Friday, April 15, 2011

In Review: Atlas Shrugged, Part 1

Perhaps the greatest tribute professional movie reviewers could have paid to Atlas Shrugged, Part 1  (based on the novel by Ayn Rand) is to have universally panned the movie the way that they did, for the movie is about independent thinking and most reviewers have come to think of themselves as people who tell other people how to think.

It was not by accident that in her novel, The Fountainhead, Rand made the evil Ellsworth Toohey a newspaper critic.  Toohey’s power existed entirely in his ability to scribble his column and tell non-thinkers how to think. Toohey had no impact on individuals, thinkers and creators, and thus he attacked them, in a manner not different from the way reviewers have attacked Atlas Shrugged, Part 1.

Could reviewers have sensed Rand's attitude toward them in Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, in its non-stop promotion of individuals and independent thinking? Did the movie strike at the core?

How much more Ellsworth Toohey-like can you get than Roger Ebert's snarky comment about the movie and Rand's philosophy:
I figured it [the movie] might provide a parable of Ayn Rand’s philosophy that I could discuss. For me, that philosophy reduces itself to: "I’m on board; pull up the lifeline."
But enough about Toohey (and Ebert), the movie itself is very true to the novel. It has been decades since I have read Atlas Shrugged, but the movie brought back memories of even the pace and tone of the novel.

That said, it is not like any other movie you will ever see. It is not about special effects. It is not about actors portraying real life characters. It is about actors portraying heroes and villains the way Rand created them in her novel. The stunning beauty, Bette Davis eyes, and heroic presence of Taylor Schilling would have been exactly what Rand would have wanted to see in an actress who portrays Dagny Taggart.

Most important about the movie is that it does the courageous and ignores conventions, in order to get Rand's ideas across (including her idea that one should ignore conventions). The movie is  a movie about ideas. Ideas that can be discussed and debated for a long time. The movie was created in a manner to fit the novel and indeed it was successful in that. Other filmmakers won't and shouldn't mimic the style of this movie. This movie is about a very unique novel and is successful because it is created in a unique manner to fit the tone and theme of the novel. Form fitting function, if you will.

I have no idea how successful the movie will be in a popular sense, but I do suspect it will become an underground favorite for ages. It's a movie that can be seen many times, simply because of the number of ideas and concepts that are packed into the film.

There's a lot to Rand's philosophy, mostly good and some unusual (including her penchant for having heroes blow things up), and this film does a magnificent job of being true to Rand's ideas, which means there is very, very much that can be discussed. And, I do hope it is a commercial success so that there is a Part 2 and Part 3.


  1. I had some trepidation attending the movie tonight given that the movie was virtually universally panned by critics, and it was difficult to believe that they could all be that biased to blatantly lie in their reviews.

    However, there is no limit to the corruption of those who would overlord over us or proxy their lordship over us to others.

    Of course, it's just possible the movie reviewers are pinheads. If there were lines in this movie that Roger Ebert couldn't understand, it just goes to show how few neurons actually fire in that "intellectual-elite's" mind.

    This movie was great, and it had a packed audience cheering at the end (which was awesome, BTW). The really weird part is how believable the political scumbags are in this movie. It's almost like they just copy and pasted that dialog from the Drudge Report on any given day.

  2. Good point about Ellsworth Toohey.

    "The movie is a movie about ideas. Ideas that can be discussed and debated for a long time."

    But Roger Ebert does not review others' ideas per se. Rather, he reviews a means by which the senses are entertained and emotional responses elicited with flasing lights and with sounds.

    Thus, "Atlas Shrugged", the movie, provides Ebert will little or no work to do in proportion to the movie's faithfulness to the novel. In fact, his flippant quip, which reads like a cheap shot, betrays that he never read the book which he pretends to understand. (Recall the rescue scene in Part III.)

    "Ebert has described his critical approach to films as 'relative, not absolute'".


  3. You should watch this scene if you haven't already:

    "Put that in writing. That you want to stop your men from working and earning a wage."

    Oh yeah, one more thing. It shouldn't take long for the usual suspects to start clucking that the director is a racist.

  4. Ebert doesn't know, and he doesn't know he doesn't know.

  5. It's certainly mixed, but overall enjoyable as entertainment. I recommend that people go see it. Take along a friend who might not otherwise read the book; perhaps the movie and your influence will change his or her mind.

    More on my take here: