Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez

'Atlas' explores unlikely love between human and AI

Jennifer Lopez talks about playing an AI-fighting data analyst in her latest film, Atlas, the challenges of shooting alone on set, and what it takes for her to trust people

How would you describe 'Atlas'?

'Atlas' is an exciting sci-fi action movie, but it also has an interesting love story at its heart. The story takes you forward 100 years to a future where AI has taken over and is threatening the end of humanity. It opens up the conversation about the good and bad side of technology.

What can you tell us about your character?

I play data analyst Atlas Shepherd, who is on a mission to another planet to retrieve a renegade robot. She is someone who doesn’t trust AI. But what happens to her and Smith, the AI operating the robot, starts to challenge that.

How do you explain the love story given you spend much of the film alone, trapped inside the robot?

The film is about this beautiful relationship between, not two people, but Atlas and Smith, the AI. It really is like an odd love story as my character is forced to interact with this AI and it in-turn starts to break down the barriers. The experience of having to interact with Smith, and then understanding it, makes them both more human in a way.

How challenging were those scenes when it’s just you inside the robot?

Very challenging, lonely and also exhausting. It was a lot of reacting to things that were not really there and having to imagine these incredible situations that you see in the movie. It was just me alone in what felt like very much a one-woman show. I was so glad in the last couple of weeks of filming when Sterling K Brown and Simu Liu showed up (laughs).

A still from Atlas
A still from Atlas

What did the robot scene look like for you on set?

Lots of green screen and X-marks, where things were going to be added later. For the big fight scenes with other robots—the explosions and everything—some guys would physically shake the pod I was in, so I got to feel it and had something to work with.

You are someone who likes to look after yourself. Does that level of fitness help in a role like this?

Absolutely. I try to stay as athletic as I can, but this was challenging in a way that was different from anything I had done before because this is a character that doesn’t start out as some kind of action hero. She’s kind of thrown into the action as part of the situation she finds herself in and has to adapt.

Sterling K Brown plays Colonel Elias Banks. How was getting to work with him?

It felt great to work with such an amazing actor. And compared to the robot scenes, it all just felt so simple to look into another person’s eyes, and be in the moment. But, Sterling makes it so easy. He’s an incredible actor. You really do just have to look at him to know what you need to do.

What is the significance of your character’s change of hairstyle in the end?

There was a line, that got taken out from the beginning of the movie, where Atlas is told how her hair was always messy as a little girl because nobody combed it and nobody cared. As she got older, her hair was still messy because she didn’t care about herself. She didn’t let anybody in. So, the hair is a kind of metaphor for her messy life up to having this experience that changes it forever. By finally letting someone in, she is transformed into a different, stronger person. That is what love does to you.

The movie deals with the subject of trust. What does it take for you to trust someone?

I am kind of the opposite of Atlas. I am all about love and trust, but it does sometimes take time for me to trust. I think we can trust too quickly, and then realise we shouldn’t have. It all depends on the person, but I am lucky to have people in my life I can trust.

Finally, what do you hope audiences take away from watching 'Atlas'?

I hope they are thrilled by the action, but I also hope it starts conversations about how we use AI, and how we need to be responsible and careful. We must not let it get away from us.

-----Asia features

The New Indian Express