“Atlas” is JLo’s Perfectly Fine, Sci-Fi Flick

Atlas. Jennifer Lopez as Atlas Shepherd. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix ©2024.

I want to begin this by saying that I’m not a huge Jennifer Lopez fan. I’ve been following her career since I was a kid watching her dance on In Living Color back when she was rocking her natural hair color and I could see myself in her vibe. Even though it seemed that at every turn the media was shoving her down my throat, I never felt that obsesión that a lot of people seemed to have with her. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I wrote an entire paper on her and why I wasn’t repping the JLo iconography as a Puerto Rican and Cuban from New Jersey, while I was completing my BFA – but this isn’t an article about the issues I have with Jenny from the Block, it’s about her new film Atlas on Netflix.

Lopez plays the titular character, Atlas Shepherd, a government analyst who’s hurled to a distant world on a quest to defeat her oldest enemy: the AI robot who upended her life. At first glance, this movie seems like a mash-up of Terminator, Aliens, and Titanfall, with a dusting of Avatar for effect and that’s because – it is. First off, at least it’s not another romantic comedy filled with JLo engaging in uncomfortably disingenuous flirting while navigating some kind of “come-up” from barrio-style “girl next door” to the object of a man’s affection.

Atlas has gotten horrible reviews by critics and viewers but it’s still managed to snag the number one movie spot on Netflix even with its 17% Tomatometer and 52% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Atlas is not a sci-fi movie that is going to blow your mind and make you want to write a thesis on AI. It’s not going to show you something brand new in the genre either. It’s just a basic movie that’s a fun watch for 110 minutes (I’ve taken 10 minutes out for the predictable ending flash forward blah blah blah and the beginning where Lopez isn’t really settled into her character yet, you’re welcome).

After Atlas’s plans go awry, her only hope of saving the future of humanity from AI is to trust it by syncing with the AI in her exo-suit, Smith (Gregory James Cohan), cue the romance you never thought would be included in this movie (insert eye roll here). Her solo endeavor, for the majority of the film, is to find and destroy AI robot, Harlan Shepherd (Simu Liu), who’s gone full-on Thanos in a quest to cleanse humanity and “save it from itself.” The shared last name of these two characters gives away a key plot point already so don’t blame me for blatantly obvious spoilers.

This means that for eighty percent of the film, you are staring at Jennifer Lopez inside a revamped Avatar AMP suit—now with artificial intelligence! Which means you can’t help but notice some funny things, like why doesn’t she have a hair tie with her? What is the deal with her having perfect makeup the entire time – all that sweating and fighting AI soldiers didn’t crack her foundation – maybe it’s Maybelline. Can someone please tell her makeup artist to stop over-lining her top lip, it doesn’t look good, it is noticeable, and it’s completely unnecessary! Normally I wouldn’t bring these kinds of things up, but there was a lot of time staring at Lopez’s face as she bounced around in an ill-fitting mechanical suit so…it is what it is.

I have a few favorite JLo movies where I feel like her performance is pretty good. Selena, The Cell, and Enough have always been my top three but I might have to make it a top four now that I’ve seen Atlas. Yes, the beginning isn’t the best performance she’s ever given but at some point inside her exo-suit, she starts to feel genuine and for once, I felt like Lopez let her guard down and truly connected. There’s something about an angry, annoyed, and sarcastic Jennifer Lopez performance that just works for me. It’s probably why I’ve watched Enough so many times – she actually felt real. Is this going down as the best performance in her life? Probably not. Is it going down as an epic sci-fi adventure thriller? No to that too, but it’s a decent and enjoyable flick that you can watch when you’re in the throws of insomnia (like I did) and not be completely and utterly disappointed.

After reading that her hubby Ben Affleck occasionally read the lines for her exo-suit during filming, it’s no wonder she came off more natural and engaging. Her responses were real and she had all the help she needed to come across not overly produced – you know, the often sarcastic and somewhat frustrating banter of marriage. Atlas is predictable which can be seen as a good and a bad thing. I’m not going to rewatch it incessantly like some of my other favorite sci-fi flicks and you’re most likely not going to either. Lopez is not taking any big risks here and neither is the film itself but – if you’re looking for something to watch before you go to bed, that you aren’t really invested enough in to care if you see the ending or not – it’s the perfect movie to fit the bill.

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