I have been a die-hard fan of Ayn Rand’s novels for several years now. Howard Roark holds more substance in my mind than many people that I know in real life. I love the power of Rand’s stories and I enjoy the intellectual and spiritual grappling that I must do every time I approach John Galt’s speech.
Needless to say, I was thrilled by the prospect of Atlas Shrugged being brought to the big screen. And I was also very wary of the fact that it 1) was very low-budget, 2) had no big name actors, 3) was set in the future. Very, very wary.
I nearly despaired when rottentomatoes gave it a 5% rating. But I still had some very small hope that the critics were just… overly critical. So I went to see it a few nights after it opened.
The whole thing had the feeling of a train ride. The movie opened to a darkened cafe scene; after only a moment bright colors and motion overpowered you and continued to pull you forward til the abrupt end of the ride. Jerky, hesitant at times, cheesy at others. But not entirely awful! There was some great dialogue, much of it pulled straight from the pages of the book. The acting was patchy, but passable. It doesn’t leave you yearning for the next movie installment, but I must admit it was enjoyable. At the end of it, I asked my friend (who has not been indoctrinated by Rand… yet) what he thought. “It was surprisingly good!” he replied, seeming somewhat surprised at his own words.
I have to agree with his assessment. It was good. The movie was done in a way that it showed that it has Ayn Rand at its heart, not Hollywood. I appreciate that. But it does nothing to touch the true essence of her work. It skimmed over so much of the meaningful rhetoric and stuck to the more memorable “Who is John Galt?” line. Maybe the next two movies will pick up the slack that this one left. Rand spent 1200 pages building up her thesis: I’m doubtful they can come anywhere close to touching it with the time they have left.