David Kelley Review of Atlas Shrugged Part 1, the film

The Atlas Society's picture
Submitted by The Atlas Society on Fri, 2011-02-25 20:26

Review of Atlas Shrugged Part 1, the film
By David Kelley
February 24, 2011

“Midas Mulligan,” says the shadowy figure who accosts the prominent banker in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

“Who’s asking?”

“Someone who knows what it’s like to work for himself and not let others feed off the profits of his energy.”

So begins Atlas Shrugged Part I, the independent adaptation by “The Strike” Productions, scheduled for theatrical release April 15, 2011.

Ever since the project launched last April, skeptics have wondered how a film with a limited budget of $10 million, rushed production schedule, and lack of big-name talent could possibly do justice to the novel. Over a thousand pages long, with an intricate plot, epic scope, multi-layered mystery, a hero who does not appear until the final third of the story, and a complex philosophical theme, Atlas Shrugged has posed an insurmountable challenge to film-makers. The streets of Hollywood are littered with the ashes of prior efforts, some with much larger budgets.

The skeptics are wrong. The completed film was shown today for the first time in a private screening. It is simply beautiful. With a screenplay faithful to the narrative and message of the novel, the adaptation is lushly produced. The acting, cinematography, and score create a powerful experience of the story.

Taylor Schilling is riveting as Dagny Taggart, the woman who manages the Taggart Transcontinental rail system with intelligence and courage while fighting interference from the president of the company, her incompetent brother James (Matthew Marsden), and his political cronies. Schilling is well-matched with Grant Bowler as steel-maker Hank Rearden. As the story opens, Rearden has just started producing a new alloy he invented; and Dagny is his first customer. She wants to have rails of the metal to replace a branch line in Colorado, which is booming with business growth, led by oil-producer Ellis Wyatt, who is clamoring for better transportation for his product.

The film covers the first third of Rand’s novel, the triumphant story of building the “John Galt Line”—followed by a wave of government edicts that saddle the Line with impossible burdens, making the triumph a battle won in a losing war between producers and looters, and setting the stage for the later battles of Parts II and III. The film pulls no punches in this regard: Rand’s theme of makers vs. takers comes through loud and clear in scenes like the one in which Rearden is forced to sell off his satellite companies. Bowler captures the agony of a man having his life’s work torn from him.

The film does a credible job of portraying visually the world of Atlas Shrugged. Rand created a world in decline. Buildings and machinery are in disrepair, things break and don’t get fixed, businesses close. The economy is in a state of severe depression, and there is a depression of the spirit, too, a mood of despair, futility, and resignation captured in a popular expression: “Who is John Galt?”

Compounding the problem is the disappearance of highly talented people, prominent achievers at the peak of their success. That’s happening, of course, because John Galt is leading a strike of producers against the expropriation of their wealth—and against the principle that the need of others gives them a right to wealth, time, and effort of the productive. Though the strike remains largely off-stage in the film, Galt gets a more active role than in Part I of the novel. We don’t see his face, but we do see him recruiting strikers and we hear portions of the message. Unfortunately, those lines are not delivered with anything like the persuasive power that Rand’s philosophical recruiter must have.

The novel was set in an indefinite “day after tomorrow,” a world that is always just ahead of us, retreating like the horizon as we approach. The producers made the controversial decision to date the story in late 2016, presumably to tap into the many parallels to current events, and the establishing shots of cities, train wrecks, and government actions are arresting extrapolations of today’s actual world. These depressing scenes are offset by gorgeous scenes of triumph. The first run of the John Galt Line is a visual symphony (even with some ragged edges in the digital graphics).

For over half a century, Rand’s novel has been a lightning rod for controversy. It has attracted millions of devoted fans—and legions of hostile critics. A poor adaptation could be ignored by both sides. This adaptation can’t be ignored. It is way too good. It is going to turbocharge the debate over Rand’s vision of capitalism as a moral ideal. Whether you love the novel or hate it, Atlas Shrugged Part I is a must-see film.

David Kelley is executive director of The Atlas Society, which promotes Rand’s philosophy. He was also a consultant to the movie.

the movie will do quite well

darren's picture

the movie will do quite well and live on as a cult classic regardless of its limited theatrical release.

I don't think so.

See this article from the New York Post (posted earlier):

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Atlas Shrugged, the movie, collapses at box office.

After a middling performance during its opening weekend that was hyped in some quarters (i.e., The Hollywood Reporter), the per-screen average for this amateurish Ayn Rand adaptation (even Kyle could only muster 2.5 stars' worth of enthusiam for the movie, though he liked its message) plunged to an alarming $1,890 from $5,640 during its opening frame. Overall, the weekend's take was a scant $879,000 -- a whopping 48 percent drop despite adding 166 locations. Which certainly suggest they're running out of audience quick.

That means that at some locations, distributor Rocky Mountain Pictures will be writing checks to theaters to cover the difference between receipts and operating expenses. The only way they're likely to get the 1,000 screens the producers say they want next weekend is to rent them. And, as Kyle put it at his personal blog, "Whether the sequels get made is purely a matter of how much desire the producers have for losing money.''

AS...sanitized - Doug French review

Ellen Stuttle's picture

This just appeared today on Mises.org:

(There's a good picture of Dagny and Hank at the start of the review; click to see.)

Atlas Shrugged: Sanitized and On the Fly

Mises Daily: Monday, April 25, 2011 by Doug French

~~~ START excerpt


The movie is being described as good to great by a number of libertarians, but there's a reason it's grabbing only 7 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, as opposed to, say, 96 percent for The Social Network.

However, some of the negative reviews are not all that negative. This is no left-wing movie-critic conspiracy.

There is no reason to provide a broad review of the film. P.J. O'Rourke has done it best to my view. As he says, "the uninitiated will feel they've wandered without a guide into the midst of the elaborate and interminable rituals of some obscure exotic tribe."

For those familiar with Rand's book, the movie looks like it was done on the fly and sanitized for the 21st century. [....]

~~~ END excerpt

A Christian Review

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Also on the Libertarian Alliance site is a review captioned:

The Atlas Shrugged Film: A Christian Review

This originally appeared as a blog post on a site called "Gracelifer" hosted by a preacher named Richard Jordan:

We Saw Atlas Shrugged

I think the review is perceptive with its mostly (not entirely) getting Rand right and its warning to Christians of irreconcilable basic differences between Christianity and Objectivism.

One of the comments on the blog post quotes a letter from Ludwig von Mises to Ayn Rand dated January 23, 1956 -- direct link.

Here's the meat of the review:

~~~ START excerpt

Monday, April 18, 2011
We Saw Atlas Shrugged
[by Richard Jordan]


Which brings me to a point that needs to be made: In our current cultural clamor to reconstruct a society which once again will celebrate individual achievement and enlightened self-interest, we need to be informed about those to whom we give our ear.

Ayn Rand was the “mother” of the Objectivist movement. She (as well as this movement) was outspokenly atheistic and demonstratively anti-religion. Although she/they saw “religion” mainly in terms of Catholicism, she/they rejected out of hand the idea of faith and revelation as the basis for any epistemology (i.e, view of knowledge), code of ethics/values or view of reality. This needs to be understood clearly by those believers who seem to be enamored by her work. Her basic philosophy is anti-god-in-any-and-all-forms.

The Objectivist school bases its understanding of social and societal construct solely on human virtues, reason and intellect, while denouncing as impossibly irrelevant any idea of faith or God. To them the idea of “pride as a virtue” is paramount; the idea it may be a “sin” is scandalous.

For Rand and her followers, both then and now, the watchwords are not faith, God, service; but rather: reason, nature, happiness, man. The absolute, which must guide everything, is the principle of reason; every other idea must meet this test. It is in this approach–in this fundamental rejection of faith–that their philosophy lies. For them, faith is simply “belief in the absence of evidence.”

And it is the propagation of this philosophy that lies at the heart of this novel. When Rand first discussed the publishing of her work with Random House, she reports that she told them, “This work is an extreme, uncompromising defense of capitalism and free enterprise and presents a new philosophy…a new morality….A direct affront to Judeo-Christian values.”

Thus the book works from a premise of abandonment of God, the belief that we have a right to exist for ourselves, opposition to the concept of “sinful” man, the pursuit of happiness as a worthy and ultimate goal coupled with the need for a lack of compassion, charity and humility.

So, my friends, in your search for those to help buttress your economic/political/social model or an idealized Americana, be aware that the Rand model will broach no allowance for a deity, divine revelation or a sinful/in need of redemption man, nor the idea of self-sacrifice as a virtue. No. This is a totally sufficient man, with no need of a belief in an unknown and unknowable “other” and no goal beyond a worthy pride.

It is their view that because this world is of vital importance, the definitive motive of man’s action should be the pursuit of happiness. Because the individual, not a supernatural power, is the creator of wealth, a person should have the right to private property, the right to keep and use or trade his own product. And because man is basically good, they insist, there is no need to leash him; there is nothing to fear in setting free a rational animal.

Thus is the ideal of the author of Atlas Shrugged. It is an ideal doomed to fail. See Romans 1:19-25.

~~~ END excerpt

James Kirkpatrick review of the AS film

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Tom Burroughes' post An astonishing, apparently racist review of the Atlas Shrugged film has gone off the front page, so I chose amongst the review threads still showing to post excerpts from some further reviews. The first two were also posted on the Libertarian Alliance site. The third appeared on Mises.org today.

~~~ START excerpts

[Underscore emphasis added]

Review of The Atlas Shrugged Film

by James Kirkpatrick
Posted on 18 April, 2011 by Dr Sean Gabb


The book was written in 1957 and reflects its time. All of the heroes are titans of industry that are actually industries. [....]

As even a third of Atlas Shrugged is too much to film, the movie focuses on three main subplots. First, there are the technical struggles by Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden to save their businesses and the country. [....]

The second subplot is the gradual escalation of socialism within Washington DC. One of the greatest joys of Rand’s books is her stunningly vitriolic portrait of parlor room socialists and trendy intellectuals. Michael Lerner (the actor, not the socialist rabbi) is the only actor that will you will recognize in the movie and he captures the grubby mannerisms, bloated appearance, and squinty eyed scheming that you would associate with lobbyists and bureaucrats. However, the movie fails to capture the general feel of the cocktail parties and closed door meetings that Rand managed to convey, that mysterious progressive mind meld of uniform viewpoints on politics, aesthetics, and culture that Joe Sobran termed “The Hive.”

Instead, the movie downplays the philosophical and cultural motivations of the socialists and presents them simply as materialistic schemers, which undermines Rand’s larger point about the roots of accomplishment and productivity on one hand and altruism and failure on the other.

The final subplot is the affair between Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart. [....] the movie distorts, and really destroys, the motivation behind Rearden and Dagny’s affair. [....]

The character of Francisco d’Anconia is similarly rendered pointless. [....]

If Rand’s novels have been accused of having characters that simply serve as empty vessels for ideas, the movie has stripped away even the ideas from the main characters, giving us no reason to care about these people.

The movie also strips away what was truly original and subversive in Rand’s vision. Rather than a savage critique of egalitarianism and the proud worship of hierarchy, beauty, and excellence, not just in politics but in humanity, it gives us vague policy prescriptions and laugh lines for the libertarian crowd. [....] Rather than presenting a certain “sense of life,” as Rand suggested, it basically tells us to donate to the CATO Institute and read [Reason.

This is what the backers of the film intend and it will succeed on this front, despite the low production values. [....] Once released, safe and snug and protected from any of the subversive implications of Rand’s thought and with issues of sociobiology, culture, and identity easily abstracted away to nonexistence, the movie will do quite well and live on as a cult classic regardless of its limited theatrical release.

The problem is that the real world policy prescriptions of those promoting the movie don’t fit with Rand’s vision. [....]

Even the promotional literature distributed by the makers of the movie doesn’t really reflect reality. It says, “What would happen if our producers disappear—Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, and other industrialists fall off the radar… their creative genius no longer powering America?” Of course, there are two problems here. One is titans of industry at the time Rand wrote her book were actual titans of industry that conquered nature and created new things. Today, fortunes are made on the Internet, which essentially lets us consume more efficiently or “create” things that only exist online. The second problem is that the titans of industry listed here are progressives. [....]

Rand’s vision, whatever else one thinks of it, was unique. It transcended itself and contained implications that went beyond Rand’s actual policy positions and philosophy. Despite its flaws, Atlas Shrugged is one of the most forthright defenses of the aristocratic principle ever penned. It’s also a profound critique of the phony economy of banker and government manipulation and paean to an economy of production. In this film, it has been transformed into a call to let the likes of George Soros and Warren Buffett pay fewer taxes, despite their own wishes, and to turn this holy cause into the rallying point of the conservative movement. Unfortunately, I have no doubt the film will accomplish its purpose.

