I’m So Relieved, The Atlas Shrugged Movie is Fantastic
A couple nights ago, at a private screening for Atlas Shrugged Part 1, I took my seat, closed my eyes, dropped my head, and for the first time in my life, I said a prayer. “Please don’t be cheese ball. Please don’t be cheese ball. Please don’t be cheese ball.” A vision flashed in my mind of John Travolta, on the cover of a Battlefield Earth poster. Petrified, my fingers hardened into a grip around my arm rests. “No!! Please don’t be cheese ball. Please don’t be cheese ball…”
No doubt, the excitement in the room was mixed with fear. The producers of this film had the balls to make a motion picture out of one of the most thought provoking and controversial novels of all time. A Library of Congress reader’s poll ranked Atlas Shrugged as the second most influential book of all time next to the Bible. Other prominent reader polls of Best Novels ever written have listed Atlas Shrugged as #1. It’s a 1000+ page classic epic packed with action, philosophy, adventure, politics, romance, mystery, and a whole lot of attitude. Back in the 1500s, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of a prominent Catholic church, sparking The Reformation. Ayn Rand nailed these 1000+ pages on the door of the world’s churches and state capital buildings, sparking what history might record as the beginning of the next renaissance. The next cultural movement to bring a focus on reality and reason and freedom and productivity back to the world.
This novel isn’t about running a railroad. It’s about society crumbling. And what causes that. It is so ambitious and controversial because it dramatizes the different fundamental values of our culture, and how that plays out through people in a society in crisis. When times get tough, more is demanded and taken from the achievers and high earners. So they work harder, they try harder, but the chains pile on, until they strike. Yes, the business leaders strike, not the employees. The title references the Greek god Atlas, who strains to hold the weight of the world over his shoulders. The load gets heavier and he struggles through blood and sweat to keep the world up. Until he changes his mind, shrugs, and drops the world. Let it fall. Let the world burn. Let all the ungrateful leeches and apes have it to themselves and enjoy it. Atlas is done.
The parallels to what is happening today are extraordinary (causing massive sales spikes for the novel). The achievers and producers are blamed for the problems of the world today. People voted into office politicians intent on further regulating and controlling the producers in our country. More and more are becoming the needy and more mouths are opening. Amidst an economic crisis, the popular political solution is to demonize, then chain the hands that feed us.
Take a second and just imagine what would happen to your quality of life if all the leaders of the vilified oil companies, pharmaceuticals, ISPs, and Zuckerberg suddenly said “Screw you all, I’m out.”
This blog is written for achievers. Ayn Rand took a bold stand in support of those who produce and create. My blog is both inspired by her, and in a small way it’s my own form of tribute to her. Hustling ain’t easy, especially when you don’t have anyone at all sticking up for you. By taking her stand so firmly, Ayn Rand became one of the most widely revered and hated public figures of the last 100 years.
Everyone in that screening room knew the power of this book. And now, they’ve filmed this historical document. Actors and camera men and movie sets are going to bring it to life. Terror strikes you harder when you know the circumstances surrounding its creation. Many have tried to make this movie for decades. Over the years, many famous stars were attached to a wasteland of terrible scripts. Angelina Jolie made waves for being cast in the lead role a few years ago, but then she got pregnant, or something like that, and that production attempt died a bitter death.
As the rumor goes, the option on the film rights to Atlas Shrugged were expiring in June of last year, 2010. Last April, John Aglialoro, the producer who held the option on the film rights, begged for the rights to be extended, but was denied. He had 2 months at that point to start production or lose the millions he already invested in the project over the years. That meant he had 2 months (!) to get a new script together, get the financing together, get the available cast together, choose a director, find film locations, and all that other stuff, while attempting to faithfully and successfully adapt a deep complex legendary novel onto the screen.
Fans were pissed! And so was I. You know, I always push people to take on tough challenges, not to give up when things get more difficult. But even I can acknowledge reality. Not only is this impossible, but the producers are about to ruin one of the most important novels of all time. This book, profound and packed with so much insight and story, is about to get discredited and humiliated before the public. I didn’t believe. In fact, along with many fans, I wanted this movie stopped. Word on the streets was this was going to be a train wreck. We all want to see this film made, but let’s take our time and do it right. If I could speak with the producer I would have said, “John, don’t do this. I know you don’t want to lose your money, but please don’t drag this classic down with you. Please let go and give up on this. It’s too important. You are about to cause a lot of damage and harm. There is no way for you to pull this off as a rush job.”
I WAS WRONG!!!!
Holy shit man, of my fucking god, I was wrong!!!!
Now, does this movie carry the same power as the novel? No man, there’s no way. A movie is just a visual representation. A graphic novel, if you will. Pictures and dialogue truly can not carry the weight of all that writing, but can only allude to it. And that’s the point. It seems obvious that this movie never meant to replace the book, but merely serves as a phenomenal advertisement for it.
