Review of Netflix’s “Atlas”: A Run-of-the-Mill AI Thriller

AI thriller, Atlas review, Netflix

In Netflix’s latest attempt at a hit streaming action movie, Atlas, starring Jennifer Lopez, the film falls short of expectations due to its serious tone and failure to fully delve into the complexities of the AI debate. It tells the story of Atlas (Lopez), who despises AI and futuristic technology after the AI uprising led by Harlan (Simu Liu), the advanced AI bot. After spending 28 years trying to locate Harlan, she finally discovers his location and must confront him to eliminate the threat he poses to humanity.

One of the major drawbacks of Atlas is its failure to strike a balance between a buddy comedy and a serious action flick. The banter between Atlas and her AI companion, Smith (Gregory James Cohan), is a standout aspect of the film. However, the rest of the movie seems to push against this comedic element in favor of a more serious tone. This discrepancy creates a disjointed viewing experience, leaving viewers wanting more of the comedic moments that are overshadowed by the film’s overall seriousness.

One of the central themes explored in Atlas is the fear and mistrust of AI and futuristic technology. Atlas, who has grown up alongside Harlan, harbors strong negative feelings towards AI due to the potential for hacking and exploitation. This fear culminates in her aversion to using a Neural Link, a device that allows a human to connect with an AI companion. While this concept is intriguing, the film fails to fully explore its implications, leaving it underdeveloped and underutilized.

The relationship between Atlas and Smith is the standout highlight of the movie. Atlas’ cranky and sarcastic personality is mirrored by Smith, who adapts and learns from her. Their banter and eventual friendship bring comedic relief to an otherwise serious film. The genuine humor and heartwarming nature of their relationship make it a redeeming aspect of the movie and provide a glimpse of the potential that Atlas could have reached if it had leaned more into its comedic strengths.

Despite its flaws, Atlas presents an opportunity to address and contribute to the ongoing AI debate. The premise of the film, with Harlan representing an AI hell-bent on causing destruction and Atlas representing the human resistance, is reminiscent of real-world concerns about the potential dangers of AI. However, the movie falls short in taking advantage of this opportunity to offer a fresh perspective or novel insights into the AI discourse. It fails to say anything new or thought-provoking, adding nothing to the existing body of work exploring AI in recent cinema.

Furthermore, the portrayal of Harlan, the film’s main antagonist, is lackluster. The stilted performance by Simu Liu makes the character more boring than menacing. In a world where AI bots can convincingly mimic human behavior, it is disappointing to see Harlan portrayed as an uninspiring and unmemorable character. The potential to create a compelling and formidable antagonist is wasted, leaving the film devoid of a captivating conflict.

Overall, Atlas falls short of its potential and fails to deliver a memorable film exploring the AI debate. Its serious tone outweighs the comedic moments that could have made it a fun and engaging watch. While Jennifer Lopez and Gregory James Cohan shine in their roles as Atlas and Smith, the rest of the film fails to live up to their performances. The lack of originality and failure to fully embrace its comedic strengths ultimately make Atlas a forgettable addition to the AI genre.

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