Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Atlas Shrugged, Part I - The Movie

By Ben Nadel on
Tags: Movies

When I recently found out that they were making a movie version of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, I was quite conflicted. I am a huge Ayn Rand fan and Atlas Shrugged (along with The Fountainhead) is one of my favorite books. I was afraid that seeing the movie would forever ruin the image of the book that I had already constructed in my head. Movies have a bad tendency of never living up to the books they portray; and I just didn't know if I wanted to take that kind of a gamble in a game with such seemingly high stakes.


 
 
 

 
Atlas Shrugged, Part I - The Movie - A Review By Ben Nadel.  
 
 
 

After going back and forth on the idea for about a week, I finally decided to man-up and see it. And, after having sat through it last night, I can honestly say that the movie I had in my head is in absolutely no danger of being ruined by, or even associated with the abomination I saw on the screen last night. Atlas Shrugged, Part I is, without a doubt, one of the worst movies that I have ever seen.

When the movie was over, I wanted to talk to my friend about it; but, it took several bouts of perplexed laughter before I could even get a coherent thought out of my mouth. The movie was shockingly bad. The opening credits were horrible and I immediately thought, "Well, it can only get better from here." Oh, how wrong I was! Then next hour and half felt like watching a 3-hour car wreck in slow motion.

If I had to hazard a guess as to how this all came to be, I would have to assume that there were some serious and unfortunate constraints placed upon the producers of the film. I imagine someone walked into the boardroom at some point and said something along the lines of, Ok, we're going to make a movie of Atlas Shrugged, but we have to work within some guidelines that are out of our control:

  • We can't use any well known or experienced actors.
  • Every 3rd scene has to be a montage.
  • Every montage has to be accompanied by overlapping voice-overs.
  • No camera angle can be held for more then 4 seconds.
  • We can only use license-free music.
  • We can only shoot any given scene once, so make it count!
  • The female lead isn't allowed to blink at all during the filming.
  • Every other sentence has to involve the name of a character that is never shown on screen.
  • We have to consistently introduce characters with absolutely no build up and then remove them from the story, implying that something horrible has taken place.
  • We can't show any nudity - oh, except for one guy's back - which we can show multiple times.
  • The level of implied-sexuality has to be kept low enough so as not to offend my unborn baby fetus' sense of modesty.
  • We have to shoot it like a it's a soap-opera so that we don't have to spend too much money on the post-production editing before we release it on Lifetime For Women (with dual licensing options for The Hallmark channel of course!).
  • All special effects are going to be done by my cousin. He just took a weekend course in Adobe After Effects and tells that me he is gonna make our visuals rock harder than "the Wiggles in live concert."

So, when you think about it, with constraints like that in place, the movie actually came out a lot better than I think anyone would have expected. Of course, that didn't stop me from spending half the movie thinking about other things that I'd rather be watching: Twilight, the informational video at my podiatrist's office, the start-up animation of my DVD player.

And the saddest part of all of this is that I now have to go see Part II when it comes out. To only see Part I would be like hearing a horrible accident behind you and then not being able turn around and take a look; I'd have to spend the rest of my life wondering just how bad it really was! Unfortunately, I don't even know when Part II is coming out - it's not even listed in the IMDB yet!

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Reader Comments

Sorry to hear that it sucked. Take some small solace from the fact that you have at least spared me from seeing it, because I was still considering it.

I have a feeling that unless Part II has already been filmed, the failure of Part I dooms any chance of a Part II ever coming out (at least on the big screen).

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@Brian,

Yeah, I can't see any way Part II is coming out. If it's not even listed in the IMDB yet, even as "pre-production", I can't imagine they are going to see a cost benefit to making it.

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Just the thought reminds me of Ninja Assassin except they spend a lot more money and still made horrible movie.

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@Tim,

Ha ha, I was *just* looking "Ninja Assassin" up on Netflix the other night. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) it's not available as a Watch Instantly movie.

