Producers: Brad Peyton, Jeff Fierson, Joby Harold, Tory Tunnell, Jennifer Lopez, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Benny Medina, Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter  Director: Brad Peyton   Screenplay: Leo Sardarian and Aron Eli Coleite   Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Simu Liu, Gregory James Cohan, Sterling K. Brown, Abraham Popoola, Mark Strong, Lana Parrilla and Briella Guiza  Distributor: Netflix

Grade: C-

Netflix scores a twofer with “Atlas.”  It’s at once another of the streaming service’s bad sci-fi action movies, and another bad Jennifer Lopez vehicle.  It gets a third strike for being incredibly boring. 

The script involves a premise that’s quickly becoming a fallback in such pictures—the danger to humanity posed by AI.  Nearly thirty years ago brilliant scientist Val Shepherd (Lana Parrilla) created androids controlled by artificial intelligence to serve mankind, making sure that they were unable to harm their human masters.  One such was Harlan (Simu Liu), the house servant of Val and her daughter Atlas (Briella Guiza).  But somehow Harlan was liberated from the prohibition against self-awareness and turned into a terrorist bent on leading a rebellion against human domination.  Mankind responded by joining together to crush the threat, but Harlan escaped into space, vowing to return.

Now Casca Decius (Abraham Popoola), one of Harlan’s agents, has been captured, and General Jake Boothe (Mark Strong), head of the international anti-AI force, insists on bringing in Atlas (now Lopez) to interrogate him.  She succeeds in using her skills to uncover the planet Harlan is hiding on, though she doesn’t even ask a most perplexing question: why does the prisoner have a name drawn from ancient Roman nomenclature, a curiously normal practice in movies of this kind nowadays?

In any event, a mission led by ramrod-straight Col. Elias Banks (Sterling K. Brown) is assembled to proceed to the planet and end the Harlan threat, and despite Banks’s reservations, Atlas is added as the person who knows the fugitive best.  Each crew member is paired with a big robotic mecha equipped with AI, and Atlas, with her innate aversion to the technology, objects: indeed, she demurs even to enter the contraption until the mission goes awry and the landing craft comes under fire from Harlan’s weaponry. She clambers into the unit, which carries her to the surface as the ship explodes.

Now ensconced within her mecha, Atlas still refuses to link her mind with its AI component, which calls itself Smith (voiced by Gregory James Cohan)—until the robot carries her to the drop point and she finds the bodies of her fellow humans.  Apparently the sole survivor of the mission, she reluctantly accedes to Smith’s suggestion that they meld mentally to allow for more effective military action. Naturally they bond “emotionally” over time too.

The movie ends at Harlan’s base of operations, where, in a sequence familiar from innumerable books and movies, he gleefully explains his clever scheme for humanity’s decimation and rule by his kind to the captured Atlas and Smith (as well as to Banks, another survivor), and exults over how all has gone according to plan.  It’s here, as well, that a traumatic memory Atlas has been suppressing since childhood is revealed, explaining why she feels such terrible guilt over what happened with Harlan. That compels Atlas to fully integrate with Smith in order to have any chance of defeating the villain.  But can they do so before time runs out?  What do you think?

This save-the-world-from-humanity’s-own-mistakes scenario is played out in pedestrian style despite an infusion of occasional blowsy, but no doubt expensive, CGI action sequences.  The direction by Brad Peyton, who’s previously worked on several of Dwayne Johnson movies (“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” “San Andreas” and “Rampage”) is surprisingly flaccid, and the lethargic editing by Bob Ducsay makes it all the worse; visually the messy CGI and dully dark-toned images favored by Barry Chusid’s production design and John Schwartzman’s cinematography are unlikely to spur much viewer interest, nor will Andrew Lockington’s brassy, booming score.

Some of the actors—Liu, Brown and Popoola most notably—try to amp things up by playing to the rafters, but others, like Strong, merely sit back, apparently recognizing the futility of attempting to energize things.  As for Lopez, she shows a few flashes of verve in the initial sequences on earth, but once the mission launches she settles into drearily “what does it matter” mode.  It surely doesn’t help that for much of the running-time we see only her face through the window of the mecha, scrunched into various expressions that only succeed in making her appear perpetually constipated.  The sense of pain may also be explained by Atlas’ generally banal running conversation with Smith, whom Cohan endows with a whimsical monotone that ultimately grows—you guessed it—monotonous.  He’s certainly no Douglas Rain.

Ultimately “Atlas” might make you feel a bit like the original mythological Titan who, you remember, was punished by having to carry the weight of heaven on his shoulders.  It was an exhausting task, and after two hours of watching this movie you’ll be tired, too.  Happily, he had to do it forever; you can always resort to the off button.