We just finished watching the Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy. Very interesting. It was much better than I thought it would be, though not without flaws. Would I recommend it? Now that’s a difficult question…
Why better than I thought? I hadn’t expected much, partly because of the poor reception it’s received, partly because how do you compress a thousand-page novel of ideas like Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged into about 6 hours of movie, without literally losing the plot?
And there’s the rub. I enjoyed it, but I’ve read the novel. It would be interesting to see the reaction of someone sympathetic to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, or its core ideas of reason, individual rights and capitalism, who hasn’t read Atlas Shrugged. It might be hard to find such a person. I myself didn’t read the novel until some time after I became interested in the ideas, but some people think there aren’t many people like me around…
Then again, to my surprise our 11-year old daughter enjoyed it, though she did have the benefit of her godlike father being there to explain some of the action 🙂
On the good side, at least for someone who’s read the novel and doesn’t get lost, many of Rand’s ideas came through and some of the good quotes were there and delivered well. When you are already familiar with the story, you don’t notice the plot gaps so much.
On the bad side: where do I start? Not all is the producer’s fault: compressing a work of such scope into a 3-part movie isn’t easy. On the other hand, others seem to have managed a similar task much better with Lord of the Rings. The script direction was a bit spotty: sometimes it is mystifying why they left some things out in favour of others. Changing practically all the actors from Part I to Part II to Part III is jarring, especially when even their ages varied enormously. But perhaps we can put these flaws down to a small budget.
Speaking of the actors, it is so jarring that it is a game in itself watching the changes and picking your favourites. Dagny Taggart? The third, I’d say, with Dagny I a close second; though of all the characters, the Dagnys were the closest to each other. Hank Rearden I – definitely the best. Francisco? Definitely II. Francisco looked too much like a hobo who didn’t have it, and Francisco III was awful: too old, not at all dashing, and totally lacking in passion. And don’t get me started on Ragnar, whose only good point in the movie was that he had hardly anything to do in it (he is a far more engaging and important character in the book).
(This paragraph contains some spoilers…) The worst for me was the scene in Part III where Francisco finds Dagny in the Valley. Consider that he thought she was dead, and had spent ages searching for her, hoping to find her, fearing to find her dead body. Then he discovers here alive, and it is pretty much, “Hey, nice to see you breathing. See you later!” Sheesh. Sorry guys, that was the worst failure to take advantage of high human drama I’ve ever seen. John Galt, the main if shadowy hero, wasn’t that much better. For a man of high passion, brilliance and drive, he mainly came across as made of wood. Though I did think he did a creditable job delivering his keynote speech, and (unlike Francisco) an excellent job dragging Dagny into his room when she finally tracks him down in his garret.
The trilogy certainly could have benefited by a more rigorous control of the script including seeking (and listening to) input from advisors with a better grasp of the essentials of the novel and a greater artistic flair than the production displayed. But for all its flaws, bravo to the producers for making the attempt, not entirely bad by any means.
Would I recommend this trilogy to someone interested in what Ayn Rand is all about but hasn’t yet read Atlas Shrugged? Possibly, but with the proviso “don’t expect to fully understand the plot or all the complex sub-plots, and if you like any of it – read the book.” Definitely do not judge the book by the movie, unless you positively hate the thoughts even in the movie (in which case why are you even here?).
Would I recommend it to someone who has read Atlas Shrugged? Yes, because if I enjoyed it, you might too. Just don’t expect it to equal the novel.