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@Tim: Dammit, watching Ninja Assassin (on my DVR) was my fallback to seeing Atlas Shrugged. So if that also sucks, what am I supposed to watch this weekend?? :)

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@Brain hum you could also enjoy the poor acting in journey to the center of the earth lol.

@Ben ... sadly i paid to see it. personally i thought it was really bad

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Ben, maybe Ayn didn't blink in her lifetime either. We don't know, but I gather she wasn't all that likeable. That probably defined her books.

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@Roger,

I've actually heard on multiple occassions that Ayn wasn't a terribly likable person. Recently, I read The Six Pillars of Self Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. Apparently, Branden had been romantically involved with Rand for many years and, in his book (Six Pillars), he often talks about how abusive she was emotionally; that, you could never disagree with here or she would completely dismiss you.

It's sad. You can see this in the movie The Passion of Ayn Rand - she comes across as quite a tortured person.

And still, I find her books absolutely beautiful. Ironic.

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Rand and Objectivism is very seductive especially to the young. The problem with it, like most "ism"s is that it assumes rationality and logic of humans. Humans are animals with a wide variety of experiences and upbringings. We all want to have solid reasons for things and the great way forward. Sadly, it is not that easy. Rand's visions were defined by her growing up during the revolution. She rejected any collectivist ideals and embraced capitalism as the ideal when she moved to the US.

We are social creatures. Objectivism is too much like unbridled social Darwinism to my thinking. Not everyone has equal capabilities or opportunities. That is why we have civilization so we all can have some sort of dignified life at some level with a reasonable amount of happiness and security.

One thing that I have observed is how my thinking has changed over my lifetime. When young, I was more like an Objectivist. You feel like the world is available to you and anything is possible. In middle age, you start to realize that that is not true and never was true for a variety of reasons. Life is short and you take a few forks in the road and those choices define you. After middle age, you realize how interdependent we all are and how short life is. Not all things are based on rationality. Some are based on emotion, beauty, love, grace, dignity, and a variety of other issues. Rand had some problems with those things.

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Wow Ben, tell us how you really feel! I too, am a fan of the book (I read it once a year), but I'm not a die-hard Objectivist. I'm Catholic and I reject Objectivism's disdain of religion.

I saw the movie on opening weekend, and while I knew it wouldn't live up to the books potential, I didn't think it was a horrible movie. I recognize that due to time constraints (and yes, budget), you couldn't possibly provide an adequate introduction to the characters. The worst scene in the movie for me was Dagny's scream at the end; just a wee bit overly contrived.

I also found the set design lacking in substance. The Taggart building is wrapped in a glass facade, yet the offices of Jim and Dagny had no windows? And Dagny's office of the John Galt line could have been shot in a trailer with some wood paneling.

However, I also was inspired by the first run of the John Galt line (best scene of the movie), and I was also a bit impressed with how the actors were able to get so much out of the limited script (Francisco was awesome, and Lillian Rearden was spot on).

All in all, I'd rate this movie a B-. Not great, but certainly worth purchasing on DVD as a collector's item.

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@Roger,

With her writings, I try to take the parts that inspire me and leave the rest behind. There is definitely a feeling to it that doesn't jive with me; I might not be able to articulate what it is logically but I assume it related to, as you say, the fact that we are social creatures. As such, I just take the parts that make me want to be better and dismiss the parts the imply interpersonal dogmatism.

@Damon,

I will admit that I had two things going against my judgement: 1) I really liked the book and 2) I invited someone to see the movie with me. And, anytime you invite someone to see / do something, I think there's a greater feeling of responsibility for the enjoyment of the other person.

And SO true on the Windows thing. They showed these massive glass buildings; and yet, every time they came out of the (Tt) doors, they were coming out of a stone-front building... ummm? :D

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Even if the movie sucks, I still have to see it.

Atlas Shrugged is one of mankind's greatest books ever.

Changed so many people's lives.

"Who is John Galt?"

