Thursday, December 09, 2010

Can Atlas Shrugged be a good movie? 

Adaptations of iconic novels in to film are always tricky, because good books inspire the imaginations of the people who read them. I had my own images of Aragorn and Elrond and Frodo Baggins and my own feelings about their story, and before Peter Jackson turned the The Lord of the Rings in to a movie those images and feelings were different from everybody else's. Now, after Jackson, they are much more similar, and most of us do not feel as though something was taking from us in the process. Jackson supplemented and deepened the images we imagined instead of discrediting them. That is the trick in adaptation.

The question is, can it be done with Atlas Shrugged, a story that straddles reality and fantasy rather than clearly occupying either realm? The novel's setting is a world that looks a bit like ours, but nobody would ever confuse it with the real world. Neither, though, is it really fantastical. There are no dragons running around, or elves, or magical trees. Adaptation of Shrugged to the big screen, and the preservation of the images and feelings of the novel's passionate fans, will be no mean feat. There is, however, hope. Here is a review of the Atlas Shrugged movie's first ten minutes from such a passionate fan. The dream is, allegedly, alive.

FURTHER THOUGHT: Atlas Shrugged defines a clear moral difference between enterprise, which it celebrates, and the political axis between big business and the government, which it denounces. This is a distinction that is lost in most of today's discourse -- our politicians and pundits denounce or applaud "corporations" or "banks" or the "pharmaceutical industry" without paying much attention to the moral gulf between the James Taggarts and the Hank Reardens. The movie will be a great triumph if it popularizes the national understanding of the differences between the two.


By Blogger Joshua Zader, at Thu Dec 09, 07:22:00 AM:

Another resource, for those curious about the movie:


By Anonymous Julius D, at Thu Dec 09, 07:43:00 AM:

I'm not expecting too much of it..  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Thu Dec 09, 07:48:00 AM:

Actually, for some biopic-drama that truly focuses on the sex, the hypocrisy and Rand's petulant nature, try Helen Mirren in The Passion of Ayn Rand:


But I guess "Atlas Shrugged" is to wingnuts (sorry, that's right--you're nonpartisan "libertarians" now) as "Brokeback Mountains" was to gay people. Do yourselves a favor--go see "Black Swan" or anything with James Franco, Ryan Gosling, etc. instead. It will be more satisfying.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 09, 11:08:00 AM:

CC misunderstands Atlas Shrugged, as so many lefties do, and it's no mystery why. Many lefties are "Liberal Fascists", to use Goldberg's term, and want larger centralized control of individual lives. I think that perverse desire occurs in those lefties because many people, perhaps including CC, are afraid they won't measure up in reality to their glorified views of themselves. Rand's thesis scares those people, who would really rather hide behind the skirts of an all-controlling government than face up to their own limitations.

The book celebrates individualism and personal freedom from authoritarian control. It's a fantasy, but one based on Rand's observations of socialism and communism deform society in the post-war world. A big part of the appeal of the book is it's accurate depiction of the political reality in the fight against collectivist ideas. Her characters embody traits, political and cultural, that are recognizably real.

I don't know much about "Brokeback Mountain", and don't see the parallel CC claims to see, but I agree with TH that high art can bring Atlas Shrugged to the screen. I'll go see it.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 09, 11:10:00 AM:

I don't believe it! Hollywood will NEVER miss an opportunity to shout that corporations are evil, greedy and corrupt. To do otherwise would attempt to reverse years of the public school education that most moviegoers were exposed to.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 09, 11:12:00 AM:

I meant the "deformation", caused by socialism and communism, not "deform" in the clunky sentence of my second paragraph. Sorry- edit failure.  

By Blogger Don Cox, at Thu Dec 09, 12:36:00 PM:

Whether it is a success will depend on the quality of the acting - much more than in Lord of the Rings, where the special effects could carry the films.

The risk of making a movie from a highly political book is that the ideas in the book can degenerate into rants on the screen.  

By Anonymous John Costello, at Thu Dec 09, 02:54:00 PM:

The world of Atlas Shrugged is a very 1920s, 1930s world both technologically and emotionally, and it reminds me of descriptions of the US in soviet era Russian fiction and "reportage.' Quite understandable, as Rand immigrated from Russia in the 20s and wrote thew book in (I think) the 40s and 50s. So I guess it is best to think of it as an alterate world story.  

By Blogger OmegaPaladin, at Sat Dec 11, 09:23:00 AM:

Ayn Rand is a joke. In between the crazy sexual encounters, the superhuman captains of industry, and hatred of compassion or self-sacrifice, you have a cast of villains who are beyond caricature. It would only work as a satire, like An American Carol or Team America.

I'm a person who believes government is the last resort we should turn to, but I don't want to have anything to do with the late Rand and her disciples.

I also don't think it is a winning approach to swinging people toward conservatism. I don't think Americans are selfish enough to buy into objectivism, which is a good thing given that we need people to be soldiers, firemen, and parents - all of which require altruism to an extent.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sat Dec 11, 09:30:00 AM:

I think Ayn Rand's appeal is a bit too deep and enduring for her to be a "joke." Yes, her characters do not have more than about 2.1 dimensions, and her philosophy -- at least as expressed in her novels -- does not really capture the full range of human motivations. Nothing in it, however, prevents people from becoming "soldiers, firemen, and parents." She just does not agree that people who do so because they want moral credit for having sacrificed themselves are virtuous.  

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