Netflix presents ‘Atlas’, a science fiction gem that took us by surprise

Atlas It is the most classic of pleasant surprises that you don’t see coming, that you don’t expect. In fact, taking into account the average of products of Netflix and general photography of Jennifer Lopez (who also acts as a producer here) having negative premonitions was absolutely normal. And, on the other hand, this film is a tasty science fiction adventure capable of entertaining, which offers two hours of pleasant action, also seasoned with light humor that is not excessive, dealing with the topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Who would have thought?

Atlas It takes us to a not-so-unreal near future. Humanity has almost dug its own grave as usual, using technology to make its life easier, in fact it has created a very dangerous nemesis: Harlan (Simu Liu). This was created back in the day by scientist Val Shepard (Lana Parilla), a luminary in robotics and AI, who thought she could give humanity a world of highly advanced robots. However, Harlan, the most ambitious of her plans, turned out to be convinced that humanity must be exterminated, given its warlike nature. But after a decades-long war, Harlan and his people have been expelled from Earth and are hiding on a distant planet, contemplating their revenge.

Hot on their trail is a task force commanded by General Jack Boothe (Mark Strong) and Colonel Elias Banks (Streling K. Brown), which includes Atlas Shepard (Jennifer Lopez), an artificial intelligence analyst and daughter of the late Dr. Shepard. When Harlan’s base is located, Atlas asks to be part of the offensive that will destroy the robotic threat of her old enemy. But to do so, despite her misanthropy, she will have to trust AI Smith (voiced by Gregory James Cohan), mounted on her gigantic combat robot. However, when the mission takes an unexpected turn, Atlas will have to take a risk, join forces with Smith and face her nemesis, with whom she shares much more than she would like. Between battles, escapes and mutual confessions, Atlas will discover that not all AIs are the same.

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Atlas takes the Brad Peyton signaturedirector of blockbusters not as bad as Rampage, San Andreas and Journey to the mysterious island. In short, an entertainment expert mainstream but with a not so clumsy hand. The script, far from being banal and monotonous, is the work of the duo Leo Sardarian and Aron Eli Coleite, and is nourished by a barrage of different references. The topic of Artificial Intelligence dominates our time, between those who are in favor and those who are against, between the changes and the side effects. Since the times of 2001: A Space Odysseypassing through the sagas of Terminator, blade runner, Starship Troopers, Star Wars and Matrixour hypothetical relationship with her has declined in many different aspects.

Recent titles of great interest have been Ex Machina, Automaton, Her and The creator for whom a certain skepticism was logical, also given the average quality of Netflix’s science fiction products. Well then, Atlas It is an entertainment product with soul freak and geekwhich draws on several of the aforementioned titles, as well as Avatar, On the edge of tomorrow, humandroidthe saga Transformers and even Universal Soldier (I’m sure you remember it). But be careful, the film is also fiercely “video game” in its visual dimension, with droids, robots and carefully conceived technologies that bring to mind HALO, Warhammer 40000In short, that whole world straddling the cyberpunkhe steampunk and the daring futurism with which they have delighted us for decades. Plus there is her, Jennifer López, a very nice, insecure, misanthropic and messy protagonist.

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A film neither predictable nor boring

The ex-stripper thief Hustlersfind with Atlas a very likeable character, because he moves away from the perfection prevailing in the modern audiovisual market, which portrays women as perfect and invincible beings in each film. No, sir, this scientist is arrogant, full of traumas and wounds from her past, she rejects all human contact, but then here she is aboard her battle droid Smith (shamelessly quoting Pacific Rim) when things get dicey, she often finds herself screwed by a nemesis, to which Simu Liu knows how to lend cold, sharp determination. Nothing revolutionary, let’s be clear, but if the megastar had dared more often in his career with operations of this type, perhaps things would have turned out differently. Sweaty, dirty, about to curse every three seconds, she is, however, also stubborn, tireless and able to understand that AI Smith is nothing more than a technological tool. What makes the difference, of course, is the intention with which one handles it.

Atlas It goes fast, has at least three action sequences worth the price of your Netflix subscription, but It never gives up that genuine and sincere B-movie feel. that has made so many cult science fiction films of recent years the only source of satisfaction for lovers of the genre, abandoned by the Majors. Then there is the humor, with exchanges of jokes between Atlas and Smith strung together with surgical precision, in a film in which the protagonist’s path to emotional liberation is not bad at all.

Science fiction about AI should definitely take this film as an example, if only for its willingness to go beyond the classic pure human-technology opposition. No sir, Atlas It also works because it shows us a plausible future, not far from what it probably will be. Humanity does not correct itself and its errors, it expects technology to do it for it. It is no coincidence that Harlan connects with great affection with Ultron, who was and remains one of the most interesting villains Marvel has ever conceived. Of course, maybe a little more space and a little less predictability for this villain wouldn’t have been bad, but it still serves to recapture some of that rip-and-tear sci-fi that made the ’80s and ’90s unforgettable for anyone. that he was a fan of the genre.

Atlas It will appeal to those looking for intelligent and respectful entertainment, but also to those who want a new heroine of the genre. The fact that López poses this woman as a kind of heir to Ripley’s Alien says a lot about the semi-derivative, but by no means sterile, nature of the operation itself. It would have been nice to have hopes for a sequel, but it is unknown. Certainly, to continue with the topic of AI, Atlas It has nothing of the classic algorithmic platform product, or it was conceived by a kind of Harlan, one who knows us very well, who does not particularly like us but who can predict our emotions and preferences perfectly. Which in reality is already happening, but it is better to think that we will end up finding an AI that does like us.

Article originally published in WIRED Italia.

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