Atlas parents guide

Atlas Parent Guide

Overburdened with familiar tropes and dated visual design, this film doesn't say enough to fill its runtime.

Overall C

Netflix: A data analyst is tasked with saving the world from a rogue AI on a mission to destroy humanity.

Release date May 24, 2024

Violence C
Sexual Content A-
Profanity C-
Substance Use A

Why is Atlas rated PG-13? The MPAA rated Atlas PG-13 for strong sci-fi violence, action, bloody images and strong language.

Run Time: 118 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Emergent technologies inevitably have hiccups, but the issues humanity has encountered with artificial intelligence are more severe than expected. When a rogue intelligence called Harlan (Simu Liu) found a way to break his programming, he brought as many other intelligences with him as he could. Together, they butchered three million people before fleeing into space, waiting for an opportunity to return and finish the job.

Humans aren’t waiting passively to be butchered: they are ready to take the fight to the stars. Thanks to the work of intelligence analyst Atlas Shepherd (Jennifer Lopez), they have located Harlan on a remote planet blanketed by scanner-disrupting ion storms.

Finding him, as it turns out, is the easy part. As soon as Atlas and a squad of rangers in combat mechs (pods) turn up, they’re met with a brutal assault from Harlan’s forces. Everyone but Atlas is killed, and she is stuck in a combat mech she has no idea how to pilot. To be fully functional, the mech’s onboard AI, Smith (Gregory James Cohan), needs to synch with her brain but Atlas has a deep-seated distrust of AI. The seriousness of their circumstances demand that she rethink some of her feelings, but Atlas is a stubborn woman, and they’re short on time before Harlan finds and kills them.

Bland and overburdened with familiar tropes and dated visual design, Atlas struggles to hold up the weight of its two-hour runtime. The dialogue bounces between dull exposition and seeming non-sequiturs, which is so fun for the audience, and the acting doesn’t exactly draw us in either. “That’s alright”, I hear you saying, “I’m just here for the big robot mech fights”. Bad news there, as there aren’t many of those. Worse, you can really tell which scenes they tried to save money on, and the CGI varies wildly from scene to scene. Honestly, I’d prefer it if they made everything look a little bit worse. At least it would be consistent.

In fairness, I don’t suppose Atlas can afford to be “a little bit worse”, since it’s already riding the fence between “mediocre” and “aggravating” like a prize jockey. Anyone considering this sci-fi flick for family viewing is unlikely to be thrilled with the frequent (if usually bloodless) violence and regular cussing, drawbacks not exactly offset by the complete absence of sex or substance use. The problem this movie has is audience familiarity with the subject matter. Many movies have been made about the ethical issues around artificial life forms, and a number of them are excellent. It’s hard to spend two hours slogging through this when it keeps reminding you that you could click on Blade Runner instead and have a much better time.

Directed by Brad Peyton. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Simu Liu, Sterling K. Brown. Running time: 118 minutes. Theatrical release May 24, 2024. Updated

Watch the trailer for Atlas

Rating & Content Info

Why is Atlas rated PG-13? Atlas is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for strong sci-fi violence, action, bloody images and strong language.

Violence: Individuals are shot, stabbed, beaten, crushed, decompressed, blown up, torn apart, and thrown to their deaths. A needle is drilled into two characters’ eyes. A character suffers a compound fracture.
Sexual Content: There are some scenes of censored, non-sexual nudity in news footage with no explicit detail.
Profanity: There are two sexual expletives, 18 scatological curses, and regular use of mild curses and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None.

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Atlas Parents' Guide

Humans are currently experimenting with artificial intelligence technology without a legal or ethical framework. What are some of the potential consequences of this headlong rush into new technology absent adequate preparation or caution? Why is there such a push to develop these intelligences? Do you use artificial intelligence? Why? What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks of this technology?

Home Video

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Simu Liu also stars as a renegade artificial life form in Simulant. This plot borrows heavily from I, Robot. If you’re looking for some more compelling near-future sci-fi about artificial intelligence, try Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049, Ex Machina, After Yang, or The Creator. Another woman comes to terms with her robotic companion in Oxygen.