Saturday, April 16, 2011

Atlas Shrugged, Part 1

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who know, and those who don't. To those who don't: No, I have nothing to say about this movie. God gave you eyes and a mind to use; if you fail to do so, the loss is yours, not mine.

To those who know:

I liked it. Considering the time constraints and the budget, well, it was not as good as the version in my head, but for someone else's vision, I enjoyed it, overall. Because I don't believe that the movie will "change the world" overnight (so I'm not counting on it as propaganda*), and because there are others already discussing the "objective" virtues and flaws of the production itself, I'll be content to indulge myself and simply register some of my own subjective, "Objectiv-ish" feelings...

-Owen Kellogg: Contrasts with my impression of the novel version; instead of seeming confident and resolute while resigning, the movie version was obviously feeling the pain of stepping away from what conventional society would consider a "golden opportunity." All that pain disappears, as he remembers something better: "Who Is John Galt?" As someone who's been there in real life, I could relate.

-Heroes and Villains: When I first read the book, I was coming at it from a perspective of a seeker of answers regarding religion. My initial reaction, during the early parts of the book, was that Dagny, Rearden, and co. were, in accordance with conventional ethics, "real bastards, while her villains initially appeared as the good guys. By the time got to the launch of the John Galt Line, however, I was cheering them; because Rand knew that she was "challenging 2000 years of Christianity," this was by design (she had a penchant for shocking the reader), and a testament to Rand's powers of persuasion. I did not feel that from the movie; my suspicion is that, because the movie was done in a climate foretold by the book, the protagonists were presented as heroes 'straight-up," and the antagonists felt like villains from the get-go. (I don't know if a newbie would get the same impression, though...but for those well-aware of the book, the element of surprise is gone...)

-The John Galt Line: By the time I got to this scene in the book, Rand had already won me over, and I was exited about the success of the John Galt Line. If that had been the end of the book, I would have been satisfied; a "normal" book would have ended there, I felt. But it was no ordinary book...Anyway, it was fitting that this scene comes towards the end of part, as a "false climax". Because of the lack of time in the movie to develop Rand's themes, and the "predetermined" nature of the heroes and villains (compared to my experience with the book), it would have been a mild victory, compared to the book version. Fortunately, because of the cliffhanger of the real climax ("Wyatt's Torch,"), what would have been a superficial ending become the start of the real conflict, which was only hinted at by this time in the movie.

-Ellis Wyatt: The main characters were not my ideal cast from my imagination (from my first reading, I imagined Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams (in their
Poltergeist roles) as Rearden and Dagny, and Jimmy Smits as Franciso d'Anconia). But I thought most were ok, though I was disappointed with the choice for d'Anconia. But Ellis Wyatt, however, made me forget about my own mental version, and, dare I say it, stole the movie, which was fitting for the character who would light the inextinguishable fire of "Wyatt's Torch." So when Dagny screamed at the end, I really felt it (and for me, that's when her character finally came alive.)

If I had to compare, I'd say I personally get more mileage from the movie version of
The Fountainhead, but I'd see this again, and I certainly hope to see the next two.


  1. * One of the previews, ironically, was for a movie called "I Am," an anti-Atlas that claims to answer "what's wrong with the world" from the viewpoints of such "luminaries" as Noah Chomsky and Howard Zinn. From the movie's website:

    "Ironically, in the process of trying to figure out what’s wrong with the world, Shadyac discovered there’s more right than he ever imagined. He learned that the heart, not the brain, may be man’s primary organ of intelligence, and that human consciousness and emotions can actually affect the physical world, a point Shadyac makes with great humor by demonstrating the impact of his feelings on a bowl of yogurt. And, as Shadyac’s own story illustrates, money is not a pathway to happiness. In fact, he even learns that in some native cultures, gross materialism is equated with insanity."

    And the beat goes on...

  2. At our showing, the trailers including Twilight Eclipse with werewolves battling vampires. I understand and appreciate the opportunies of genre fiction. However, I think that this is much worse than a limiting genre, for instance Romance or Westerns. In the 300 years since Newton's Principia, the Enlightenment remains something that happened to us but not to other people.