On Screen: “Atlas”


Jennifer Lopez stars in “Atlas,” an ambitious sci-fi action adventure about the potential dangers of A.I.

She’s Atlas Shepherd, whose robotics expert mother (Lana Perilla) created and unleashed Harlan (Simu Liu), an A.I. terrorist who has killed millions and threatened humanity with extinction before taking off into outer space.

Skip ahead 28 years. Now a highly respected but “rigid and hostile” counterterrorism data analyst, Atlas is summoned by Gen. Jake Boothe (Mark Strong) when the I.C.N. (International Coalition of Nations) captures Casca Vix (Abraham Popoola), an A.I. bot connected to Harlan.

After analyzing the bot’s brain, Atlas — who grew up with Harlan as part of her family — deduces that he is hiding on GR-39, a distant planet in the Andromeda Galaxy.

Determined to capture him alive for questioning, she boards a spacecraft filled with Special Forces rangers commanded by Col. Elias Banks (Sterling K. Brown).

Although suspicious Atlas initially refuses to don one of the immense exo-suits — because it requires a neural bond between man and machine — when a surprise attack leaves her stranded, she has no other choice.

That’s when Atlas’s combative relationship with ‘Smith’ (voiced by Gregory James Cohan) begins. Smith is the mech-suit’s persona with software designed to befriend its occupant.

Problem is: misanthropic Atlas is aggressive and distrustful, particularly when deprived of her addictive black coffee. Eventually Atlas realizes she needs Smith to adapt and survive in this strange environment while battling Harlan’s cyborg troops.

Predictably plotted by screenwriters Leo Sardarian and Aron Eli Coleite, it’s clichéd and obviously derivative. Carrying the weight of the world on her slim shoulders, Atlas feels responsible if and when it’s doomsday for humankind, and Harlan was obviously named after sci-fi author Harlan Ellison.

Director Brad Peyton (“San Andreas”), who specializes in visual effects spectacles, appears to have copied the exo-suit from James Cameron’s “Avatar” AMP (Amplified Mobility Platform) suits and his uninspiring, glacial pacing brings little enlightenment about the genocidal threat that supposedly propels this feature.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Atlas” is an absurdly formulaic 3, streaming on Netflix.


Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures. Her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M.

As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O’Brien, and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism.

During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie and drama critic, syndicating her reviews and articles around the world, including Video Librarian. She has appeared on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies. In 2017, her book 150 Timeless Movies was published by Hannacroix Creek Books. Her website is www.susangranger.com.

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