We go to movies for many reasons: to have fun, to escape, to laugh, to be moved, to learn something. One of my friends likes only happy movies, nothing too serious, just fun. I know it’s a cliché to say, but variety really is the spice of life. Movies are like books, music or food. One person’s masterpiece is another person’s disaster. For example, I enjoyed M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening.” By all accounts, I am the only human living who did so. But that’s okay. We like what we like, and we need pay no nevermind to other’s opinions.
However, we can
objectively (sorry, not objectively, it’s still opinons in the end) analyze aspects of a movie and decide if it’s well-made. Dialogue can be realistic, silly, witty or dull. Acting can be cardboard-like, over-the-top or nuanced. Comedy can be well-timed or flat. Special effects can be convincing or not. Different camera shots can add emotion to a scene or distract from it. You get the idea.
I say all of this just to make a point: I think some folks will like the movie “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1.” I suspect that they will be able to look beyond the illogical story, preposterous and poorly written dialogue, mediocre acting, low-budget production values, a deadening pace and lots of didactic talking–scene after scene of talking, talking, talking. And they will focus on something else: Ayn Rand’s philosophy. She will speak to them.
The movie is based on Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. The story concerns railroad executive Dagny Taggart (played by Taylor Schilling) as she works to save her family business in a not-so-distant future where America is in turmoil. Dagny connects with another industrialist Henry Rearden (played by Grant Bowler). Together they fight labor unions, a corrupt government and everyone else on the planet who is evidently not as enlightened as they. Along the way, a select few chosen artists, businessmen and the like disappear, but not before they mystically ask, “Who is John Galt?”
“Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” is actor Paul Johansson’s first feature film as a director; his previous direction was for the television series “One Tree Hill.” The movie’s supporting cast include Graham Beckel, Matthew Marsden, Michael Lerner, Rebecca Wisocky and Armin Shimerman.
I should state for the record that I agree with only some of what Ayn Rand had to say: the bits about individualism, artists, ambition, etc. But most of her theories (for example, the parts about selfishness being moral and altruism being evil) are illogical, if not insane. These days we are bombarded by meaningless empty films, so I was looking forward to “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1,” thinking that at least it would be about something. Even though I disagree with much of Rand’s philosophy, I imagined that the source material would be fodder for a good movie. I thought it might challenge us to debate the ideas. But sadly, “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” will probably convince and challenge no one. There’s just not much in the movie to debate or to grab onto. It’s like an amateur, over-talkative Scientology recruitment soap opera. Only instead of L. Ron Hubbard’s spirituality, we get Rand’s economics.
The film isn’t a complete failure. I can see these actors doing better acting in better roles, and I like dystopian themes. As I left the theater, there was an eager couple waiting outside. They asked, almost breathlessly, “How was it? Was it a lot like the book?” I looked at their smiling faces and replied simply, “It was cheesy. But maybe you’ll like it.”
Rating 1.5 out of 4 stars
2011, Rated PG-13, 102 minutes, Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi