Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roger Ebert Rips 'Atlas Shrugged, Part 1'

Well, it's clear from his review that Ebert is not a Randian, nor libertarian, indeed, it's very clear that he has an attitude about the entire libertarian view, but if his prejudices didn't color his view of the movie, it's one bad movie. From the review:

I feel like my arm is all warmed up and I don’t have a game to pitch. I was primed to review "Atlas Shrugged." I figured it 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." There are however people who take Ayn Rand even more seriously than comic-book fans take "Watchmen." I expect to receive learned and sarcastic lectures on the pathetic failings of my review.

And now I am faced with this movie, the most anticlimactic non-event since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Capone’s vault. I suspect only someone very familiar with Rand’s 1957 novel could understand the film at all, and I doubt they will be happy with it. For the rest of us, it involves a series of business meetings in luxurious retro leather-and-brass board rooms and offices, and restaurants and bedrooms that look borrowed from a hotel no doubt known as the Robber Baron Arms.

During these meetings, everybody drinks. More wine is poured and sipped in this film than at a convention of oenophiliacs. There are conversations in English after which I sometimes found myself asking, "What did they just say?" The dialogue seems to have been ripped throbbing with passion from the pages of Investors’ Business Daily....

. Rarely, perhaps never, has television news covered the laying of new railroad track with the breathless urgency of the news channels shown in this movie.

So OK. Let’s say you know the novel, you agree with Ayn Rand, you’re an objectivist or a libertarian, and you’ve been waiting eagerly for this movie. Man, are you going to get a letdown. It’s not enough that a movie agree with you, in however an incoherent and murky fashion. It would help if it were like, you know, entertaining?

The movie is constructed of a few kinds of scenes: (1) People sipping their drinks in clubby surroundings and exchanging dialogue that sounds like corporate lingo; (2) railroads, and lots of ’em; (3) limousines driving through cities in ruin and arriving at ornate buildings; (4) city skylines; (5) the beauties of Colorado. There is also a love scene, which is shown not merely from the waist up but from the ears up. The man keeps his shirt on. This may be disappointing for libertarians, who I believe enjoy rumpy-pumpy as much as anyone.

Oh, and there is Wisconsin. Dagny and Hank ride blissfully in Taggart’s new high-speed train, and then Hank suggests they take a trip to Wisconsin, where the state’s policies caused the suppression of an engine that runs on the ozone in the air, or something (the film’s detailed explanation won’t clear this up). They decide to drive there. That’s when you’ll enjoy the beautiful landscape photography of the deserts of Wisconsin. My advice to the filmmakers: If you want to use a desert, why not just refer to Wisconsin as "New Mexico"?

Read the full review here.


  1. Geez, Roger, put that hatchet away and watch the f'ing movie. I can understand a serious critic hating a movie, but this really sounds like he was bound and determined to hate it even if it was Citizen Kane.

    I'm ambivalent about Rand but the novel holds a place in my heart. So, I'll reserve all judgment and ignore the reviews until I've seen it myself.

  2. Ebert lost me decades ago. His reviews almost always have a snobbish, elitist air about them.

    And I rarely ever agreed with him.

    Still, his choice, my choice, live and let live, no?


    His choice here to use ", you know..." sums it up for me.

    If he can't be bothered, at minimum, to either make an effort to understand or to admit to his ignorance about his subject, his "opinion" is pretty much worthless.

    Another Chicago hack (I've lived here since '65, seen 'em all).


  3. Hmmm...I suspect that Ebert sympathizes with the villains but does not understand the criticism of them or their bad ideas. Poor Roger. Maybe he's even involved with something like Friends of Global Progress or has good friends who are.

  4. You know what would be pretty cool? It would be pretty cool if "Atlas Shrugged" spawned a renaissance of intercity passenger railroad travel operated by PRIVATE companies.

    Of course, government would have to get out of the way and, furthermore, to stop subsidizing alternate means of transport such as interstate highways and airports and the automobile manufacturers and aircraft manufacturers. Once those subsidies are eliminated, intercity passenger rail travel might--might--become economical again.

    Of course, this could bring enourmous savings in terms of fuel consumption (bonus!) and even make the environmentalists happy for the obvious reason that CO2 emissions would fall.

    But what leftist will dare to let itself believe that the great villain, Ayn Rand, has a potential solution to these government-sponsored problems (e.g. the environmentalists, not the CO2)? It'll be fun to watch them sneer and spit their venom at those who make the obvious suggestions, inspired in part by "Atlas Shrugged".

    And, oh yeah, the hatred for the TSA's gropers might spur on public support for the policy changes required to let railroads live again, but this time without welfare from government.

  5. It sounds like Paul Krugman wrote this and then Ebert put his name on it.

  6. Another progressive has been exposed.

  7. "For me, that philosophy reduces itself to: "I’m on board; pull up the lifeline." There are however people who take Ayn Rand even more seriously than comic-book fans take "Watchmen.""

    Come on guys. This stuff is FUNNY. Regardless of what Ebert likes or doesn't like, this is pretty funny stuff.

  8. Wow, someone else who misunderstands Rand's philosophy. I mean it's not like she explains it AGAIN AND AGAIN. No, let's not bother to try to understand dialogue that isn't written with the subnormal primary school child in mind. I mean for god's sake the whole book is about how these people DON'T just look after their material interests. Every single sympathetic character could have had a physically more comfortable existence if they'd just cooperated with the lies, but let's ignore that and pretend they're all pricks.