly the deepest conversation, is it?


Let’s step away from the thematic inconsistencies and focus on the action and special effects. Sadly, the set pieces have the glossy, cartoon-like aesthetic we would see in a straight-to-video production rather than a big budget blockbuster. Mech suits have been a sci-fi staple for a very long time – from Aliens (1986), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Pacific Rim (2013), and Avatar (2009) to name a few. In Atlas, the design is clunky and unremarkable. The CGI is so poorly rendered that the contrast between human performers and the surrounding world sticks out badly. It’s hard to believe that Atlas’ life is in peril because everything around her looks so unrealistic. There is no tension in the action because none of it looks particularly convincing. It’s like watching a real-life actor performing inside of a badly rendered video game.

To call Atlas an “airplane movie” would be disrespectful to airplane movies. It is a hodgepodge of ingredients taken from other, better sci-fi pictures, but not done nearly as well. Jennifer Lopez is way too versatile to be in something so disappointing. Just in the last few years, she was excellent in Hustlers (2019), funny in Shotgun Wedding (2022), and willing to take a big risk in This Is Me…Now (2024). Her decision to take part here is a headscratcher. In other words, she is capable of way better than this.




Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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