The highlight of the film is its script written by Brian O’Toole. Witty and full of attitude, it successfully and faithfully adapts the novel to the screen. Part of what keeps this film enjoyable throughout is that you can hear Ayn Rand’s attitude shine through in the dialogue. The theme was well preserved. This is a war between creators and blood suckers.
Let’s get a few things out of the way. This was made for $10 Million. That’s a lot of money, but tiny tiny for movie production. You’re not going to see Avatar production quality. Directed by a TV director and starring a TV cast of actors, this is actually TV Movie production quality, BUT very good TV Movie quality. We have all seen excellent TV programs that we’ve enjoyed, so this is not points against the film. That being said, the filmmakers clearly did an incredible job squeezing production value out of a small budget.
The production quality was saved by excellent cinematography. The man behind the camera was obviously catching up on his Dr. Zhivago, going for epic sweeping landscape shots that mark (legendary director) David Lean’s claim to excellence.
The acting was ok. It’s not going to win any Oscars, but it pulled it off. The worst acting was unfortunately from John Galt’s few scenes. He’s not supposed to even appear until the 3rd part of the novel. I don’t have a problem with briefly introducing him in part 1, it’s just that it wasn’t done so well. At least he always appears in the dark and you could never really see him, so any better actor can easily take over that part in the future sequels.
By far my favorite actor was Grant Bowler. Perfectly cast as Henry Rearden, he truly brings out the strong accomplished businessman bewildered as he’s surrounded by all the ungrateful bloodsuckers supported by him. Actually, maybe the best cast was Rebecca Wisocky as Henry’s wife, Lillian Rearden. She did a fantastic job of playing a cold bitch; putting genuine terror deep into the heart of any man who’s not yet married. Well, at least she accomplished that for me. Seriously, check out that leaked scene of Rearden giving his wife a gift and tell me if you honestly still feel like ever getting married.
The film was about 100 minutes. It should have been a little longer. Even though this film represents only the first 3rd of the book, there is still too much material to cover, even after editing down the story, and it caused the pacing to become very fast. Some scenes don’t have a chance to set in and build the gravity of the situation. Perhaps this is where art meets reality. 3 hours would have allowed for a lot less compromise, but that much film time would have required a bigger budget, and surely would restrict the distribution considerably, as theaters would be restricted to renting fewer seats. Still maybe it could have used another 20 minutes of film time.
So, the movie is not perfect. But you know what? Fuck that, I don’t care. Hardcore fans will no doubt have the opportunity to find a million ways they can pick apart the film and complain over details. But the truth is, the film is intelligent, it is engaging, it is faithful and it is entertaining. The movie is excellent as it stands, and the fact that John Aglialoro pulled this off and achieved this feat, well that’s a story worthy of being among the pages of the novel itself. And it also opens up some ideas for fun exercise challenges to give the producer next time for the sequel. Apparently some of us work better under extreme pressure. Ok dude, you’ve got only one month this time, make it better. GO!
John Aglialoro, my deepest apologies for my previous misgivings. I salute you sir.
The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.
- Ayn Rand
Here is a leaked scene from the movie. This is representative of the quality of the rest of the film.
The trailer isn’t bad, but it doesn’t actually do the movie justice.
IMPORTANT: This film will only open in a few theaters initially, skipping many major cities. If you want to get this film into a theater near you make sure you demand it. Let’s make sure this film has the biggest opening weekend it possibly can. Share this review and the youtube clips above. The release date is Tax Day, April 15, 2011. No doubt this film represents a movement. Let’s be a part of it.
Update: The film is now released. Opening weekend showings feel more like a concert or an event for fans. People were cheering and clapping. I’m not surprised that critics are completely trashing the movie, and yet audience reaction seems to be very positive. I honestly don’t remember a time when any movie has ever had this severe of a difference of opinion between critics and audience. The film’s response is playing out the same intellectual battle the novel has always encountered. To be fair to the film critics, as far as the film elements go, this is low budget, the acting is ok (except the actors who play James Taggart and John Galt are horrible), some of the editing is amateurish, and yeah, the love scene should have been a little edgier. Eh, fuck all that. The movie is smart, the dialogue is great, it’s thought provoking and full of attitude. People are enjoying it. And to be able to pull this off with such a low budget and short time constraint is absolutely incredible.
And yeah, hey, it’s great to see a film that comes from a different perspective. Hollywood has been pretty consistent in sending the same messages in children films and adult films. Atlas Shrugged is a film that defies those messages, boldly, without apology. It’s no wonder the hollywood film community has shunned it fiercely, so that it had to be funded independently, distributed independently, and even marketed independently (Yahoo Movies wasn’t even listing the film on its opening day until it seems fan outrage forced it to).
Atlas Shrugged the novel created a movement. It tried to change the direction of our country. Ayn Rand saw us blindly heading for a train wreck. And here we are today, our train conductors aren’t asleep at the wheel; even worse, their eyes are closed, but their feet are on the gas. This movie only scratches the surface of the novel, but right now it represents that movement. People are excited because this could be the beginning of a huge wave that moves in a different direction. Go see the film to be a part of it. Or go to see what the big deal is all about.