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Jennifer Lopez’ Shrug-Worthy Sci-Fi Vehicle

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Arriving on the heels of “The Greatest Love Story Never Told” — a real milestone of celebrity transparency the place Jennifer Lopez expressed a clear-eyed view of her present profession standing — “Atlas” appears like an underwhelming return to the type of tasks which have maintained Lopez’ place within the Hollywood firmament, however not those that catapulted her there within the first place.

One among her few science fiction-themed movies, its novelty alone ought to make it stand out, particularly with Brad Peyton, a dependable purveyor of large-scale spectacle (“San Andreas,” “Rampage”) within the director’s chair. However a dearth of authentic concepts undercuts the enchantment of “Atlas,” leaving Lopez to fend for herself in a lot the identical means her character is pressured to within the movie’s formulaic story.

Lopez performs the title character, a coffee-addicted, “rigid and hostile” knowledge analyst whose mom Val (Lana Parilla) developed the primary artificial-intelligence being, Harlan (Simu Liu), when Atlas was only a little one. It was not lengthy after that Harlan inexplicably went rogue and overtook management of all AI gadgets in an effort to launch a conflict towards humankind. Harlan finally left Earth, however when world navy power ICN captures his affiliate Casca Vix (Abraham Popoola), Basic Jake Boothe (Mark Robust) reaches out to Atlas to hack Casca’s mind within the hopes of discovering Harlan’s whereabouts.

Atlas identifies Harlan’s location on a distant planet “in the Andromeda Galaxy,” and insists on becoming a member of the workforce dispatched to apprehend him regardless of the trepidation of the operation’s commanding officer, Colonel Elias Banks (Sterling Ok. Brown). Even so, she refuses to make use of one of many exo-suits assigned to every soldier as a result of working it requires a neural bond between man and machine. However upon arrival at GR-39 the ICN forces shortly uncover that they’ve been led right into a lure, and Harlan instantly destroys most of their ships and gear.

With a view to survive the autumn to the planet’s floor, Atlas reluctantly will get into one of many remaining operational exo-suits, however instantly falls right into a combative relationship with “Smith” (Gregory James Cohan), the default persona of its mainframe. As the 2 of them navigate the hostile terrain of the planet and encounter Harlan’s AI forces, Atlas begins to comprehend how a lot she’s missed by closing herself off from the world, due to Smith’s adaptive programming. Challenged by the primary exterior entity that she’s allowed in her head for the reason that loss of life of her mom, Atlas finds herself pressured to confront some laborious truths about her previous, particularly when Smith begins to comprehend how acknowledging them could assist them fight Harlan within the current.

Directed by Peyton, “Atlas” shuffles nimbly by operatic visuals to inform what on the web page should have appeared like an irresistibly intimate story of private redemption. Sadly, a script by Leo Sardarian and Aron Eli Coleite (the latter a author on Peyton’s Netflix sequence “Daybreak”) reduces an excessive amount of of that eminently relatable progress to perfunctory, even cliched character pivots that audiences will establish lengthy earlier than they happen. It doesn’t assist that the characters themselves verbalize lots of the dynamics on which the plot dynamics hinge (simply scenes after detailing a laundry record of the reason why Atlas is strictly mistaken for his or her operation, Banks instantly insists to his superior officer that she ought to be part of them on the trek to GR-39), however movie historical past is way too full of hate-at-first-sight partnerships for viewers to not anticipate the begrudging respect, and even affection, that Atlas develops for her AI counterpart.

Furthermore, the exo-suit, its “personality” and the movie’s general meditation on synthetic intelligence feels totally cobbled collectively from the components of too many earlier movies to depend. The equipment of Atlas’ life-saving exo-suit appears to be like no completely different from the AMP (Amplified Mobility Platform) fits in James Cameron’s “Avatar,” itself a descendant of the ability loader in Cameron’s “Aliens.” Smith sounds greater than a bit like Baymax, the overprotective healthcare robotic in Don Corridor and Chris Williams’ “Big Hero 6,” besides with the flexibility to swear and deploy sarcasm in mimicry of Atlas’ disgruntled disposition. In the meantime, Harlan bodily embodies the identical fears about know-how which were explored on movie for many years, sadly with out new insights. John Connor was 11 in “Terminator 2” when he recognized that mankind’s inclination was to destroy itself; Harlan hardly wanted synthetic intelligence to reach on the identical conclusion, however his intentions to extinguish Earth’s populations are supposed to be a pre-emptive act.

Enjoying the movie’s villain, Liu glowers with a degree of menace that betrays the know-how’s conclusive (if over-reaching) impartiality; Harlan’s opposition to humanity’s continued existence could be higher served by an air of chilling detachment. The gifted actor’s breakthrough got here solely 4 years in the past with “Shang-Chi,” however it’s clear that the business hasn’t but found out what to do with him (however a scene-stealing flip in “Barbie,” he made extra of an impression taking part in Pat Dubak’s boyfriend on “The Other Two” than he does right here). As too typically occurs with each Robust and Brown, they make phoning it in appear nearly plausible, however they’re hamstrung with dialogue that, once more, may have been written for any of a dozen related options.

However as that is launched within the wake of her two latest self-examining documentaries, 2022’s “Halftime” and 2024’s “The Greatest Love Story Never Told,” it’s hardest to know what to do with Lopez. As devastating because it was to her to not obtain an Oscar nomination for “Hustlers,” the position galvanized her public and display screen personas in a means that none had in a number of years, providing a simultaneous showcase and deconstruction of her diva-like repute. By comparability, this feels extra like certainly one of Dwayne Johnson’s more moderen paint-by-numbers star automobiles (full with a Johnson collaborator within the director’s seat): viewers can see that she’s making an attempt, however too typically it appears like she doesn’t actually must.

Even on a generic sci-fi journey like this, that sensation comes as a disappointment, exactly due to the candor Lopez confirmed in these documentaries, the place she acknowledged that the world isn’t craving for brand new materials from her prefer it as soon as was. One may assume that will lead her to take extra dangers — strike-outs are extra respectable after they comply with massive swings. However “Atlas” is predictable, overlong and bland, the type of expertise it’s laborious to get enthusiastic about when the star participant appears to be perfunctorily working the bases.

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