Atlas review: "Netflix's new sci-fi needs more flesh on its AI-themed bones"

(Image: © Netflix)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Impressive FX aside, Atlas is hampered by a predictable plot that needs more flesh on its AI-themed bones.

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Jennifer Lopez makes a rare foray into sci-fi action with this Netflix original, which is essentially a one-woman show with added killer robots, future tech, and space travel. But perhaps fittingly for a film dealing with the dangers of AI, Atlas isn’t all that clever beneath the surface. 

Lopez stars as Atlas Shepherd, a gifted data analyst living in a future where a group of robots - led by Harlan, the world’s first AI terrorist (Shang-Chi star Simu Liu) - have turned on humanity. Harboring a grudge against artificial intelligence as well as a mysterious past connection to Harlan, Atlas joins an off-world mission to capture him, working alongside a team of rangers (led by Sterling K. Brown’s Colonel Elias Banks) who are all reliant on their own AI tech. 

When things inevitably go awry, Atlas finds herself stranded with a mech suit controlled by a programme called Smith (voiced by Gregory James Cohan), whom she must learn to trust in order to complete the mission.

Director Brad Peyton (best known for Dwayne Johnson schlockbusters Rampage and San Andreas) draws on the James Cameron playbook of epic blockbuster sci-fi: the film wears its clear Aliens and Terminator influences on its giant metal sleeve. 

Lopez takes admirable care of the story’s human elements, seizing opportunities to find emotion amid the weapons-grade pyrotechnics of the chaotic action sequences. But the effective (if minimal) world-building really just masks a thin plot, hammy characters, and the kind of questionable logic leaps you so often find in this sort of big, silly space movie.

Atlas streams on Netflix from May 24. For more, check out our guide to the best Netflix movies.