Movie: Atlas Shrugged

Right off, just seeing those badly-rendered cliché desktop computer-made titles, you know this movie is already bad.

Unfortunately, those titles come in after several minutes of the movie itself, and so they’re just an additional insult and overt confirmation of what else is to come!

Still, let’s roll the credits:

This is some of what precedes the bad title:

A roundrect mask to simulate a TV screen. Say wut? This portends the absolute lack of thinking that went into this travesty. TVs are now flatscreen with right-angle corners. Hell, they even show them in the movie. So why didn’t anyone get the really simple idea to shoot a flatscreen LCD screen? People would have understood they were seeing TV coverage due to the enlarged pixels.

Here’s a free clue from the recent TV series, Hidden:

Bueller? Bueller?

And then there’s this:

The first time we hear the signature line of the book, it’s done incorrectly, as “Who’s John Galt” — instead of, as it always is in the book itself, “Who is John Galt?” How can anyone fuck up a simple four-word sentence? Well, they did!

OK, if you’re not familiar with the plot of Atlas Shrugged, I’m about to spoil it for you right now, because it’s necessary for the rest of this post.

A brilliant but minor engineer named John Galt at a dying car manufacturing company objects to being pressured into having his work appropriated by mob rule so he leaves and starts recruiting people who have the same sense of ethics and property as himself. He gathers these people from across the country and they all hide out in Galt’s Gulch, aka Atlantis. He has convinced them all that the world needs them more than the other way around. It’s a “strike of the mind.” Dagny Taggart tries to keep her family’s transcontinental railroad business going while Galt stays one step ahead of her plucking away key people she needs.

The conceit of the book, which is actually brilliant, is that it’s written like a mystery. And since most people read it when they’re very young and have no vast experience of other books, Galt is able to hide in plain sight and surprise us all. A well-read adult would have seen who Galt was right away the ongoing suspense would have been ruined, however. Which would leave the book as basically a tract with androidal characters spouting algorithmic philosophies that bear little relation to how real human beings actually operate and live.

There are three key things any adaptation of this book should do:

1) Keep the mystery element
2) Keep the pressure of the decaying world and Galt’s recruiting
3) Show the emotionally-devastating effect a decaying world has on the characters as they struggle against it

This movie ignores all of that and basically flings things at a wall, hoping they’ll stick and randomly form some sort of sensible pattern understandable to people who have never encountered Rand’s book.

It’s an epic, epic, epic fail.

It’s not even in the category of, “It’s so bad, it’s good.” It sits right in, “It’s so bad, you can’t believe how bad it is!”

A billionaire disappears. Does the world even care? No. It’s never headline news! So why should the audience care?

There’s a credit for product placement in this movie. So does that mean …

… Dagny’s pillows are from the Republican National Committee?

Dagny also apparently lives in a bunker. In a mythical penthouse near the 23rd Street subway station in New York City. In other words, they couldn’t even be bothered to research where such a person would properly live — the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

That’s Taylor Schilling, as Dagny Taggart, doing her best emotionally-repressed Randroid impression. If you can see any hint of intelligence in her performance, it’s only because you’re fucking delusional.

Dagny, walking to take the subway to work. Note that not only is that not Manhattan, they couldn’t even do a convincing MTA sign. And why is she even taking the subway? In the rest of the movie she swans around in a stretch limo or cheap-ass rental car.

Grant Bowler, as Hank Rearden, trying to fit into a role that was tailor-made for Gary Cooper. He tries. He utterly fails.

That secretary does the best bit of acting in the entire movie. And I’m not kidding, either. That’s the high point, right there.

Rearden shares with Dagny a love of bunkers.

Dagny’s evil brother, James, who’s a whiny weasel in the book. Here he’s just a whiny little brat brother with even less depth than in the book. Note the big-ass flatscreen TV that no one could think to put the stock footage on and shoot for the movie’s opening minutes. Also note how few frikkin railroad lines Taggart has. Yet rail is supposed to be the primary means of transport for goods in the country because gasoline costs over thirty-seven dollars a gallon in 2016.

Key Taggart employee Danny Partridge Owen Kellogg has been recruited by Galt. He’s listed as “missing” even though he didn’t exactly up and disappear, he just resigned. Wut?

Another Galt recruit. And he is essential to this plot, why? We never really know!

