I read Atlas Shrugged about three years ago. There is nothing in the movie not in the book and the stuff that is skipped is obviously skipped for the sake of time. It’s technically set in modern times, but with a heavy-handed attempt to pay homage to the art-deco, 1920s aesthetic of the book. The result is an awkward identity crises in terms of overall artistic intent and ends up just screaming ‘budget film’. The acting was rather atrocious, but when your screen-play is cut-and-pasted Ayn Rand, the writing doesn’t help either. Platitudes read on the page are far more believable than when stated in flesh and blood as normal dialogue. They worked very hard to avoid the sermonizing that is so characteristic of Rand and did a decent job of keeping things moving – though where to, you were never really certain. If you’re starved for rational ideas from the silver screen, it’s refreshing and invigorating to hear your ideology in the mouths of beautiful movie stars. But if you have much discerning taste regarding good movie making, you’ll be left wanting.
I went with two Rand fans who are not Objectivists but big sympathizers. They thoroughly enjoyed it. I think this is largely due to the fact that they were just excited to hear the anti-government, anti-welfare, pro-industry, pro-property message so clearly proclaimed. When I asked what they thought of the overall effect of the film outside of the ideas, their response was “well, it was an Indie film” as if this is supposed to excuse lack of creativity. I love a lot of Indie films precisely because they use their status and low budget to take a different approach to cinematic story-telling. If the creators of Atlas Shrugged the movie had started with a clear artistic/creative vision of how they wanted to tell the story rather than merely simply trying to translate Ayn Rand’s text to the screen, I think they could have really leveraged their status as a low-budget Indie film. As it is, it comes off as trying really hard to be a glossy, big-budget, epic film – and just falls flat.
That being said, I recognize that they potentially would have had thousands of Randroids all over them if they’d tried something too different from the text. Making movies of popular books is always a challenge and having a small budget is always a challenge. But the best art/storytelling views such limitations as opportunities for creativity, not defects to be disguised.
So should you go see it in theatres, should you wait for the DVD, or should you skip it altogether? Well, if you’re a libertarian, you should probably watch it at some point, especially if you haven’t and don’t want to read the book. It definitely gets the gist across in far less time. I wouldn’t recommend it as an introduction to free-market, anti-government ideas, though, as I think you have to already be sold on these ideas, or at least be considering them, to really enjoy the movie. It is a good excuse to go have a fun night out with friends or significant other who share your ideology. But if you prefer saving money, I would wait for the DVD.