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very nice, Just the thought reminds me of Ninja Assassin except they spend a lot more money and still made horrible movie.

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I hadn't read the book yet, so I had no standard to judge by. Perhaps this is a good thing.

I went into it dubious waiting for a greatly ironic trainwreck, and was surprised that the worst thing I could malign was the acting. Really, like The Fountainhead, it's the easiest thing to point a finger at and say "there's the fuck up". But, the content I did end up liking, and sparked my interest to pick up the book and read it. I expect it fully to be worlds better, but, all books really are.

The problem with movies of books is that books are such a personal and subjective thing. Your imagination is always going to see it different than someone else's, and when that's left to a director, it's always going to involve cutting of scenes that may or may not be important to you. A director, any director, can stand on their head nine ways 'til Sunday and they would never please everyone.

That said, the way the production of this movie occurred, changing hands constantly, I'm amazed it came out at all. Given the archetype from Myer's Briggs of the Intuitive Thinker, and given that there's only so many of them in Hollywood (25% of the population), the acting was as close to what a NT type would act like without actually having a that specific cognitive personality type. (If you're confused by this just go look up INTJ, the type Ayn Rand was. It will shed some light on her the person and her ideals).

BTW - Ninja Assassin is a much MUCH worse movie. Impossibly unfathomably bad. Seeing it may elevate your thoughts on this movie.

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I just saw the part 1 movie tonight with my dad.

And I have to say, I love the lady who played Dagby. Totally a strong character.

Although I always imagined Hank Rearden to be a man with a beard, not sure why.

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Way I understand it, there were indeed multiple limitations in creating the movie.

The ppl that owned the rights to the film have been trying to make it for over a decade, but unable to secure funding from the usual suspects, as they didn't want the movie made.

The rights were getting close to reverting back, and so things got desperate for the current holders. They finally found someone that wanted to make the movie, and it had a shoe string budget. They took the passable script they had and ran with it, filming in 26 days.

Since it's only part 1 of the story, they had to cram 15 hours of reading (based on audio book) into an hour and a half of movie that still makes sense.

They flew through the story, just barely landing on key scenes before darting off again to the next.

I personally liked the Hank and Wyatt characters. Dagny was ok. Hank's wife fit my imagining of her character pretty good. I'd always pictured mouch differently, but this guy works.

Interestingly enough, on the Sunday afternoon after it came out, wife and I went to see it. You know in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story where bruce lee is showing his movie in china and is freaking out while observing the audience because they are silent and unreactive until the end where they give applause? I experienced the same thing with this movie. The theatre was packed, silent 99% of the movie, then at the end standing ovations.

Was it worth the ticket price? meh, i'd have rather seen it on netflix based on a few factors (film quality was b+), but there was no way in hell I was going to miss seeing it in theatres one way or the other, and thankfully it was showing nearby.

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I haven't read Atlas Shrugged, but became interested in reading it lately because my friend has become an Atlas Shrugged fan and I just finished reading "Griftopia" by Matt Taibbi and he gave a little history of Alan Greenspan who was/is a Rand fan also. Taibbi didn't have much good to say about either Rand or Greenspan.

@Roger Austin

Very good post, I probably will be somewhat skeptical reading Atlas Shrugged as I am past middle age also. Based on the little I know about Ayn Rand she seems to be trying to get as far away from communism as possble that's the reason for her embracing every aspect of capitalism.

"Griftopia" is a very good read.

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I have been wanting to read Atlas Shrugged for awhile, but I just haven't been able to fit it into my schedule yet. From all of the things I have heard about it, it sounds like a very good book that I would enjoy. Was the movie like the book at all? They should've just hired me to be an actress in it. :-D And used my music. :-D. I will probably see this movie anyway, nevertheless. Should I read the book first, or watch the movie first?

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@Anna, I suggest reading the book first and waiting for the DVD or the stream for the movie. My opinion is that most of the time this is the best way to go with any book and movie combo. There are exceptions to that rule, but not many IMO.

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