~~~ END excerpts

Copyright law, etc.

darren's picture

Good question. I don't know about any grandfathering of the '74 law -- you'd have to check with an IP lawyer. Could be a proverbial "loophole": pay off the government copyright office and they'll extend your copyright for you.

Frankly, I just don't know.

Yeah, the movie theater was very sparsely attended when I saw it, and one of the conversations during the end-credits went something like this: "I don't know . . . do you think this is going to take off?" "I don't know." Etc.

Not a good sign.

The fact that it's still opening up in other theaters around the U.S. doesn't mean a thing. Movie theater owners -- so-called Exhibitors -- bid in advance with the distributors (or whoever owns the rights to the film) to project the film for a certain amount of time, starting on date X and ending on date Y. These new openings are not based on the film being "hot"; they're based on their previously negotiated contracts. Obviously, they're going to show the film and try, at least, to make some money.

By the way, it's usually not the case that exhibitors make their money on ticket sales; it all depends on the kind of contract -- the kind of license -- they've negotiated with the film distributor. The usual contract is known as a "90/10 deal." Here, the distributor (i.e., rights owner) of the film gets 90% of the adjusted gross box office of the theater owner. What is the "adjusted gross"? It's the total amount of box office receipts minus the theater owner's operating costs (in old theater jargon, the "house nut"); i.e., the cost of electricity; the minimum-wage cost of the box-office personnel and those who sweep up the popcorn and litter from the floor between shows; and -- especially -- the high cost of paying the projectionist, who is almost always a member of the Theater Union (IATSE). They're getting at least US$2,000/week while the rest of the staff are getting $7.00/hour.

Most importantly, the distributor agrees NOT to make a fuss over the theater keeping 100% of its significant profits from selling candy, soft drinks, and popcorn. Ever since antitrust destroyed the original, vertically-integrated Hollywood studio system, theater chains have mainly become expensive candy stores that tempt in their customers by offering to show them a movie. But unless the movie is a mega-homerun-hit "with legs" -- something like "E.T.", or "Titanic", theaters usually don't make much money on ticket sales.

The reason the 90/10 deal is popular is simple: most movies are flops. If a theater had to rely on ticket sales alone, it would soon go out of business. By letting the distributors have the lion's share of B.O. receipts, but being permitted to pay its own expenses out of the original gross (rather than the leftover net), and by keeping 100% of the concessions, they manage to do all right.

Regarding Copyright

Doug Bandler's picture

That's interesting information. But is there a grandfather provision with the '74 copyright law? The reason I ask is because I could have sworn that I heard Peikoff mention that copyright protection for Rand's books was extended. I believe it is 75 years from the death of the author.

I agree with the 'AS' review as well. It was a poorly done movie. Aglialoro could have done much better. It really conveyed nothing of the philosophy, which was far more important than just the politics. The movie at this point has made just under 4 million dollars at the box office. I wonder if it will even hit 10. Will the movie break even? Even after video?

Atlas Shrugged, the Movie: A Review

darren's picture

During the final credit-crawl of AS, the movie, I read that David Kelley, an academic philosopher, was "consulted" during the production. We are behooved to ask why an academic philosopher has to be consulted at all regarding the screenwriting, casting, directing, editing, or any other aspect about making AS. What the hell's the point?

My understanding was that Aglialoro owns the rights to the novel -- which he purchased from Peikoff over a decade ago. Why would he need -- let alone want -- to "consult" with an academic philosopher? For what?

(And by the way, since the novel was published in 1957, it means that it falls under the aegis of the pre-1974 copyright law -- the 1974 law greatly extending copyright time for authors, their heirs, and estates. The pre-1974 law permitted 2 copyright cycles of 28 years each; at the end of the first 28 years, the author, heir, or estate, must renew the copyright, after which, the owner of the copyright controls the rights to the property for another 28 years. After that, the work falls out of copyright and into "public domain". This means that the novel Atlas Shrugged will become public domain in 2013, and anyone can produce it as a film, play, tv series, etc., without getting anyone else's permission.)

I will be very surprised if Aglialoro sinks money into producing future parts of this film; or, if he does, his future choices will require a major shakeup in his production team, especially in screenwriting and directing, though it's too late to do anything about the casting, since the latter -- with only a minor exceptions -- was weak. The leads for Dagny and Rearden were (a) too young for the viewer to accept as people of achievement in heavy industries like railroads and steel production; (b) too smiley (Rearden is supposed to be a tortured soul -- but he's smiling all the time! What the hell is that all about!?; (c) extremely non-descript-looking -- "forgettable" is the word. Yes: they're both cute but forgettable.

The casting exceptions were the old hands at acting: Jon Polito -- whose strong, individualist character roles I've always admired from several Coen Brothers films in which I've seen him -- as Orrin Boyle; and Michael Lerner as Wesley Mouch. In keeping with the general incompetence with respect to the production values of this movie, I have to admit that Michael Lerner -- with strong, ethnic-looking features -- is memorable . . . and yet THAT is the opposite of what the Mouch character is supposed to be. Mouch is supposed to be like a mouse: mousey, nondescript, forgettable . . . banal. He's the embodiment of Hannah Arendt's idea of the "banality of evil." Instead, they cast someone with strong features, and LOTS of acting experience, whose presence -- along with that of Polito -- acts circles around the principals.

Lillian Rearden promised to be an interesting character, but the film tried to stuff so much into its 2 hours, that it skipped over a little thing called "character development." There was just no time to see her in all those wonderful and carefully crafted scenes from the novel, constantly needling her husband, or degrading him -- publicly and privately -- by means of his most important value: his work.

Interestingly, a young black man was cast for the role of Eddie Willers. Again, the writing and editing were so compressed, that no time was taken for any real character development . . . such as, for example, playing him against type and giving him some uppity black "'tude'" -- heck, that would've injected some life into the character interactions.

