Where and When Does Atlas Take Place?

Image Credit: Ana Carballosa/Netflix

In Netflix’s ‘Atlas,’ Jennifer Lopez plays the titular role and becomes the only person who can defeat humanity’s mortal enemy. The series focuses on the mission to find and bring to justice the AI leader who terrorized the Earth, killed millions of people, and, even when he was chased away, remained a constant threat to the delicate balance of peace and prosperity of the human world. Lopez’s character, Atlas, joins the team that is sent to hunt down the villain, named Harlan, but she finds it difficult due to her deep mistrust of the AI, which has become an integral part of human life despite the dangers posed by it previously. The setting of the story plays an important role in bringing out its themes that feel all the more relevant due to the conversation developing around AI. SPOILERS AHEAD

Atlas Takes Place in a Not-So-Distant Future

Image Credit: Ana Carballosa/Netflix

The events in Atlas begin sometime in the 2040s. Around this time, AI has developed quite a lot from what we see right now. Still, it has yet to grow by leaps and bounds. We see a young Atlas use a smartphone that follows the same algorithm that social media does, presenting the same content repeatedly based on a user’s choice, but it is much more advanced in the way it works. Around the same time, Atlas’s mother is working on an AI and is about to make a major breakthrough in her research that will change the world. But then, something catastrophic happens, and the AI that was supposed to change the world for the better becomes the very thing intent on destroying it.

The show then jumps almost three decades, landing somewhere in the 2070s, where the major portion of the film takes place. Because it is only about fifty years into the future, the filmmakers wanted the movie to feel realistic but also have some connections to the real world, especially when it comes to humanity’s relationship with AI.

Director Brad Peyton revealed that he talked with futurists, specifically in connection with AI, and how its presence will continue to grow in our lives. The conversations made it clear to him that it would be wrong to present AI as simply the villain of the story because things don’t really work that way. He asserted that it is “a tool, and much like a hammer, it can be used for good or bad.” This encouraged him to focus on portraying both the good and the bad side of AI, allowing it to deepen the conversation surrounding the subject, especially with the developments in recent years.

The Events of Atlas Encompass Galaxies

Image Credit: Ana Carballosa/Netflix

The conflict in ‘Atlas’ begins on Earth, and it begins with a futuristic Los Angeles. This is where the titular character lives, trying to win the fight against evil robots and saving humanity. To match the setting of the story, the filmmakers created a version of the world that would give it a vibe of something like ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘Back to the Future Part II,’ but also feel more grounded in some sense to the audience. Interestingly, the film received the prototype of a 2030 DeLorean that appears in the background in one scene of the film.

Peyton revealed that the company had already designed the prototype and was more than willing to have it in the film, even if it is for a blink-and-you-’ll-miss-it moment. The presence of the tech that is yet to be unveiled to the world made the director feel like he was adding something of the future to the movie, giving him some satisfaction about portraying a world that actually has future tech in it.

While the Earth and its survival remain central to the story, the main action takes place about 2.5 million light-years away on a planet called GR-39 in Andromeda Galaxy. This is where Harlan, the AI hell-bent on destroying humanity and changing the order of things, hides out for three decades, planning his return. It is to stop him that Atlas and her team travel there and embark on the most difficult mission of their lives.

Read More: Is Netflix’s Atlas Based on a Novel or a Comic Book?