JLo getting a retina scan. Image credit: Netflix

Movie Review: ATLAS (2024) **

You know when you watch a movie, and they’re making a parody movie within the movie, a la Notting Hill or The Fall Guy? This is the parody movie.

Welcome to the JLonaissance! Here, JLo is an analyst named Atlas who has dedicated her life to searching for the rogue AI who killed her mom and like three billion other people. Stuffy plotty things happen and she ends up piloting a mech suit.

“JLo in a mech suit??” you ask excitedly, if by “you” I mean “me.” Me asked this very excitedly upon seeing the trailer. I’m delighted to inform you all that this is exactly the movie you thought when you watched the trailer. It’s JLo in a mech suit, baby! What else do you need? Narrative tension? A sense of urgency? The main character’s development feeling hard-earned? A coherent message? Get outta here.

There are absolutely no surprises in Atlas. It’s a 2-hour-long video game cinematic starring a lot of actors you recognize, sort of like Death Stranding, except it’s shorter than most of the Death Stranding cinematics and Death Stranding has something to say.

The entire point of the movie is JLo neurotically saying, “I don’t trust AI!!!!” until she does. She becomes besties with an AI, hot guys die, she defeats the bad AI because she unlocks a few upgrade slots, and she’s improbably rescued at the last minute. This doesn’t feel like a spoiler to me. You already knew the ending was gonna just kinda be like “shrug, she survives.” Look within your heart. The truth is there.

But I’m gonna tell you, this movie really could have been a whole lot worse. Mark Strong’s expressions imply a subplot that wasn’t written. JLo is so committed to the material! Simu Liu is hunky and he wisely made ten thousand hunky Abraham Popoolas for me to thirst over. Sterling K Brown does a great job (like he ever does a bad job, pff). Everyone’s hot, the CGI was fine, and the script hit all the most basic Save the Cat beats. Hey, that’s not a guarantee in modern screenwriting.

Sure, it would have been better with a lot less talking and a lot more plot, action, or cool sci-fi stuff. Atlas’s emotional growth had the psychological feeling of an on-rails shooter. It’s kinda stunning how little imagination they could employ in a science fiction setting where they got to put JLo in a mech suit. What a boring planet! What prosaic world building!

Yet I really think the screenwriting is the worst part of this (by far), and the screenwriting is *mostly* dispassionate and mediocre.

I kinda think I’d have enjoyed this movie when I was a kid, though it’s not intended as a kid’s movie (who the hell is this intended for? who would be happy with slow conversations between JLo and Siri?). I’d have loved watching it intercut with lengthy toy-themed commercial breaks on TBS.

Call me a JLo simp ever since her whole “I love love” megaproject made it clear exactly how unhinged she is (~I could fix her~), but I have been more annoyed by vastly more prestigious movies. This is extremely low-grade watch-it-while-doing-something-else sci-fi-themed schlock, and gosh darnit, I love sci-fi schlock.

Come to this movie for JLo looking adorable with frizzy hair and giant glasses; stay for the video game vibes because hey, you might as well, you’re probably folding laundry or vacuuming the floor or something anyway.

(image credit: Netflix)

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