Oddly, Robert Stadler was made to speak with an Italian accent . . . and yet, Stadler, in the novel, is supposed to be the "grand old man" of science -- a guy, I presume, with a shock of white hair. Yet they cast someone who barely looks 40. Very strange casting decision. And what was the point of having him be Italian? I get the impression that one day the producers woke up and said, "Hey! Everyone in this film is really, really white. They look white, they talk white. Maybe we should cast at least one black guy, and have one of the other characters speak with an identifiably ethnic accent, just to spice things up a bit."

Otherwise, I can't detect any rationale in these casting decisions.

The editing was very choppy, making the film, overall, unintelligible to anyone who has not read the book and therefore already knows what's going on.

The important sequence of Dagny's building the John Galt Line was so compressed in its editing that it makes no emotional impact on the audience when the lead characters triumph with it -- with the possible exception of admiring the decent computer graphics work of the Taggart Comet wending its way through the countryside and over bridges. There were some very odd decisions made about this entire sequence. For example, when the line is about to be completed and Dagny is deciding on the crew for its maiden run, the editors include the scene where the trainworkers' union boss comes into Dagny's office and tells her that he won't allow "his men" to be on the run because "public opinion" claims that Rearden Metal is unsafe. Yet the scene in which Dagny requests volunteers for the run and returns to an office overflowing with workers excited by the prospects of being the first to crew this historic run, is omitted. The latter is certainly brief enough in the novel, and one of the most effective, most emotional scenes.

The directing by Paul Johannson was as nondescript, as non-individual, as the casting and writing. Look, Johannson (who also played John Galt): when directing a scene in a movie -- please look at that word, "movie", and notice, please, that it contains the word "move" in it, as in "motion" or "people and things moving" -- you CANNOT simply have characters standing up, looking at each other with serious faces, reciting lines . . . only to be followed by scenes in bars and restaurants with characters sitting down, looking at one another with serious faces, reciting lines . . . .to be followed by characters in limousines, sitting down, looking at one another, reciting lines . . . to be followed by fancy cocktail parties in which characters walk, stop, look at each other, and RECITE FUCKING LINES.

At least in old classic Hollywood films, the "action/activity/adjustments" that actors would sometimes perform, at the behest of the director, was light up a cigarette and smoke, so that a scene heavy with dialogue did not appear stilted. The great majority of scenes in AS were very stiff since the characters were always static (sitting, standing), looking straight at each other, and reciting lines.

I mean, why the FUCK would Dagny pay all that much attention to her scumbag brother when he comes into her office? Wouldn't Dagny speak to her brother while doing something else? Like getting her work done? Maybe she would smoke; maybe she would work at her computer -- looking at her monitor and not her brother -- maybe she would adjust her hair, her makeup, her shoes, her WHATEVER -- it's called "action", "activity", and "adjustments", and it was pretty much nowhere to be seen. NOT giving your actors things to do in a scene so that they are not simply looking at each other reciting lines, is one of the hallmarks of amateurish directing.

I criticize the filmmakers for stiffly and slavishly trying to follow the novel literally rather than living up to their primary responsibility, which is to entertain their audience by telling a good story (which doesn't require consulting with David Kelley); and yet when they stray from the literal novel, they get plain stupid. The scene at 20th Century Motors where they find the leftover motor is something right out of an old TV episode of Batman: they instantly recognize, of course, that it's a motor that could "change the world" (how? why?), and they instantly understand that the little doo-dad on top of the motor is "obviously" a vacuum pump that sends "ionized helium atoms to the central thingymajig" (well FUCK ME! How the hell did you two know THAT? You run a railroad, and you run a steel mill! What the fuck do either of you two know about helium ions, or plasma, or atmospheric vacua, or static electricity for that matter? I'll tell you what you know: nada).

This was real low-level, B-movie kind of writing.

Finally, the literally shadowy figure of John Galt -- played by the director, Paul Johannson -- was absurdly shot in silhouette wearing a hat and saying absurdly stilted, stiff things to Ellis Wyatt like come to Atlantis where individual achievement is valued, etc.

So, as I wrote above, I doubt that Aglialoro, or future producers, will make sequels, and I fully expect part 1 to die on the vine. It doesnt fascinate, it doesn't thrill, it doesn't end with a "cliffhanger" scene just aching to be answered (it ends with Dagny screaming "Noooooooo!!!!!!" into the hillside that Ellis Wyatt set afire when he disappeared), and it struggles hard -- very hard -- to entertain. What it does do well is officially stick to much of the novel, or as much as it could stick to in 2 hours. Alas, novels and movies are two distinct art forms and the elements of one have very little to do with the elements of the other. This was why, in old Hollywood, it was very, very rare for the author of a novel to be allowed to write the screenplay adaptation, as well. The tendency would be for the original author to fall in love with every scene in the novel -- "I can't omit this scene; this is an important scene! And I can't omit the other scene; that's a key insight into the character's psychology!" etc. What was needed, of course, was a fresh pair of eyes to read the novel, think of it in terms of its cinematic possibilities, and strip it down to its bare essentials; then build it back up again in the form a real screenplay. Novelists are rarely able to do this.

AS the movie will be seen by (and possibly lauded by) the hardcore Objectivist crowd, but the all-important publicity tool of the movies -- word of mouth -- will soon kill it. After a brief run, it will continue its life as a DVD and an iTunes download, and then after that, a freebie on sites like hulu.com, but -- unlike the novel -- it makes little emotional impact on its audience.

Declaration of interest

Kenny's picture

David Kelley should have declared his vested interest (i.e. his advisory role, presumably paid) in the movie's success. Frankly, I will discount this review as shilling (rather than Schilling who is stunning).


Blake's picture

List of theaters out now:


Theaters are being added regularly.

This movie will be widely watched soon

The Ultimate Philosopher's picture

Mark my words. Eye


gregster's picture

Does this movie even have a major distributor? That being a conventional vehicle not geared for anything other than average dross. I can't answer that, but the plan is to see how this runs.

How many theaters will it be released in? Do the numbers of empty heads now figure for something? The important thing is that after all this time, the first third of the masterpiece has been put to film. And it looks more than OK to me and can only help us - and them.

Why do I have a feeling that it won't even get a major release. Cos you're gaming hasn't been all that successful lately, but it'll come right, don't go too neg.

Hopefully it will be picked up by the Cable and Satellite companies. It will spread by word of mouth. Just like all Rand's books.

