Atlas (2024) Ending Explained – Does Atlas kill Harlan?

Atlas (2024) Plot Summary

Jennifer Lopez’s latest work on screen is Atlas, a dystopian sci-fi thriller on Netflix. It revolves around an intelligent analyst named Atlas Shepherd, who has a deep mistrust of artificial intelligence due to her past. Her mother was a talented scientist who created an AI named Harlan but the AI surpassed his security controls and turned on humanity, taking every other AI with him. They killed millions of people and as Harlan was hunted down, he left the planet.

Now, twenty-eight years later, one of Harlan’s colleagues has been found. Atlas finds Harlan’s location and then joins the mission to capture him. The team, led by Elias Banks, is using ARCs — piloted robots with which Elias and the others have formed a neural link that transfers information both ways, combining the human and the AI.

Naturally, Atlas distrusts this. However, the mission is ambushed and she ends up the only survivor who is forced to work with an ARC named Smith. But do they fare well? What happens to Atlas? Read on to get a full explanation of the movie’s ending.

Does Atlas sync with Smith?

Atlas tries to use Smith to get to an escape pod on the planet she is stranded on. Despite the AI’s warnings, she doesn’t use the neural link to sync with Smith and controls the bot manually. At one point, she is ambushed and ends up stuck underground. In order to survive, she is forced to wear the neural link. She and Smith sync, although only partially because of Atlas’s distrust of AIs. It’s enough to get them out of the ground.

They then investigate Harlan’s base on the planet and find that he’s using the ship Elias and his team were on. He plans to use the ship’s warheads to destroy Earth. Just as she realises this, she ends up getting captured by Harlan, who reveals that it was always his plan to lure her and the ship to his planet. After all, he needs the clearance codes in her head that will grant him access through the protective shield around Earth. He then leaves her to die, with only a few minutes of oxygen left.

What was the truth behind Harlan’s actions?

A heavily injured Elias, who Harlan also captured, tells Atlas that she can still connect with Smith, who can’t be fully powered down unless he’s destroyed. With Elias’s neural link, Atlas gets in contact with Smith. Smith tells her she needs to sync with him to 100% for him to help her. Finally, Atlas reveals what happened in the past.

Jealous of her mother favouring Harlan, a young Atlas asked him to make her better and smarter. On her command, he made the neural link work both ways to connect him with Atlas. Because of all the destruction and war he witnessed through Atlas’s knowledge, Harlan believed humanity had to be sacrificed.

That’s how he turned on everyone and even killed Atlas’ mother. At present, Smith tells her she isn’t responsible for something that happened when she was a child. Trusting Smith now, Atlas fully syncs with him. They’re back in action.

Does Atlas defeat Harlan?

With only a few minutes till Harlan launches the warheads, Smith and Atlas use the things around them to give the machine an upgrade. Atlas starts to fight the horde of AIs awaiting them but it’s Elias who creates an explosion, sacrificing himself, to save her. She rushes towards the ships with the warheads. The ship takes off but even with Harlan attacking her, Atlas and Smith work together to shoot the ship down.

Harlan refuses to step back though and a fight ensues. Atlas loses consciousness at one point and Smith keeps trying to revive her but gets beaten by Harlan in the process. At the last minute, Atlas wakes up and attacks Harlan from behind. She then takes his CPU, with Harlan warning her that she only defeated him with the help of AI. She tells him that Smith is the better version of him.

What happens to Smith?

Atlas then goes to Smith, but he’s extremely damaged and begins disengaging the neural link so she can go home on her own. Atlas tries to make him stop but he gives her a small coffee flavoured eatable, says thank you, and shuts down. A few moments later, Atlas is met by a rescue team sent by General Boothe, her boss.

How does Atlas end?

Sometime later, Boothe visits Atlas, who seems in much better shape and mood than she was at the beginning of the film. She’s working as a ranger now and not just an analyst. He gives her the plant that was found in Smith’s machine, which they found on the planet they were stranded on. Atlas then goes to work and links with a new model of the ARC, who is Smith, welcoming her back.

Read More: Atlas Movie Review

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