Today was the day that many libertarians like myself have been waiting for...Atlas Shrugged has made it to the big screen. Well, part one has made it. The book is nearly 1200 pages, so one movie was not an option. (Part 2 is scheduled to be released 4/15/2012, Part 3 on 4/15/2013) The book was published in 1957, and continues to be a best seller to this day. However, Hollywood has never attempted to bring it to the big screen...and it still hasn't. This film was the production of independent, libertarian businessman John Aglialoro, who was passionate about bringing this story to theaters. The story, an exciting and dramatic ode to individualism, was Ayn Rand's attempt to explain her objectivist philosophy in the context of a world where achievement is clearly undervalued. Unfortunately, it is an enormous task to bring philosophy to the masses...especially the current American masses.
The movie begins in 2016 with Dagny Taggart running Taggart Transcontinental, the largest remaining railroad company in America, along with her brother James. Dagny, the true brains behind the operation, teams up with Hank Rearden of Rearden Steel to use the untested Rearden Metal, to rebuild the critical Taggart rail line in Colorado and pave the way for oil titan Ellis Wyatt to build a new American Renaissance. The pair face enormous challenges from the government, friends, and their own families, while discovering a love for one another.
First, let's focus on the positives. The cast was really good. Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart and Grant Bowler as Hank Rearden were excellent choices, and they each gave convincing performances. It is a difficult thing to come across as a smart, confident business person, while at the same time not seeming cold and heartless. It's a dynamic that is hard for some to understand, because of the constant reminders in the media of the "evil rich".
Even though the performances from the cast were very strong, the production value did not match up. I understand this movie was made on a limited budget, but it felt as though they tried to do too much with the budget they had. The result was a movie that looked like it belonged on the SyFy Channel instead of the big screen. (Think "Giant Shark V MegaOctopus" or whatever that silly film was called) It seemed as though the producers spent all their money on big aerial shots in Colorado, instead of focusing on the details of a scene.
This leads me to the biggest disappointment of the film: the screenplay. Seriously, what were the producers thinking? The MOST important thing about this entire production was the screenplay, and it was simply awful.
I was lucky, I have read the book. But, for someone who is unfamiliar with the story, this movie would be confusing and difficult to enjoy. It is so weird, some scenes were brilliant and some were just this side of torture. The voice of Ayn Rand did not shine through as it should have. The objectivist philosophy was not clearly communicated. And the simple story structure was close to embarrassing. The film does not set up the story world in a proper way and the "media reports" to help move the story along were simply absurd.
I didn't hate it, by any means. But, I was disappointed. In the movie's defense, it would be impossible to make everyone happy...but, what I am afraid is that it won't make anyone happy. It simply needed a bigger budget, better production value, and a new screenwriter. Hopefully, part two will be better. You know I will see it the day it comes out. Because, when it comes down to it, the story is more important than the production. And if the movie brings more attention to Ayn Rand and Objectivist theory, then I am a happy libertarian and movie goer.
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