I still don't like anything about this. There was nothing intelligent about the way this movie was approached. Well aside from the suggestion of the third installment being as a musical, it sounds like this first one will be nearly great. I look forward to it. I don't have any emotional investment in it though I'd like to see it create plenty of interest to get the next ones done well too.


Blake's picture

I don't think so, Doug. I know you can "Demand It" through "eventful" via the movie's website. My area has 22 "demands" Sad . It probably will not be a huge release, though I don't know the details. I may end up making a road trip to see its debut. I wouldn't fret too much about this issue though.

There was nothing intelligent about the way this movie was approached.

Which is why I wonder if even people like Hannity would get behind the real message. It can't be that he doesn't see it, as I believe he mentioned he's read the book. I could see his potential response, (if we our fortunate enough to have it in debate): "Well, obviously we all need to act in our self-interest at times, but I think the key is finding a balance." After all, can he really afford to risk offending FOX's large majority of X-tian supporters?

You can't cut down a tree...

Marcus's picture

...on your own property?

The US has become less free than the UK!

What were you fighting the American Revolution for again?


Doug Bandler's picture

Does this movie even have a major distributor? How many theaters will it be released in? Why do I have a feeling that it won't even get a major release. Hopefully it will be picked up by the Cable and Satellite companies. I still don't like anything about this. There was nothing intelligent about the way this movie was approached.

Good boy, Sean. Gov't = bad!

Blake's picture

Really, Sean, it will make people think about the government overstepping its boundaries and interfering in peoples lives? Gee, I sure hope so! ......

People are already fed up, but have no intellectual defense. What about pursuing one's own self-interest as a moral virtue? I wonder how many conservatives and so-called free market supporters would get behind the idea that pursuing one's own self-interest is admirable and morally good. I don't see highly influential pundits like Hannity and Rush Limbaugh having the nerve. Their take on the free market is strictly pragmatic, in what I have observed.


Lindsay Perigo's picture

Will Hollywood let you see Atlas Shrugged? Here


Lindsay Perigo's picture

John Stossel will be on Hannity today talking about the movie.

Oooops! There's Yaron Brook on Beck (Napolitano) right now!

idiotic indeed

Doug Bandler's picture

But this is a guy who has made part one of a Trilogy as a cinematic drama. Has to finish that way too or he'd be an idiot.

Yes, but even suggesting that the third movie be a musical leads me to believe that he is an idiot.

Too right...

Olivia's picture

Actually, I think the entire novel should have been made into a "rock opera," like Tommy.

If Act 1 & 2 are a musical then it should be so for Act 3... would be great if someone could truly write the music to match the story.

But this is a guy who has made part one of a Trilogy as a cinematic drama. Has to finish that way too or he'd be an idiot.

@ Lady Olivia

darren's picture

It's not a bad idea.

Actually, I think the entire novel should have been made into a "rock opera," like Tommy.


Brant Gaede's picture

Thanks for the laugh. That was very funny.


@ Brant

darren's picture

You know a little about a lot, not a lot about a little

Well, thank you! And may I return the compliment by suggesting that you know both absolutely everything about nothing, and absolutely nothing about everything.

How nice to be part of the SOLO mutual admiration society.

@ Lady Olivia

darren's picture

I can spot gratuitously boring macho flashes when they're right in front of me

I'll just bet you can, lady!


(I take it you're the chick on the left with the 'fro singing backup)

Oh dear.

Olivia's picture

Has Aglialoro lost his mind?

A musical? What the hell is going on there?

Insanity from Aglialoro

Doug Bandler's picture

Has Aglialoro lost his mind?


“But you know, part three could be a musical . . . like a Les Miserables kind of a musical,” said Aglialoro. “That’s part of the impact and I guess I haven’t said this publicly yet, but I’m looking at it completely different if part three is a musical with quality music that’s done in a certain way that people will like.”


Brant Gaede's picture

Writers start from many different ideas and positions, including big themes as with Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged. You know a little about a lot, not a lot about a little--not here so far on this forum. I'd guess that professionally the opposite is true. If so, you're misusing your authority by mixing it up with ignorance. I have to say you're the most sophisticated and intelligent troll I've ever seen on the Internet. Trolldom should give you a medal. If any place deserves you, SOLOP does most of all in Oistland. At least you've deigned to give Callum some education. He'll make good use of it.



Olivia's picture

I don't suffer from a reading impediment - but I can spot gratuitously boring macho flashes when they're right in front of me.

@ Blake

darren's picture

I also have a reading impediment.

One impediment among many.


Blake's picture

Sure. If it'll make your reading impediment any easier for you, I can also constrain my vocabulary to one and two syllable words.

If you prefer to frame the issue in this way, then for your future reference, I also have a reading impediment.


@ Olivia

darren's picture

Not at all, they are the sort of writers who are "struck" or "inspired" by an idea which is universal enough to appeal to the many.

Writers are craftsmen and technicians -- they have to be. They don't start with "big themes" and work their way down to plot and characterization; they start with compelling characterizations and plot twists -- plot twists that are consistent with the kinds of choices such a character would make given the Main Trait -- and the theme emerges -- very much as a price system on a free market emerges. The latter is sometimes called an "emergent property"; same can be said for theme in dramatic writing.

A theme is different to "sending a message". A writer must never deviate from the theme, not for a second,

"Theme" is what goes on in your head when you read the story, so deviation is unlikely. That's why 10 different people will come up with 10 different themes after reading a story, irrespective of what the author may have intended; but they will all agree on the plot and the sorts of choices the characters make that reveal their traits.

attending to characterization of a hero or a protagonist stems from that very theme.

As a purely practical matter in "story engineering", there's nothing wrong with that method, if that's the way a particular writer likes to work. Most writers do not write that way, and there is zero necessity to do so, at least in fiction and dramatic writing. An essay, or old-fashioned "composition" for English class used to be written that way: the teacher would assign a big, lofty "theme" -- perhaps an ethical maxim, or a traditional saying, such as "Honesty is the Best Policy" or "Old Soldiers Never Die; They Just Fade Away", and then they would instruct their students to "illustrate" the theme by way of employing certain rhetorical devices (Example, Simile, Metaphor, Comparison, Contrast, etc.). Using big, lofty "themes" for student essay writing is great . . . it also leads to some of the most artificial and stilted essay writing one will ever read, but it's not an invalid way of going about writing an essay.

