*Atlas Shrugged* Movie #Succeed

After 45-some years of anticipation, it turns out the Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 movie is…not bad. Making a movie of Ayn Rand’s epic 1957 novel about capitalists under attack and on strike couldn’t have been easy, especially on a mere $10 million or so budget. After all, this is a book that features a 90 minute (!) radio lecture on the virtues of capitalism/evils of statism by one of the main characters, international man of mystery John Galt.

The movie is set a moment into the future, 2016 (dashing my hopes for a 1940s-style film noir), and begins with a blitz of rapid-fire TV news blips – all of it bad. Modern civilization is cracking apart due to a relentless onslaught of government controls on industry and a prevailing world-view that scorns individuals who excel in business. The world’s successful entrepreneurs are forced to carry and subsidize all the rent seekers and moochers. But change is afoot. Capitalists have suffered enough abuse, and they aren’t going to take it anymore: they’re going on strike. Vanishing from society. And, they do it all so calmly. Which is probably just as well, since the greater crime would’ve been doing something overwrought.

I must say, the movie was well-cast, despite having no big name stars (what, no Angelina Jolie?!). The actors all turned in respectable performances, and they all looked the part, with railroad mogul “Dagny Taggart” flawlessly beautiful and “Hank Rearden” just the chiseled sort of handsome you’d expect.

But I do have a few quibbles and criticisms. The film is really dialogue-heavy. As in, the characters never shut up. I found myself wishing the film makers had found a way to communicate plot and drama visually, to bring some balance and simplicity to the action. And I wondered whether audiences unfamiliar with the book will have to race to keep up.

The sets, stylings, and wardrobe are wholly unremarkable, except for Rearden’s office, which features tilted, granite-like walls. I found myself wishing the film had used intriguing, retro-futurist Gattaca styling. It would’ve been a dramatic way to illustrate the wonder of modern technology and prosperity that is so maligned and under attack.

The characters are a bit wooden – there’s not much that’s emotive in expression or body language. Like “The Fountainhead” movie in that regard, actually. Dagny and Rearden famously have a sex scene in the book, Ayn Rand’s rape fantasy on railroad tracks. But one wonders how the movie Dagny and Rearden managed to work up enough heat to do the deed. Which, by the way, wasn’t on railroad tracks but in a comparatively boring ole bed. And the fact that Rearden is married was given rather short shrift – did he have misgivings about an affair? Who knows! Oh, there was actually screaming once – when Dagny confronts the conflagration of “Ellis Wyatt’s” oil fields.

That said, it was gratifying to see Atlas Shrugged on the big screen, after so many years of waiting and false starts.  And, hey, it wasn’t bad.