Atlas Shrugged: Part I (Paul Johansson) 2011
Production Budget: $20 million
Gross: $4.6 million
Let’s get this out of the way right now; I hate Ayn Rand and I think Objectivism is bullshit. I think Ayn Rand is to philosophy what Glenn Beck is to journalism. And no, I don’t want to have a debate on Objectivism because I find those as enjoyable as my latest kidney stone. So why bring it up? Well I figure I wouldn’t drag it out and you can (if you so choose) stop reading right now. You can label me as being an ignorant hater who just doesn’t get it and that I’m being bitter in this review. You can do that, but I disagree that it would necessarily cloud my judgment of the movie. For one, I have seen several films which differ from my political and religious views yet I find them entertaining or at least interesting movies. Just because I may disagree with a particular point doesn’t mean I can’t laugh at your comedy or find some situation dramatic. Also, maybe this movie would do it’s job and convince me (maybe not completely) at least on a few of its points. I don’t necessarily see a point in a film that is set on preaching to the choir.
If I had any reservations about Atlas Shrugged, part of it was because of the source material, but a good percentage had to do with the fact this was a rushed production. There have been talks of doing an Atlas Shrugged movie since the 70’s. Many of the talks have been based on making a miniseries which isn’t a bad idea based on the writing. There were years of discussion and deals being made and later falling through of making a feature film of Atlas Shrugged with big name directors and actors. It isn’t that hard to see people wanting to make a film on a very popular book. The problem all along I suspect is how you make a feature film (and not a miniseries) interesting at all. My personal feelings aside, it is hard to make a good film based on a book the size of a cinder block and it doesn’t involve wizards or something. Also, (and I don’t think I’m going too far on a limb simce many Rand fans agree with this sentiment) many would agree that Rand’s “strengths“ were as a philosopher rather than a good storyteller. The lenghty monologues alone have garnered her much ridicule. The point is no one was too keen on doing a project like this, deals were being cut all the time, and the producer was going to lose the rights if he didn’t make a film soon. A new script was written, a cast was rushed together, and director Johansson was brought on nine days before shooting was set to start (wikipedia). It should also be noted the director’s previous efforts only include some episodes of One Tree Hill. So yeah, excuse me if I don’t get as excited for this as I would if this were some great director’s dream project.
The film is set in the not too distant future where apparently where everything has turned to shit. The government is a corrupt system that beats down the hard working innovators while giving the profits to lazy freeloaders. Dagny Taggert is the VP of a railroad who is trying to turn things around by replacing her track with this untested super-steel which she buys from Hank Reardon. Dagny has to deal with her competition as well as the eeeeeeeeeevil government in order to get her tracks replaced. All the while, the smartest members of society are disappearing and everyone is asking the question “Who is John Galt?“
Again, I know nobody is going to believe this, but my main problem isn’t with the philosophy. I still don’t like the philosophy but that’s still not my main problem. No, my main problem is this movie is unbelievably boring. I honestly could not care less for these boring fucks and their boring trains. The characters are all flat in that they are either moustache twirling villains or Ayn Rand’s uninteresting Mary Sue’s. Dagny and Hank are both “perfect“ people with no flaws which means there is no drama because they don’t really have any obstacles to overcome. They are also written like Vulcans because they show no emotion about anything and they seem detached from the real world. Scrabble games have more emotion and intensity than when these two have sex. The actors don’t help either as they cast two bland lumps of wood.
And I know I hate when people pepper reviews with boring this and boring that but I am really struggling here in trying to describe the plot. It is one scene after another of these lifeless drones that make Taylor Kitsch seem like Al Pacino going from board meeting to board meeting to business dinner to lame society function. They just sit and have long conversations about steel or some New Mexico line or trade deals with X or interest rates with Y and when they are done with that, they go have another meeting with someone in their company and discuss the uninteresting shit they just spoke about in the last meeting. This is stuff that would be hard to pull off under great circumstances let alone with bad actors, uninteresting characters, and dialog written by seemingly the Bizarro clone of Aaron Sorkin. There is no sense of movement in this plot either as this was planned as a 3 part film so the movie just fizzles out. The characters putz around, play with some trains, and then leave. The philosophy presented is ham fisted to say the least. The protagonists drone on in long speeches about how they are right and the antagonists are clowns who have nothing to say for themselves or have any meaningful conversations. There is nothing stated that would be more sophisticated than “The Guv-ment sucks and keeps the workin‘ man down.“
You know this is bad when you can’t even appeal to your fan base with your movie. I know there are some that stick up for it somewhat, but I still don’t see many that see it as a great film. This was a last minute rush job with a bad script, an untested director, and a cast of untalented nobodies. There has been a trailer released for Atlas Shrugged Part II which makes me chuckle because a sequel in light of this one’s bomb is antithetical to what Rand would believe. I’m kind of torn on how well it should do. Normally I would wish it well but I don’t want to see this series continue but then again I don’t want to watch two and a half more hours of trains for this box office bomb thread.