The notion of the 'Netflix blockbuster' is one of the more curious developments in the cinematic landscape in recent years – with the streamer having released a glut of big-budget, star-studded films that perform reasonably well on their addition to the library but fail to leave much lasting impact.


The latest film to fall into that category is sci-fi thriller Atlas, which stars Jennifer Lopez as Atlas Shepherd – a grumpy, proudly antisocial data analyst with a fierce distrust of artificial intelligence.

Well, that stance proves to be an issue when the rest of her team is wiped out on a mission to capture an "AI terrorist" named Harlan (Simu Liu), leaving her with no option but to confront her prejudices and bond – both figuratively and literally – with a robot called Smith who communicates with her from inside a giant armoured suit.

As she prepares to do battle with Harlan, we learn that he was created by her mother and raised as a brother – leading to a major confrontation in the final act.

If you've seen the film and need a brief recap or explanation about what goes down in the final scenes, read on to have the Atlas ending explained.

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Atlas ending explained: How does Atlas defeat Harlan?

Out of desperation – and partly due to her growing dynamic with Smith – Atlas accepts that the only way to defeat Harlan is to sync with Smith, which allows them to work together to fight off the robots Harlan has sent after them.

Eventually, they get to Harlan's base and discover that he has a warhead which could spell disaster for Earth. Soon after their arrival, Harlan is able to use his hacking prowess to shut down Smith and then explains to Atlas that while he still loves her as his sister, he has no choice but to wipe out humanity given the threat he believes the species poses.

It also becomes apparent that Harlan has been pulling the stings from the get go, and had deliberately lured Atlas to his compound so that she could provide him with the codes he needs to bypass Earth's security systems. Although she is not happy to comply, he proceeds to torture her in an attempt to get the codes before leaving her for dead.

Things don't look very hopeful at this point, but just at this desperate moment, Atlas's superior Colonel Banks – who had been captured by Harlan earlier – wakes up and gives her his 'neural link', which she will be able to use to bring Smith back.

Jennifer Lopez as Atlas Shepherd and Simu Liu as Harlan in Atlas
Jennifer Lopez as Atlas Shepherd and Simu Liu as Harlan in Atlas Netflix

The only way this can work is for Smith and Atlas to achieve a 100% sync, which requires Atlas to lay bare all her deepest concerns and secrets and in doing so we learn the root of her distrust of AI: she was responsible for accidentally giving Harlan the power that he now wields by reprogramming him due to the jealousy she felt since he received more attention from her mother.

Atlas manages to achieve the sync and sets after Harlan, and together with Smith she is successful in deactivating and destroying the missile with which he plans to destroy Earth before attempting to flee in an escape pod as Harlan's base is set ablaze.

Before she can escape she is confronted once again by Harlan and the two become embroiled in an epic battle, that briefly sees Atlas lose consciousness only for her to eventually emerge victorious and kill Harlan.

During the fight, Smith has his fusion reactor stabbed by Harlan and begins to shut down, using his last reserves of energy to provide Atlas with enough oxygen such that she can escape back to Earth.

In the final scenes, we see that Atlas is now employed as a ranger with a new robot companion – and when she steps inside it turns out he has the same voice as Smith and already knows all about her. When she ask his name, he simply answers "guess" – implying that this robot is essentially a recreation of Smith.

Atlas is now streaming on Netflix. Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.


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