Ace got around to seeing Atlas Shrugged rather late. He has not read the book very recently. And he is obviously not a card-carrying, Colorado-vacationing Randroid (he isn’t even able to remember the name of Midas Mulligan, for instance).
He awards the film only faint praise.
I was pretty nicely surprised. It’s good. Not great. But still — good. It’s actually more subtle than I was expecting; maybe too subtle in one key area (more on this later, as it truly is key). Rand’s book had the subtlety of a cast-iron lightning bolt, so any screen treatment might be expected to be much less didactic than her novel; but they seemed to have gone even further in toning down the heavy didacticism. Oh, it pops up here and there, but it’s not really objectionable.
In fact, to tell the truth, I could have endured a little more of the statement of principle stuff. Because with so much of that stripped away– why are the heroes acting as they do?
Two and a half stars good (which is my way of saying “Good enough to see, but not outstanding;” outstanding is three stars and superlative is four).
But it must have affected him more than he realized, because he goes on and on and on, trying to re-write the movie, re-directing the occasional scene, commenting in detail on the cast, and proposing adding hackneyed Hollywood character background to replace Dagny’s philosophical motivation. Ayn would be not amused.
The rest of us may be. Ace is certainly dead wrong about most of this, but it is clear that he wants more. The film was too short for him, and he wants more visible character development. I think the problem is that the financial situation, and the length of the book, required the film to be made in parts, and the resolution of the main characters’ conflicts, the conversion of Hank Reardon and Dagny, their persuasion to quit fighting a desperate battle to keep their businesses and the economy of the country afloat and to go on strike, occurs much later.
Where I did think Ace was right was in his objection to the film’s failure to make John Galt a mystery. The audience knows right away who John Galt is: he’s that guy in the slouch hat and trench coat we see lurking around everywhere, badly needing a shave. He’s the guy who siddles up to to banker Midas Mulligan (not “Bill McKenna”) early in the film. Ace is right in arguing that a greater effort to preserve the mystery story aspect of the whole thing would have been a better idea.
I don’t agree with him about reducing the ideology or about the desirability of “translating” the book into another medium. Film makers always justify the unconscionable liberties they take with works of literature with the “necessities of the medium” argument, and that’s an argument I’ve never bought. Films may not be able to include every scene or character or plot development in a book. Films do need to emphasize the visual. But the exigencies of translation do not really make Peter Jackson qualified to re-write J.R.R. Tolkien in fundamental ways, for instance.
Also, there are adaptations and adaptations. The 57th version of Jane Eyre may be moved to a contemporary setting in China for all we care. But the first film version of a deeply-loved cult classic, like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter , or Atlas Shrugged needs to be decidedly faithful to the original. Those of us who have strong feelings about the book will be mightily offended by gross alterations, omissions, and distortions.
Propelled by the release last Friday of the new film version, Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, in three different editions, is today occupying positions 1, 2, and 3 on Amazon’s Bestseller List of Classic Literature & Fiction.
Over the course of more than three years of research, Jerome Corsi assembles the evidence that Barack Obama is constitutionally ineligible for the office of the presidency. As a New York Times bestselling author, Harvard graduate, and investigative journalist, Corsi exposes in detail key issues with Obama’s eligibility, including the fact the President has spent millions of dollars in legal fees to avoid providing the American people with something as simple as a long-form birth certificate.
Hank and Dagny ride in the engine on the first train run on the newly constructed John Galt Line.
Filming a classic novel with an intense following inevitably presents a formidable challenge. The mind’s eye of every reader has formed its own images of the key characters. Its readers will have read and re-read it again and again, and will remember the plot in intimate detail and will feel ill-used if any key scene, important event, or powerful line of dialogue should be omitted.
For an old-time right-wing Rand aficionado like myself, attending the film version of Atlas Shrugged in 2011 combined the sensation of attending church services on Christmas Eve with dropping by the kind of in-group convention one might attend in one’s capacity as a Science Fiction reader or war gamer, to take part in an event simultaneously providing the powerful and intense gratification of witnessing the cultural apotheosis of a book one deeply loves while also keeping one on the edge of one’s seat in suspense over the quality and accuracy of the re-creation.
Yesterday, we defied torrential rainstorms and drove over 40 miles into (what is referred to out here as) “occupied Virginia,” the New Jersey-like suburbs of the District, to a multiplex theater in Fairfax to see the film version of Atlas Shrugged on its second day.
The first issue, in the case of this kind of film, is inevitably casting. The two key roles in the first portion of Atlas Shrugged are Dagny Taggart and Henry Reardon, and in both cases I think the casting choices were superb.
Ayn Rand would have loved, one imagines, the choice of the blonde, angular, and intense Taylor Schilling for Dagny. Schilling is along the lines of a younger, American version of Kristin Scott-Thomas: beautiful in a decidedly challenging, aristocratic, and intelligent manner. I thought she portrayed Dagny Taggart’s Ãœber-female combination of polished glamour and hoydenish tomboy indifference impeccably.
I have always had personal difficulties with picturing, or empathizing very successfully with, the great businessman Hank Reardon. Grant Bowler’s performance added the perfect note of ironic contempt in his interactions with the numerous villains surrounding him, which made the character work and come alive for me.
Michael Marsden’s James Taggart seemed perhaps a bit too young, and the choice of Iranian Navid Negahban for the nefarious Dr. Robert Stadler seemed peculiar, but in general the character actors playing the Rand villains did a bang up job. Michael Lerner’s Wesley Mouch and Armin Shimerman’s Dr. Potter were particularly fine.