Dramatic writing, however, deals with the concrete, not the universal . . . if the read wants to see, or experience, the universal within the concrete -- I believe this used to be called "seeing God in the details" -- then that's great. It isn't necessary, of course, to enjoy the story qua story, and it certainly isn't necessary for the writer to have "put" the theme into the story in the first place. As stated above, the responsibility for "theme" mainly rests with the reader, not the writer, and it is something that goes on inside his head as he reads (or watches, in the case of film).

Sending a message will be entailed in *how* the hero solves his central conflict, which is a by-product of the writer's theme anyway.

In practice, "how" the hero solves the central conflict is a direct product of the character's main trait; the pattern of behavior that makes the character what he is. And what determines the character's main trait could be any one of a number of things: could be the writer's sense of life; could be a desire to draw a character he knew or knows in real life. I suppose it could be some big, lofty "theme" or "philosophical idea" but it certainly need not be -- and it seldom is, at least in actual practice.

Think of Shakespeare - Romeo & Juliet - the theme is love one cannot live without.

Really? Says who? Many of us adamantly believe the theme is "Fathers always loathe the guys who want to marry their daughters" or "Warring families make life difficult for children." Poll nine more Shakespeare readers and you'll find nine more "themes", including the well-known one about "star-crossed lovers."

Without that predominant theme and indeed exploration of it, poor William would not have had a plot, characters, nor story. The story starts there.

Not so. The story -- the plot and the characters -- already existed long before Shakespeare touched it. He simply made a very successful adaptation.

Any chance you could keep your posts less lengthy and more succinct? They are as pointlessly wordy as Rosie's relentless lectures.

Sure. If it'll make your reading impediment any easier for you, I can also constrain my vocabulary to one and two syllable words. After all, I am --

-- your humble servant.

Not true again.

Olivia's picture

The only writers who first decide on themes and then create plots and characters to concretize them are those who want to lecture or preach to their audience; those who primarily want to "send a message" to the audience.

Not at all, they are the sort of writers who are "struck" or "inspired" by an idea which is universal enough to appeal to the many. A theme is different to "sending a message". A writer must never deviate from the theme, not for a second, attending to characterization of a hero or a protagonist stems from that very theme. Sending a message will be entailed in *how* the hero solves his central conflict, which is a by-product of the writer's theme anyway.

Think of Shakespeare - Romeo & Juliet - the theme is love one cannot live without. Without that predominant theme and indeed exploration of it, poor William would not have had a plot, characters, nor story. The story starts there.

Think of Rand - The Fountainhead - the theme is individualism vs collectivism in man's soul. Rand shaped the plot and the character of Roark from there.

Think of Victor Hugo - Les Miserables - the theme is justice between the two mighty poles of Law vs Grace. Hugo never veers away from that theme despite the lengthiness of the novel. From there he knew how to construct Valjean's character and the conflicts which exploring that theme brought into his hero's world.

Any chance you could keep your posts less lengthy and more succinct? They are as pointlessly wordy as Rosie's relentless lectures.


Blake's picture

To correct everything you're mistaken on would be more painstaking than adapting Sartre's "Being & Nothingness" to the big screen, so I'll keep it to one quick point concerning sense of life.

The artist interjects his/her sense of life in a piece of art; knowingly or unknowingly. If no such feelings are apparent, you might as well be watching a cut of security footage from your local five and dime.

The real artist interjects his sense of life knowingly, and only after contemplating and carefully formulating his own deepest emotions can he bring them forth into material existence. The experience satisfies not only the artist himself, but of course those who can relate and delight in that sense of life. AS presents a sense of life most worthy of artistic expression: "man as a heroic being", or "life as it might be and ought to be". AS presents an all-encompassing philosophy, (which could really only be formulated with some level of explicitness), and as a result, provides a basis for the aesthetic aspect. Reading The Fountainhead, you will find the exact same sense of life, with much less philosophy. No basis is provided by many other contemporary artists because A) they don't have an fully-integrated view of existence to base their aesthetic values, or B) they themselves might even cringe upon discovering their own underlying beliefs. Also, one can have a good sense of life without holding any explicit philosophical convictions, and likewise for the bad.

If you watch a Cohen Brother's movie, the sense of life is usually readily apparent. No Country For Old Men, for example, has no stated philosophy, but oozes a sense of life. This sense of life could be described in one word: absurdity. It is consistent, creative, and emotionally probing with its theme. I also find the scenery breathtaking. The pace, cast, sequencing, etc, also make for a quality viewing experience. The sense of life is simply not something I look for in a piece of art. It disagrees with my own personal views of existence. To the Cohen brothers own respective views, it is loyal, integrated, coherent.

Any good piece of art will make you THINK. It does not have to *teach* you something per se. It has to play on your emotions and make you think, implicitly, "this is, (or is not), how I see life". Your price-system analogy doesn't work. It is not a market. *Individuals* act in a market scenario; creating and marketing products they put their time, THOUGHT, and effort into creating. Art is the same process of creation, and in the end satisfies a deeper emotional need. Art need not be put to market, of course; it is an end in itself. However, the same concept applies: it should be thought out, consistent, intelligible, as against an arbitrary mixture of semi-intriguing characters and events, thrown together to see what value just might "come out." The latter will work in art as much as it would in Capitalism.

I recommend reading The Romantic Manifesto, where Rand discusses these issues in greater detail. I am not fully prepared to explain or defend her position. The above is how I see things now, as influenced from reading the book a while back.

[edit] Sense of life is not "interjected"... It is intrinsic to the creative process. It is the source, manifest in the piece of art.

@ Olivia

darren's picture

A screen writer who intends to write anything worth viewing . . .

The only sure way to know whether or not a screenplay would be worth viewing is to produce it and count the number of people who actually view it. Everything else is guesswork and someone's opinion as to "worth."

The only writers who first decide on themes and then create plots and characters to concretize them are those who want to lecture or preach to their audience; those who primarily want to "send a message" to the audience. Nothing wrong with that -- "pulpit rhetoric" is both venerable and honorable -- but it isn't how most writers, especially fiction writers who merely wish to tell good stories -- go about things. And as Jack Warner once quipped: if you want to "send a message", go to Western Union and send a telegram. Don't write a damned screenplay.

Whether or not a writer pays any attention at all to "theme" is completely irrelevant to the craft of putting together compelling plot and characterization, which are the elements that make the story "worth viewing"; because the "theme" is something that will emerge as an unintended consequence of plot and characterization, anyway. It's like the price-system under capitalism: no one has to "decide" on it; the price system emerges of its own accord, without any one single person directing it, or "injecting" it anywhere, and all any individual has to do is to be concerned with his own, concrete value system and trades. In any case, even if a writer pig-headedly decides, in advance of writing, on some theme that he finds "big" and "important" and "injects" it into every nook and cranny of his story, viewers will still understand it according to their own lights, and are just as apt to get something very different from that which the writer intended. To say, in this case, that the viewers are "wrong" is pointless.

As a point of practical construction -- the "engineering" problem inherent in constructing a story -- what a good storyteller has to keep in mind and "inject" into every scene -- is the central conflict experienced by the protagonist, usually referred to as "Unity in terms of climax", since it is the climax of the story (which I put at the end of Act II, the end of the so-called "development" section of a screenplay, play, or short story) in which the central question, or conflict, experienced by the hero is resolved one way or the other (either the hero achieves his goal or he does not achieve his goal; either way, the question is resolved and the narrative question posed at the beginning of the story -- i.e., "Will the hero achieve such-and-such a goal?" -- is answered. Each scene should either move the hero a step closer to his goal or a step back, but whichever the case, it is always a step toward or a step back from the goal of the protagonist. The function here of the antagonist is simply to throw a bunch of obstacles in the way of the hero. In AS, therefore, it's pretty apparent that the unique aspect of the novel, considered purely as narrative, is that it is precisely John Galt who plays the part of the antagonist: he's the one ultimately throwing obstacles in the way of Dagny. This also shows that there is nothing by necessity "evil" about being an antagonist. An "antagonist" is simply a narrative function.. In certain kinds of nature stories (by Jack London, for example) nature, in the form of storms, is the antagonist, and it would be absurd to claim that storms are "evil". They simply "are."

It also underscores Rand's belief that "evil" in the world -- i.e., the James Taggarts and Lillian Reardens, etc. -- is inherently impotent: they can never throw an effective obstacle in the way of Dagny. But Galt? That's different. And that's why he's the classic antagonist of the story.

"Selective recreation" was not what I meant by "special emphasis". What I meant was explicit references by the author to intended messages and themes by way of extra-narrative forms -- such as long speeches -- on the part of the characters. There's no real difference between such a practice and inserting long, extraneous footnotes to "explain" to a reader the "real meaning" behind a certain dramatic event within the context of the story. Such things are fine coming from critics, after the fact, but not from the author, during the flow of the story itself.

Finally, while there are several methods for constructing plot, the usual way, in stories that are intended to involve psychological complexity, is to start with characterization. Each character will exhibit a single overriding pattern of behavior, called a "character trait." The trait constrains the character to make certain kinds of choices and behave in certain kinds of ways when confronted with choices (such as when confronted by an obstacle that frustrates his desire or need to obtain a goal). The decision made by the character when so confronted not only must be consistent and logically deducible from his "main trait", but will itself set off a number of other effects that then become causes of future obstacles. This process -- flowing out of the Main Trait of the character -- is what creates plot. Plot, therefore, is not something "imposed" on characters -- like a maze, through which they must travel -- but something that can be seen, again, to emerge out their psychological makeup. The exception to this, of course, would be non-psychologically complex stories such as pure action-adventure tales.

Not true.

Olivia's picture

...what a screenwriter is supposed to do: simply tell the story. The "theme" and "philosophical message" will emerge of their own accord without special emphasis from the writer or director.

A screen writer who intends to write anything worth viewing can only tell the story by first being clear on its theme and injecting it into every single scene, "special emphasis" on that is the only way for the story to emerge - selective recreation - does that sound familiar? Aristotle's poetics taught story tellers this way back. Once you know the theme, only then can you set about formulating the plot.

@ Blake

darren's picture

. . . , a hero who does not appear until the final third of the story, . . .

This is a good illustration of why Ph.D.s in philosophy should not pose as knowledgeable reviwers of novels or movies. In classical narrative writing, a "hero" is someone who wants, needs, or desires something, and puts important values at risk in order to get. At each step of trying to acquire "X" (whatever it happens to be) the hero encounters conflict; i.e., setbacks, with occasional advances. These setbacks and advances move the plot along, scene-by-scene, act-by-act.

The hero of AS is obviously Dagny, who wants to save Taggart Transcontinental and then realizes that its fate is connected to finding the inventor of the motor . . . she even risks her life in an airplane in pursuit of the man she believes was responsible for it. This is so in the book, and (one hopes) in the upcoming movie. That Kelley didn't recognize that Dagny -- not Galt -- is the hero, is a bit disconcerting. Frankly, it throws the rest of his review into doubt: if he didn't get the narrative structure of AS, how is he any great judge of whether or not the movie "faithfully" captures the theme?

and a complex philosophical theme, Atlas Shrugged has posed an insurmountable challenge to film-makers. The streets of Hollywood are littered with the ashes of prior efforts, some with much larger budgets.

My understanding was that Peikof, and other powerful "insiders" meddled to the point that key creative personnel simply dropped the project -- or, conversely, Peikoff would drop the project when he saw that the script -- in the hands of experienced professional screenwriters -- would have to deviate, sometimes significantly from the novel (including NOT using dialogue lifted from the novel, but creating actual movie dialogue, which is different).

The skeptics are wrong.

This is for the purpose of generating some "buzz" for the premiere so that the producers can make at least some of their investment back.

The completed film was shown today for the first time in a private screening. It is simply beautiful.

Not exactly what we need to hear about a movie version of AS. What we want is "breathtakingly awesome! Compels viewers to look at the screen, in the same way that first-time readers are compelled to read the novel: oblivious to the outside world!" But not this movie version. No. This version of AS is "simply beautiful."

With a screenplay faithful to the narrative and message of the novel,

That isn't what is required of a good movie. What is required is a well-written screenplay. Kelley's statement suggests that this will be literal adaptation from book to screen. Those almost never work, since they usually come across as stilted.

the adaptation is lushly produced. The acting, cinematography, and score create a powerful experience of the story.

So far, no superlatives.

See, for example:

The film does a credible job of portraying visually the world of Atlas Shrugged.
Merely a "credible job"? Here's a summary of Kelley's review:

The film does a credible job of portraying visually the world of Atlas Shrugged.

