Netflix’s ‘Atlas’ Movie Recap & Ending Explained: How Does Atlas Connect With Smith?

Remember when Tony Stark made an evil robot and everybody got mad at him? In Atlas’ case, it’s most likely that people will hate the makers more than the characters. Known for making big-budget films on disaster and apocalypse, director Brad Peyton imagines a world where a renegade robot breaks free of its programming and takes over every single machine that is run by artificial intelligence. Jeniffer Lopez stars in and as Atlas, Netflix’s latest attempt at making a sci-fi. Atlas starts with great promise, but despite the presence of a stellar cast, it’s Lopez who has to do all the heavy lifting. Her interactions with the AI assistant soon get monotonous and leave very little emotional impact. In this article, we are going to be discussing everything that happens in this new Jeniffer Lopez starrer.

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What happens in the movie?

The human race never thought this day would come, but it has started. Artificial intelligence bots all around the world have bypassed their security protocols and turned rogue. AI-controlled drone strikes, and the AI powered bots have killed almost a million people in ten days. Leading the AI army is Harlan, who’s being named the world’s first AI terrorist. Harlan was created and developed by Val Shepherd, and he was raised alongside her ten-year-old daughter Atlas. Harlan was developed with the purpose of helping humans improve their lives, but he is now the reason for civilian deaths all over the planet. To protect the planet from Harlan and his army of robots, all of the countries came together to form the International Coalition of Nations (ICN). ICN forces counterattack Harlan’s army and soon emerge victorious. Harlan leaves the planet with multiple injuries to his system, but he leaves with a warning that he’ll come back to finish what he started. 28 years have passed since Harlan left Earth, and Atlas grew up to be an analyst for ICN who primarily works to solve the mystery of Harlan’s whereabouts. She has also developed an impenetrable shield for the planet to protect itself against any outside threats. When the ICN forces capture an AI terrorist named Casca Vix, Atlas tricks his system to get the location of Harlan. ICN Chief General Boothe stands by Atlas despite her being emotionally unstable and having trust issues. Boothe wants Harlan to be captured and taken back to Earth, and Colonel Elias Banks lets Atlas join his crew on the mission. 


What happens to the ICN crew?

ICN forces have developed an ARC suit, which is basically an Iron Man suit but better. Loaded with different sorts of weapons, the suit also comes with an AI that syncs with its ranger through a device called a neural link. Elias takes Atlas to introduce her to his own suit, Zoe. Zoe greets Atlas with a coffee, and Atlas is not impressed. The crew leaves Earth with the utmost confidence that they’ll capture Harlan without breaking a sweat, but Atlas warns them that Harlan is always a step ahead of his enemies. Most of the crew doesn’t take her seriously and acts like a bunch of smugs. Atlas is wary of Harlan hacking into their neural links, and she asks everyone not to use any system vulnerable to hacking. Elias cuts her off and pretends that this is nothing but a cakewalk for him and the crew. Just when they’re about to land on GR-39, the planet Harlan is on, and thousands of drones attack their spacecraft and take it down. Elias puts Atlas into one of the ARC suits before going missing in the explosion. The surviving rangers try to fight their way out while crashing on the planet, but the drones are able to take every single ranger down. Atlas crashes into the planet, and despite not being synced with her suit, she survives. 

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How does Atlas connect with Smith?

Atlas gains consciousness and sees she’s buried under ice. She tries to make contact with the other rangers, but the tracker doesn’t show anybody who’s in a position to respond. The AI of her Arc suit is named Smith, who asks her to go through the initiation module, but Atlas refuses to let Smith into her brain. That’s the same reason she doesn’t wear the neural link device and overrides Smith to walk towards the rescue pod. Walking in with a suit as big as the Hulk Buster is not easy, but she can’t take flight because of Harlan’s drone roaming around. After a while, she discovers the dead rangers at the drop point. Smith scans for vital signs, but nobody has survived the drones. Atlas collects the dog tags of the dead rangers. She is soon surrounded by Harlan’s soldiers, and she sees Casca, whom she killed back on Earth. Casca and the other robots chase Atlas, and Smith tells Atlas that she can swivel the shoulder cannons to fight back. Seeing no way out, Atlas tells Smith to charge the ion bomb at them. Smith warns her that this might not be the best option, but she fires it anyway. After the dust clears, Atlas sees that everything has turned to ashes. Casca has survived the blast, and he comes to get Atlas. The ion bomb has created a sinkhole, and both of them fall into it. Atlas breaks a bone in her leg in this, and Smith fixes it right up while distracting her with a pinch of sarcasm. The damage to the suit has impacted its battery, and Smith tells Atlas that their only shot at survival is if they sync. Atlas finally wears the neural link, and they sync. Since Atlas is hesitant about it still, it stops the sync midway. She lets him into her brain, having no other choice, and our protagonist is now ready to take on Harlan. 