The writer and production team all deserve a gold lighter and a life-time supply of dollar-sign cigarettes for plot accuracy and ideological fidelity. I was mentally comparing how faithful they were to the original here with Peter Jackson & company in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, who felt no diffidence in “improving” on Tolkien with a less upright and chivalrous Faramir, a crude and slobbering Denethor, an extra near-death experience for Aragorn, and so on.
Working on an extremely limited independent production budget (rumored to have been as little as $7 million, the kind of money it takes to make a television documentary), Paul Johansson did a remarkable job. Hostile mainstream media critics were quick to notice, and snark over, the absence of James Cameron-level production values and a big name cast; but, let’s face it, there is an awfully big difference in what you can do with $200 million in 1997 and what you do with $7 million in 2010. I’d say that Johansson and company turned in results that were downright miraculous considering the limitations of their budget.
Ayn Rand directly challenged the established consensus of values of modern society, and struck at the heart of the ruling political ideologies of her time and ours. Naturally, the media establishment has always treated her work with hostility. 2011 has not been very different from 1957 in that respect.
Roger Ebert has not read the book, and obviously wouldn’t like if if he did.
I am faced with this movie, the most anticlimactic non-event since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Caponeâ€™s vault. I suspect only someone very familiar with Randâ€™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 Investorsâ€™ Business Daily. Much of the excitement centers on the tensile strength of steel.
Maureen Dowd trashed the film for not having A-list stars, without even bothering to pretend to have seen it.
Tea Party groups are helping to market part one of a low-budget film version of â€œAtlas Shrugged,â€ with no stars and none of the campy panache of the Gary Cooper-Patricia Neal movie of â€œThe Fountainhead.â€ â€œAtlas Shruggedâ€ aptly opened on Tax Day, getting a rave from Sean Hannity, who said it wouldnâ€™t have been released â€œhad Hollywood liberals gotten their way,â€ and a dismissive shrug from most critics, even conservatives.
Personally, I would take Taylor Schilling over Angelina Jolie for Dagny any day. Brad Pitt ought to see if he can’t talk to the producers about trying out for the role of Ragnar DanneskjÃ¶ld in Part 3.
Meanwhile, on Rotten Tomatoes, polling is currently running 85% to 10% in favor, an extremely positive rating.
Anthony Kaufman, in the Wall Street Journal, spoke to Executive Producer Harmon Kaslow, who thinks that the opinion of MSM critics will not prevent the film from making its own way.
Despite the dreadful weather, the new-fangled stadium theater was nearly full, and the audience applauded vigorously at the film’s close.
We expected that the critics would have a fear of embracing this film,â€ says Kaslow. â€œWe knew that there was a substantial likelihood that they would not view the film as to whether we got the message right, but would look at it comparing it to what Hollywood would have done. I donâ€™t think our audience is persuaded at all by those reviews.â€
â€œItâ€™s somewhat analogous to the family-based film market,â€ he continues. â€œMost family based films are not subject to review, because they know that that audience is all about the message. And if the message is right, theyâ€™ll give you a hall pass if the production values werenâ€™t as high. And if we get criticized for the dialogue, most of it has been taken right out of the book. So, in a sense, theyâ€™re criticizing the literary nature of the work.â€
Reason has a celebratory opening day article and link collection.
Taggart Tunnel through Continental Divide: Obama voters, Beware!
The Wall Street Journal celebrated the opening tomorrow of “Atlas Shrugged,” Part 1, in theaters with an editorial by Donald L. Luskin.
Tomorrow’s release of the movie version of “Atlas Shrugged” is focusing attention on Ayn Rand’s 1957 opus and the free-market ideas it espouses. Book sales for “Atlas” have always been briskâ€”and all the more so in the past few years, as actual events have mirrored Rand’s nightmare vision of economic collapse amid massive government expansion. Conservatives are now hailing Rand as a tea party Nostradamus, hence the timing of the movie’s premiere on tax day.
When Rand created the character of Wesley Mouch, it’s as though she was anticipating Barney Frank (D., Mass). Mouch is the economic czar in “Atlas Shrugged” whose every move weakens the economy, which in turn gives him the excuse to demand broader powers. Mr. Frank steered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to disaster with mandates for more lending to low-income borrowers. After Fannie and Freddie collapsed under the weight of their subprime mortgage books, Mr. Frank proclaimed last year: “The way to cure that is to give us more authority.” Mouch couldn’t have said it better himself.
But it’s a misreading of “Atlas” to claim that it is simply an antigovernment tract or an uncritical celebration of big business. In fact, the real villain of “Atlas” is a big businessman, railroad CEO James Taggart, whose crony capitalism does more to bring down the economy than all of Mouch’s regulations. With Taggart, Rand was anticipating figures like Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide Financial, the subprime lender that proved to be a toxic mortgage factory. Like Taggart, Mr. Mozilo engineered government subsidies for his company in the name of noble-sounding virtues like home ownership for all.
Taggart Tunnel through Continental Divide: Obama voters, Beware!
On December 7, 6:30 to 9:30 PM, at The Millennium Broadway Hotel, Hudson Theatre, 145 West 44th Street, New York, New York 10036, purchasers of $100 to $500 tickets will get to drink cocktails, hobnob with the producers and cast of the Atlas Shrugged movie, receive an update on the film’s progress and watch a ten-minute preview film clip, including the film’s first scene.
Shooting of the film version of Atlas Shrugged, after years and years of rumors, actually began over the weekend, Variety reports.
No Angelina Jolie as Dagny, no (magically young again) Max von Sydow as John Galt. Also no James Cameron-scale hundred million dollar production. No major studios. Just a humble $5 million independent production.
Shooting started Saturday because the producers were contractually obligated to begin the five-week shoot or lose the rights to Ayn Rand’s novel.