Monday, April 02, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 (2011) *

PG-13, 97 min.
Director: Paul Johansson
Writers: John Aglialoro, Brian Patrick O’Toole, Ayn Rand (novel)
Starring: Taylor Schilling, Grant Bowler, Matthew Marsden, Edi Gathegi, Patrick Fischler, Michael Lerner, Joe Polito, Rebecca Wisocky, Jsu Garcia

The first part of the film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” has the effect of making you feel like you’re being clubbed to death with a baby seal. The ideas about how everything in our society should be based on the notion of rewarding individual achievement, and that the whole thing is being run off the rails by bleeding hearts and corrupt politicians are so insistently heaved upon the audience that the story can hardly bear their weight.

It tells of a very near future, 2016, in which the country’s infrastructure has broken down to the point where railway travel and rail shipping are the only viable ways for businesses and individuals to function. Uh-huh! Luckily, it doesn’t really try to explain why trains would be viable with fuel coasts soaring out of reach for all other modes of transportation. Anyway, a brother and sister run a train company. He wants to help people. Ew, how disgusting?! He also wants to help himself; a contradiction the story doesn’t seem interested in reconciling. She just wants to make money. She meets a steel tycoon who only wants the same and they’re apparently the only two left in the world that realizes their ability to make money helps everyone. Four years from now? Really? There’s gonna be a lot of deaths on Wall Street really soon.

How the heroes still have so much money in a society that has made it all but impossible to make money is another detail the film never reconciles. Other mysteries include the movie’s biggest question, who is John Galt and why is he taking the premiere achievers of this sad future away? Try to hold back an audible laugh when it is revealed just where he’s taking them. Why did a company abandon their designs for a miracle engine and why did they literally just leave the designs behind in their abandoned warehouse? The two heroes investigate these mysteries much the way Fox and Scully search for proof of alien life forms.

The whole movie is handled like late night programming for Cinemax, but without the sex. Oh, there is some sex, but the filmmakers don’t have the courtesy to try and make this slough through Ayn Rand’s personal philosophies interesting by showing it to us. The lead actors deliver their preposterous dialogue with such earnestness and God given good looks it’s hard to believe they’re even capable of possessing such a wealth of riches and brains as well. They could almost inspire tears for the one percent. Upon seeing such a film, how could a homeless person not feel just a little guilty for the burden he places on the rich and powerful?

The truth is, not all of the ideas contained within this drivel are entirely useless. There are some good points to be made here about how the politicians coddle the lobbyists and claim to act for the good of the people while having little concept of just what the people really need. But, it is all delivered with such a heavy hand and absolutely no perspective in tune with anything resembling reality that anything worthwhile to be gleaned is lost to the overselling of Rand’s ideas. This movie is just bad. It’s a stupid, stupid presentation of a philosophy that will only appeal to those who already benefit by it. I would think those people are too busy to watch a silly movie. At least, I would hope so.

1 comment:

Elise said...

I have yet to read Atlas Shrugged or watch the film adaptation, but I’ve heard mixed reviews from people who have read the book and watched the film. Several of them share your opinion, but others shared a few thoughts that make me want to watch the film before I read the book. I’ve recently signed on to get Blockbuster @Home through DISH, where I work, and I noticed that Atlas Shrugged Part 1 is available to add to my queue. I’m curious if I'll actually enjoy this film since I won’t have any preconceptions or be holding it to any kind of standard. I can’t help but wonder how many “parts” there will actually be, and if those with negative opinions of the film will change their mind of it once they see the rest of the parts.