The film does a credible job of staying faithful to the narrative and message of the novel.

Grant Bowler does a credible job as Rearden (and is "well matched" with Taylor Schilling).

Doesn't sound too exciting yet.

Who knows, though. "The Fountainhead" didn't do that well at the box office, but it turned out to be a camp classic, much of that because of Rand's screen-writing: she tried to stay "faithful to the theme and philosophical message" of the novel, rather than do what a screenwriter is supposed to do: simply tell the story. The "theme" and "philosophical message" will emerge of their own accord without special emphasis from the writer or director.


Blake's picture

Darren, you presumptuous little troll. Let me waste some of my time pointing out all the things you accused me of saying, but didn't.

Because a film is not "top-notch", does not mean it necessarily "stinks". The statement was benign; I didn't feel the need to define "top-notch", and seeing as you got a good lul out of it, I'm glad I didn't. You're welcome. OK, here's what I meant by top-notch: unlimited budget, A-list actors, highest most advanced CGI, etc. I did not mean top-notch as in the most aesthetically pleasing to any random individual. (Also note: top-notch was merely one item out of a sequence of adjectives that you conveniently decided to take and run screaming with like a rabid monkey. I don't know how you convey that image via the internet, but you do. It's very impressive).

Now, If you could step outside your rationalist hotbox for a minute, I think we could agree that there can be low-budget films that are just as moving, if not more, than any given critically-acclaimed "blockbuster". Will any deserved praise* for AS be withheld by follywood critics/media? We will have to see.

Note that the film was not shot in a backyard with a camera-phone. It was made with the most money the most willing and inspired producer[s] could get together for it. What I am saying is that the film, even considering the circumstances in which it was made (low-budget, behind schedule), will have a leg-up simply because of the message and sense of life it is allegedly faithful to. Why? The message is counter the present moral code: altruism. How the leftist-leaning gov't/media complex reacts is speculation.

"Hey, if you want to appreciate the philosophical importance of the story, read the novel!"

Hey, please don't tell me what to do kthanks. A good novel and movie are both art. They both have an underlying philosophy; both project a sense of life, it is simply presented through a different medium. Both have their advantages in my opinion. Generally, books leave more to the imagination, while a movie is more accessible and can even help the viewer more easily concretize the ideas presented.


@ Blake

darren's picture

This isn't all to say the acting, directing, or cinematography MUST and WILL be top-notch,

LOL! In other words (and in Randian words): the movie qua movie might very well stink! All the usual production values that one usually seeks in a good movie experience -- i.e., top-notch acting; top-notch directing; top-notch lighting; top-notch musical score -- might be lacking! Yet FOX and other media outlets should purposely IGNORE that and instead, forgive the weaknesses of the movie and concentrate ont the "philosophical importance of the of the story."

Hey, if you want to appreciate the philosophical importance of the story, read the novel!


Blake's picture

...as she may be, she simply wants to elevate herself above Rand. For this, she has resorted to the classic sort of passive-aggressive game that calls for the appropriate balance of adoration and degradation of the victim.

Both reviews are encouraging. I don't think it is at all spoiling the movie, Kyrel; we already know what happens. I am relieved there are no Jar-jars, and can only hope the CGI is respectable. This trilogy is going to make a bigger splash than any level of skeptic might have anticipated. I hope it is truly a cannonball into the bacteria-infested swamps of today's modern cinema, as I am fully prepared to shield myself from the repellency of filth that will inevitably follow.

However, I forecast this filth-splash to occur most among the general populace; the media will be a different story. I can see FOX news and the like dragging it down into the age-old arena of partisan politics, thereby unwittingly disregarding the story's larger philosophical implications. That would be unfortunate. Follywood and the [neo]liberal media will likely blacklist it completely and pretend it doesn't exist.

Neither FOX nor the media bias will matter in the end. People will see it and judge for themselves. This isn't all to say the acting, directing, or cinematography MUST and WILL be top-notch, Oscar-worthy, or unrivaled in itself, let's hope it is, but rather the message and overall vision of Rand's world on screen will be potent enough to make one's self-imposed indifference or outright indignation regarding Atlas Shrugged a plain as day manifestation of today's moral status quo.


Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

One of the worst things in the world is to SPOIL a good movie by reviewing it many months in advance.

How grotesque ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... that Babs should invoke "the spirit, the sense of life, that was Ayn Rand's alone," when no one on earth has done more to try to diminish, discredit—and question the very possibility of—such a spirit and sense of life than she.

Enough of her. Let's focus on this triumph of her antithesis.

Your ex-friend Babs likes it too

gregster's picture

"The film's greatest virtue is that, from the first moment, one steps into the world of Atlas Shrugged. The writers whose works live across time share an essential characteristic: their unique and personal stamp, their unique and personal spirit, emanates from every page of their writing, and one knows it could have been created by no other sense of life, no other intellect. [..]

To a remarkable degree, the movie captures the spirit, the sense of life, that was Ayn Rand's alone.

Does it have faults? I suppose so. I could not care less -- and I suspect you won't care either."


Beside myself ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... with anticipation! Thanks David. And congratulations.


The story is really the star here. It’s a film on gleaming blue rails that carefully follow the curves of the landscape Ayn Rand created over 50 years ago. There won’t be any unpleasant surprises for devotees of the novel. No Jar-Jar moments to make you cringe. In fact, the producers have put together a top notch cast of character actors, many of whom will be familiar to audiences even if their names aren’t quite household words.

John Sexton, Breitbart.


Every Shrugged reader I talked to yesterday said that the adaptation was pretty dang faithful to the source material, and I didn't see a single thumb down.

Matt Welch, Reason Magazine.


The movie trailer teases, but cannot completely dispel the doubts of the hardcore skeptic. To me, the pivotal evidence should be the recently released clip of Hank Rearden and his family. In three and a half minutes, an entire chapter (Book One, Chapter Two: The Chain) is expertly distilled and adeptly depicted. So, here’s the “spoiler” – the big secret of the movie I learned from my opportunity to attend the screening. The released scene is NOT a fluke. It is not an accident. It is a representative sample. The rest of the film really is that good – better actually, because the individual scenes compliment and reinforce each other to create a harmonious whole, true to Rand’s story, superbly executed, and well done. The casting was outstanding, with no weak links.


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