ATLAS. Jennifer Lopez Can’t Handle Science Fiction [REVIEW]

How did “Atlas,” the new film featuring Jennifer Lopez, fare this time drenched in a sci-fi sauce? Very mediocre.

Jakub Piwoński

27 May 2024


It could have been worse—this was my first thought after watching *Atlas*. I felt like I had just received an injection. I had imagined an unbearable pain, yet the sci-fi injection was administered quite smoothly into my consciousness. The trouble is that the film starring Jennifer Lopez offers no tangible benefits. It’s closer to a placebo than an actual remedy that could bring something valuable to the genre.

Jennifer Lopez’s collaboration with Netflix seems to be going well. After *The Mother*, it’s time for another action movie featuring the singer, this time tackling science fiction themes while still touching on motherhood. Don’t be misled by its title. The titular Atlas isn’t some Colossus or another super-computer. It’s simply the name of the main character, who happens to harbor a clear prejudice against computers and robots. She prefers paper because, as she explains to her wards, at least it can’t be hacked. At one point, she gets embroiled in a mission to capture a dangerous robot-terrorist. There’s no mercy— to annihilate the bad machines, the heroine must learn to cooperate with those that help her. And in the process, she has to deal with the memory of her own mother.

The film’s director, Brad Peyton, is a Hollywood specialist in B-class spectacles. He previously gave us *San Andreas* and *Rampage* with Dwayne Johnson. He also made the series *Daybreak* for Netflix. None of these rose above the level of mediocrity. The same goes for *Atlas*, which perfectly fits the nature of recent Netflix sci-fi films. *Rebel Moon*, *The Adam Project*, and curiosities like the Korean *Jung_E* all seem to belong to the same family of explosive, colorful, yet highly kitschy productions. These films simultaneously serve as unfortunate testimonials of the times, acting as mere fillers for already bloated streaming libraries.

But justice must be given to contemporary B-class productions because, truth be told, when the VHS craze exploded in the 80s, it defined a new line of film distribution, giving rise to hundreds of unrefined productions that had to appeal to someone. The recently deceased Roger Corman would certainly have more to say on this, as he proved that making such films could firstly bring a lot of fun and secondly serve as valuable training for creators.

I’m convinced that for Jennifer Lopez, whose star has dimmed somewhat, *Atlas* was mainly meant to be a space for a refreshing experience. The actress hadn’t yet starred in a sci-fi film. She wanted to show that she still looks good and, through her character, address a contemporary, troubling topic. Artificial intelligence and its coexistence with humans certainly raise more questions today than in the 80s when the android craze in cinema was in full swing. Surprisingly, there are a few moments in *Atlas* that provoke thought in this context. For instance, when AI assures J-Lo that every being has a soul. One might think that a machine would have a completely different opinion on this, but maybe it’s programmed to build a sense of security in humans through conversation.

However, *Atlas* contains much more flashy spectacle. I suspect, with near certainty, that the actress never saw sunlight during filming because everything on screen was shot in a studio, and much of the material was generated by graphic artists. The special effects, however, are not very realistic; the machines (exoskeletons) move against the laws of physics, appearing noticeably too light. This might work in an animated film, but not here. Especially since *Atlas*, shockingly, sometimes references genre classics. In some clichéd scenes, you can hear echoes of *Terminator 2*, in others—*Aliens*. Peyton is far from Cameron’s level. It’s a bit like the creator dressed in old, holey rags and masked it with a bottle of expensive perfume. Unfortunately, that’s not how you reach the top tier.

Other points, briefly—Simu Liu is not suited to playing villains. The repeatedly resurrected Abraham Popoola was irritating, making you want to pull the pin on a grenade and place it in his head. Mark Strong’s character was wasted—you could have saved money and given the role to a less-known actor. And Jennifer, well, she has something that makes you want to like her, though her ego, roughly the size of her buttocks, sometimes makes it difficult.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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