Holy shit! They turned Franscisco D’Anconia, childhood friend of Dagny, into a hipster!

And here we go with the Rand-like casting:

See, if you don’t look like a model, in Rand’s world you’re worthless scum or you’re evil. That a face is an inheritance that can’t be earned has nothing to do with anything. Symmetrically-faced Aryans should run things. Despite the fact Rand herself was a psycho-eyed frumpy semi-midget with a horrible guttural accent leftover from her Russian childhood. Self-hate much? Yes.

Smoke Galt Cigarettes with the Dollar-Sign Logo! Another clue from the book just ineptly thrown into the movie.

Ellis Wyatt is recruited by Galt. Galt uses his actual name and even mentions Atlantis — which makes you wonder why the practical and down-to-earth Wyatt didn’t quickly grab a gun to shoot the crazy man. Anyway, Wyatt disappears, burning down his refinery in the process and leaving Dagny with a brand-new railroad line without her key paying customer to support it. I think she is crying over the lost money more than anything else.

And that is …

… oh dear god. Yes, there’s even more to the book. But I don’t think there will ever be a part two of this crap.

You would never know that this movie is supposed to be actually about something, about a clash of ideas. It’s just a nonsensical mess. It has no pace, no suspense, no excitement, no sense of timing, and a dreadful music score that sounds as if it belongs in one of those bad political ads for Herman Cain. It also lacks actual human beings who have emotions and are affected by the events around them. But given how dully the events around them commence and are presented, should they even be faulted?

Rand fans thought this movie would help spread her ideas, spur debate. The only debate to come out of this is in the form of a question: Why the hell is this movie so damned bad?

The answer, of course, is at the heart of Rand’s own philosophy, where money accrues to those who rightly deserve it.

Let me quote Elias Canetti again, because he really said it best:

Among illiterates money is regarded as the measuring rod for all things: for friendship, goodness, education, power, love.

Rand should have checked her own damned philosophic premises before smugly exhorting those who opposed her to check theirs.

Gary Null also once said, and it fits for the backers of this movie:

All that money — and no taste.

And here is the roll call of the tasteless:


And if you’ve stuck with this post so far, here’s the bonus!

Let me show you just what a cheap-ass and thoroughly incompetent piece of work this crap movie is.

Look:

Two different newspapers set far apart in the movie. Now let me show you what a pack of lazy bastards were behind this:


Click = huge


Click = huge

They couldn’t even be bothered to change the text in the articles under the different headlines!

“Who’s John Galt,” indeed!

You poor sad little man!

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Movie: Atlas Shrugged

  1. I get the impression you weren’t entirely happy with it :-)

  2. Geoff

    Felt the same way when I saw what they did to “Primary Colors.” Had to make Billary look good, so buy the rights to PC and then make a movie that’s instantly forgettable. Blam! Billary love you and invite you to all their parties.

    Who the hell bought this so they could crap on it?? Maybe we shouldn’t ascribe ineptitude to that which can be explained with intentional burial of the subject matter.

  3. Jason S.

    I almost watched this movie last weekend before changing my mind and watching Planet Dinosaur instead. Now that I’m reading this, I finally realize what a good decision that was. :)

  4. Lee

    ‘ Show the emotionally-devastating effect a decaying world has on the characters as they struggle against it.’

    The main characters, Rearden and Dagny, like myself, have Asperger’s syndrome and are therefore unable to experience or express emotions – they are only interested in facts and ideas…and are ruthless in their determination that they know that they are right.

    • Asperger’s Schmassperger’s. Rand would reject the idea that they were in some way mentally deficient.

      What was deficient was spending a gazillion dollars turning an ideological/philosophical fable pulsing with actual ideas into a badly done infomercial.

      The point was to make a movie to capture the hearts and minds of those already not converted (like myself, so save the h8trz spiel). You can’t do that by using shit actors, shit CGI, shit writing, and shit storytelling.

      That didn’t happen. The problem is that the filmmakers don’t know they fucked up because they don’t know how to tell a story.

  5. Keith W.

    Problem is, this book cant translate well to the screen because the philosophy is conveyed in long passages of monologue and narrative. Nobody would sit through it.

    I’m glad someone thought it a story worth telling, but there’s too much philosophy there to convey in a movie.

    That said, I think they could have done a lot better with an HBO mini-series, with a better cinematic vision.

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