My Take on Atlas Shrugged the Movie

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.

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  • What discerning tastes could possibly enjoy modern film? I’ve been to many productions both “blockbuster” and independent since 1995 and I’ve yet to see any that I thought had serious integrity. While this new Atlas Shrugged does come off as a bit made for TV, I enjoyed it and thought they did a pretty good job considering the nature of Atlas Shrugged and the nature of their act, delineating Aristolean genius in a way that can be somewhat palatable to the masses of idiots out there. Atlas Shrugged is truly a classical masterpiece, and if you understand the term classical as I do, I think you’ll understand the implications of my defining it as such. Our modern world has lost its Aristocracy and Atlas Shrugged is the final cry of one woman to restore it until we go the way of so many great Republics before us. Today, even those who have the potential for greatness are so self-immolating that they never achieve it. I hope Atlas Shrugged can wake up a few to the ideals that once made Western culture great, but it is too little and too late. Millenia ago Hellenic Jew and Early Christians set out to dismantle Western greatness one chip at a time. Today, our monuments lie in ruins. We have allowed the greatness of Greece and Rome to be replaced by a constant stream of sacrifices. If you understand the Greek, I say its time for one final holocaust. Only this time, let us place Christianity and all of its derivatives upon the altar and consume it in flame for their false god. Maybe then Western men can return to the greatness of their heritage and we can end these years of self-imposed imprisonment to the ideals of bronze age desert nomads.