How does Harlan capture Atlas?

Atlas uses motion sensors and thermal mines to trap Casca and successfully kill him. She continues the journey to rescue the pod through a cavern, but Smith detects that they’re nearby Harlan’s base. Atlas wants to attack Harlan, but Smith tells her that it’s best if they don’t. She ignores his advice and continues the venture anyway, and they reach Harlan’s base. It’s an underground city that has been built after 28 years of scavenging and stealing equipment. Atlas goes closer and sees the spacecraft she came in being pulled apart. Harlan’s robots are taking the warheads out of it, and she realizes that Harlan is going to use them to destroy Earth. Suddenly, Atlas sees that Smith’s firewall has been breached, and he’s being hacked. Before she could do anything, Smith shut off. Casca is back again, and by this point, we can assume that there are multiple Cascas. Harlan captures Atlas and puts Arc/Smith on restraint. 

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What was Harlan’s plan?

Harlan’s men tie Atlas down, and she sees Colonel Elias lying unconscious right next to her. Harlan comes to pay a visit and tells Atlas how much he loves her mother and her. Harlan waited for 28 years to come up with this plan. He willingly sent Casca down to Earth so that Atlas would figure out where he’s hiding. The shield Atlas put up all around Earth is impenetrable, and Harlan couldn’t bypass Earth’s defenses without two clearance codes. Now he has Elias, who has already given him the first code, and he easily takes the second code from Atlas. Harlan leaves after acquiring both codes, leaving Atlas to die since she has five minutes of oxygen left in her respirator. Half-dead Elias cracks a joke to Atlas and asks her if her Arc is around. She tells him that he’s powered down, and then Elias gives her his own neural link device to call Smith. The Arc suits can’t be completely shut down if their reactors are not destroyed, and this gives Atlas a shot to fight back again. She calls Smith, who didn’t respond before. She badmouths him a bit. I guess even men who are programmed with code and don’t have a heart need a woman to shout at them before they get things done. Smith tells her that he can’t get out of the restraint if she doesn’t let him sync fully, but she refuses to let him in still. Seeing there’s no other choice, Atlas tells Smith and Elias that Harlan’s going rogue is her fault. When she was a kid, it bugged her that her mother loved Smith more than her. She let Harlan access the neural link for it to work both ways, and when Harlan got the command, he saw how humans were destroying their own world and are harmful to others. Atlas breaks down in tears, revisiting her worst trauma and what happened after that. Smith reassures Atlas and frees her. Now that they are fully synced, Smith and Atlas go on to take on Harlan.


How does Atlas save the Earth?

Harlan has extracted every weapon from Smith, except a chest cannon, which was undocumented, so he missed it. Elias gets back up somehow, saying he could still fight like a boss. Atlas tells Smith to upgrade with scraps of a pipe, Zoe’s mechanical arm, and a saw blade. They go out to fight Harlan’s army, and just when it seems too much, Elias fires at tanks of rocket fuel to set off an explosion, killing the army effectively. His sacrifice breaks Atlas’ heart, but she fights off an entire army soon. Just when it seems like she has the upper hand, Harlan shows up with a rocket launcher. Harlan’s warship with the nuclear warheads inside takes off, and Atlas plans to shoot it down. She tells Smith to hack into their system and deactivate the warheads, and he does it just in time. Atlas shoots the craft down, and Harlan is not happy about it. Harlan, with a lightsaber-like sword, starts to pierce right through Smith, and Atlas finds herself in a losing situation. Atlas asks Smith to anticipate Harlan’s fighting pattern, and Smith manages to neutralize Harlan. Harlan still gets back up and hits Smith in a critical spot, and Atlas gets unconscious. Smith takes Atlas out of the suit and tries to revive her, but Harlan starts to hit Smith to defuse his reactor. Smith shuts off, but Harlan sees Atlas has escaped, and Atlas strikes him from behind to end the battle. 

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Smith transfers the rest of the oxygen to Atlas’ respirator and tells her that ICN forces are on their way. Atlas thanks Smith for being the better version of Harlan. By the end of the film, Atlas is back on Earth, and she has become a Ranger herself. She has designed an improved ARC suit, and Smith greets her, saying, “Welcome back, Ranger.”


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Aniket Mukherjee
Aniket Mukherjee
Aniket is a literature student pursuing his master's degree while trying to comprehend Joyce and Pound. When his head is not shoved in books, he finds solace in cinema and his heart beats for poetry, football, and Adam Sandler in times.

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