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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Atlas assessment: Netflix’s by-the-numbers AI thriller

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You’d assume {that a} sci-fi film the place Jennifer Lopez companions with a smart-ass, sentient mech go well with to struggle in opposition to her evil AI brother could be a little bit extra enjoyable. Alas, AtlasNetflix’s latest attempt at a hit streaming action movie — takes itself far too significantly. It additionally fails to essentially dig into the complexities of the AI debate, regardless of basically being a battle between a pleasant AI assistant and machine intent on a doomsday state of affairs. There are some humorous moments, significantly the banter between Lopez and her mechanical companion, however each different a part of the film appears to be preventing in opposition to Atlas’ true kind. It is a buddy comedy attempting too exhausting to be a critical motion flick.

Atlas takes place virtually three many years after an rebellion that noticed a complicated AI bot named Harlan (Simu Liu) assist liberate different machines, who then proceeded to bypass their safety protocols and begin a warfare with humanity. It’s a setup that echoes loads of real-world issues. Besides, on this case, the AIs lose, and Harlan heads off-planet to lick his wounds — however not earlier than issuing an ominous risk to the human inhabitants. Atlas (Lopez), the daughter of Harlan’s creator who basically grew up with him as a sibling, spends the following 28 years attempting to find exactly the place Harlan went so the risk could be eradicated for good. The film kicks off when she discovers that location after interrogating the severed head of an AI henchman.

A very powerful factor that you must find out about Atlas is that she has grown to utterly detest AI and, by extension, most futuristic tech. She has the identical fears many people do (together with sci-fi characters like Will Smith in I, Robotic), that are exacerbated by the truth that the tech round her could be hacked and exploited by Harlan and his associates. At one level, whereas briefing a gaggle of troopers, she says, “You’ll be able to’t belief AI,” whereas handing out plans printed on paper.

This worry extends significantly to a tool known as a Neural Hyperlink (not to be confused with the Elon Musk-backed Neuralink), which lets a human thoughts join on to an AI companion. It’s a cool thought, however the film by no means slows down sufficient to discover it in depth. Inevitably, Atlas finds herself with no alternative however to make use of a Neural Hyperlink to hook up with an AI named Smith (Gregory James Cohan) who seems to be similar to Siri and is housed within a mech go well with ripped right out of Titanfall.

That is what Alexa might appear like at some point.
Picture: Netflix

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Contrived because it could be, the connection between Smith and Atlas is definitely one of the best a part of the film. Atlas is cranky and sarcastic, and due to his adaptive studying capabilities, Smith quickly turns into precisely the identical. The AI swears and makes jokes, dishing it out to Atlas the identical approach she does to him. The banter is genuinely humorous, to the purpose that, regardless that you possibly can see it coming a mile away, their inevitable friendship nonetheless feels touching. It’s virtually price watching the entire film only for its heartwarming finale.

The issue with Atlas isn’t a lot that it’s predictable (although that doesn’t assist, nor does its painfully generic imaginative and prescient of a sci-fi future). It’s that the film doesn’t lean into this power. Exterior of Smith and Atlas, all the things else about Atlas is self-serious and boring. Harlan is the largest offender, performed with a stilted impact by Liu that makes him extra boring than scary. In a future the place AI bots can mimic human beings completely, it’s confounding that probably the most superior machine appears like an {old} GPS giving instructions. General, there’s plenty of wasted potential. Particularly, the film’s premise is an ideal framing for present AI debates — Siri vs. Skynet — however doesn’t take the chance to say something new.

There are already loads of current films that discover a possible AI future with a heavy dose of sincerity, whether or not it’s The Creator, Dead Reckoning, and even Netflix’s own Jung_E. Atlas provides nothing to that in depth physique of labor. Even worse, it fails to capitalize on its one defining facet. The comedic moments are one of the best a part of the film, and but they will really feel misplaced buried below all the things else. Atlas was an opportunity to take an pressing AI dialog and discover it in an approachable Hollywood bundle. It might’ve been enjoyable and sensible — as a substitute, like a lot of AI right now, it’s neither.

Atlas begins streaming on Netflix on Might twenty fourth.

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