The long-awaited film version of Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged” has finally seen the light of day in “Atlas Shrugged Part
I,” the first in a planned trilogy. The film, about 1 hour, 40 minutes, received an encouraging audience response on the April 15 weekend opening. A tight budget and limited distribution brought it to about 300 theaters, but positive response has increased showings to 1,000 theaters the following week and more later on as word of mouth spreads. Producers hope to release Part II on April 15, 2012 and Part III on April 15, 2013.
Response has been somewhat predictable to Rand’s pro-capitalist and individualistic epic view of economic collapse and government takeover in the near future — all too hauntingly realistic considering today’s headlines. Many fans of the novel voiced enthusiasm over the filmmakers’ ability to create heroes of the main characters in Part I while setting up the mystery for what awaits in Parts II and III. Some fans enjoyed the film, but felt much was left out of Rand’s 1,000-page plus novel, a near-impossible task considering the lengthy dialogue and deep philosophical segments in the book.
Because film needs to take an entirely different approach than books for artistic appeal, visual and emotional aspects replace much of the written page. There has to be movement instead of speech, along with creating banter, to get across the message, producer John Aglialoro explained. Aglialoro purchased the rights to the novel in 1992 and proceeded with great difficulty over the years to finally get it filmed, a mammoth accomplishment to overcome the resistance of pro-liberal and leftist leaning Hollywood. However, the film, as well as the two sequels to follow, focuses on ideas rather than left vs. right, the producer added.
Many opponents of Rand’s philosophy responded typically with anti-capitalist ravings on blogs. It was obvious some of them haven’t even seen the film and used the opportunity for left-wing vitriol. On Rotten Tomatoes, a popular review site, the response was revealing. While only 6 percent of critics gave the film thumbs up, 85 percent of moviegoers gave it high ratings. Some of the elitist comments from critics include, “weirdly esoteric about weirdly esoteric things,” “sterile and lifeless” and a “low-budget, no-talent treatment.” Kyle Smith of the New York Post was among the exceptions, stating the film has “a fire and a fury that makes it more compelling than the average mass-produced studio item.”
Contrary to narrow-minded and politically obsessed criticism, the film is extraordinarily well-made for an independent production with fine to excellent performances. Brilliant scenes take us to authentic laying down of railroad track and through colorful and mountainous Colorado and other regions, especially the victorious ride of the John Galt Line. Excitement rises during the journey to find the creator of an invention that could change the world. The emotional and stirring ending of Part I adds to the “why are people leaving” mystery that follows throughout the film.
Over the years, speculation about who should portray the novel’s characters in a movie version have been ongoing. Clint Eastwood was often mentioned as Hank Reardon. Rand herself, a fan of TV’s “Charley’s Angels,” mentioned Farrah Fawcett for the Dagny Taggart role. As it is, the selection of Grant Bowler as Reardon and Taylor Schilling as Dagny could not have been better. But Graham Beckel (brother of liberal commentator Bob Beckel) steals the show as entrepreneur Ellis Wyatt. Well-known supporting actor Michael Lerner (“Elf,” “Godzilla”) brings to life government villain Wesley Mouch. Matthew Marsden, who plays Dagny’s sinister brother, James Taggart, said he was honored to have a part in the film, but notes that, “unfortunately, that was not the case for many people out there,” referring to the reluctance of some actors who feared liberal Hollywood repercussions.