Friday, April 15, 2011

Across the Board Negative Reviews for 'Atlas Shrugged, Part 1'

Is this an attack by socialist movie reviewers, or is it that bad of a movie?

Greg Mitchell at the Huffington Post writes:

It takes a lot to get a 0% at the mass market critics' consensus site Rotten Tomatoes. Pick an awful movie you can think of and it probably managed a 5% or maybe even a 25%. Somehow, Atlas Shrugged, Part I (yes, more to look forward to!), which opens Friday, has at this writing achieved the rare feat.

In other words, not a single critic to date, from major and minor outlet, high or lowest of low of lowbrow, likes it one bit.
Here's a sampling of reviews put together by Mitchell:
Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer: "Atlas Shrugged. I arched eyebrow, scrunched forehead, yawned."

Roger Ebert: "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."

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: "The book was published in 1957, yet the clumsiness of this production makes it seem antediluvian."

Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: "It has taken decades to bring Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" to the big screen.They should have waited longer."
Kurt Loder, the former Rolling Stone writer, for the Libertarian site, Reason Online: "The new, long-awaited film version of Atlas Shrugged is a mess, full of embalmed talk, enervated performances, impoverished effects, and cinematography that would barely pass muster in a TV show. Sitting through this picture is like watching early rehearsals of a stage play that's clearly doomed."
Peter Dubruge, Variety: "Part one of a trilogy that may never see completion, this hasty, low-budget adaptation would have Ayn Rand spinning in her grave."
Washington Post: "Nearly as stilted, didactic and simplistic as Rand's free-market fable."
Loren King, Boston Globe: "Even fans of Rand's 1957 antigovernment manifesto may balk at having to endure dialogue that would be banal on the Lifetime channel, along with wooden performances..."

NOTE: My review of Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 is here.


  1. Maybe there IS a problem. Maybe the problem can be traced back at least as far as the screenwriter, an interview of whom I watched on You Tube a few days ago.

    The guy's a fat pig. Absolutely enormous, just like a glutton would be. It's not hard to figure out that he's neither going to know what's most important in a book that's not mearly a screed for capitalism nor be able to excercise good judgement when paring it down to a script.

    Of course, the screenwriter didn't hire the sreenwriter.

  2. 'Washington Post: "Nearly as stilted, didactic and simplistic as Rand's free-market fable."'

    A fable which has proven remarkably prescient. Now, if they use all those words in connection to Krugman's economic analysis or the WP's own articles, we might be closer to the truth. What's their predictive track record?

  3. I'd rather see a new film of her first full length novel, We the Living. Gets across many of the same ideas with a lot less didactic speechifying and far more complex characters. There's a WW II era Italian film of WTL, which I still haven't seen, but I believe it was heavily tinkered with by the Fascist authorities at the time.

  4. You asked, "It this an attack by socialist movie reviewers, or is it that bad of a movie?"

    Looks like both.


  5. Possibly a bit of both. On one hand, I can see how it would be difficult to make a film that's true to the spirit of the book; a lot of what makes it interesting just wouldn't translate easily to a film script. But on the other hand, Rand is one of those writers that provokes strong reactions from almost everyone (even those who've never read her work), so my guess is that the reviews would've been intensely negative even if the film is really good. Remember, this is an industry that gave this piece of crap an Oscar.

    It might suck, but I'll reserve my judgment until I've actually seen it.

  6. GSL, you have reminded me of an encounter that I had last summer in Chicago with a cashier at Whole Foods.

    The girl asked me how my day had been, at which point I responded that it'd been fine. I'd been reading on the rooftop deck, I told her. So she asked me what I'd been reading. "Atlas Shrugged", I told her.

    Well, a sourpuss appeared almost immediately. It disappeared almost as fast once I asked a few probing questions to find out if she'd read it. As it turned out, she'd read not a word of it. Her strong reactions had been provoked not at all by Rand.

  7. How would a socialist or statist be able to sit though a movie like Atlas Shrugged? If I had to sit through a Mike Moore film or one glorifying a collectivist state, I would find it unbearable. My guess is the film is probably closer to the quality of an independent film then your typical big studio production. I would also assume that these reviewers, most of them anyhow, intended on writing a bad review long before they entered the theater. Only a moron would go to a film that cost $10mil and five weeks to make and expect it to be anything better then your typical indy film.

  8. @Anonymous: Funny, I had a similar encounter in a book club meeting a few years ago. Wonder if it was the same woman?

  9. GSL, if only it had been the same woman. Alas, the mental disorder of those two is widespread. Also entertaining is the conversation with a person who is astonished to hear that yes, I enjoy the book but no, I'm not a Randian.

    I'm not familiar with all of the reviewers mentioned above, but I'd bet you that at least a few of them have spotted signs that they would be villains or friends of the villians in Atlas Shrugged. So of course, they are eager to pay it as little attention as they can get away with before throwing some mud at it and moving on to the next source of stimulation.

    One remark was especially humorous. Loren King called the book an "antigovernment manifesto". Apparently Loren, too, hasn't read it, at least not carefully. Rand hated anarchists and was so in love with the Constitution that we may as well call her a conservative and a Federalist. It is pleasant to imagine Loren complaining now that "antigovernment" doesn't mean anarchistic but statist.

    A and not-A: So difficult a concept for some to process and to incorporate into their thinking.