Shrug off 'Atlas Shrugged'

April 22, 2011 

Let’s get it out in the open immediately. Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 isn’t a very good movie.

That is not a political statement or criticism of any political point of view.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

I am not taking sides. I am reviewing a movie and what the film’s producers are trying to say. I am not a liberal. I am not a conservative. While I do not prefer a lot of government interference in my life, in matters political I am fairly thoughtful and mostly independent.

The movie version of Ayn Rand’s 54-year-old novel is a political and economic philosophy wrapped in fictional drama. It is difficult to review, and I have a similar problem reviewing documentaries.

How do you “review” Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth or anything by Michael Moore, or any film with a political point of view? It must be on the basis of the content and how it is done.

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 is set in the U.S. in 2016. We are in the middle of a massive depression. Our government has become openly and actively socialist. Dagny Taggart and Henry Reardon form a business alliance. She’s trying to save her family-owned railroad. He has the world’s best steel. The two are on a path to make millions and salvage their firms.

They cannot, however, salvage this film.

Government wants businesses to share profits and jobs with other states. To keep entrepreneurs from being too successful and getting too rich, laws are passed where an individual can only own one business. To succeed, the two main characters must outsmart a corrupt government and defeat the mysterious John Galt who is responsible for the disappearance of the best and brightest in business.

Credit must be given where credit is due. The themes in Rand’s story do seem timeless. The socialist government’s determination to share the wealth of those who have with those who don’t is a debate that has gone on since the dawn of the industrial age. Proponents say the rich should share more; opponents say it isn’t fair to give the earnings of those who have earned to those who have not.

While exaggerated a bit, you could rip some of the scenes out of reports seen daily in newspapers and on the Internet. Rand’s argument is relevant. It is also where the film reviewer gets creamed and things get sticky.

Please, don’t start the hate mail yet. These days, anything political or social is emotional. Rather than discuss differences and arrive at conclusions and solutions, those involved in the discussion get emotional. The debate turns into a screaming match and name-calling. If our children behave that way, we ground them and take away their game boy and cell phones.

I am not advocating for Rand’s political and economic point of view. My thoughts are that it is worth a discussion, only it deserves a better discussion than is given in Atlas Shrugged: Part 1.

Director Paul Johansson is a mostly unknown character actor whose directing resume consists of films you’ve never heard of. His writers John Aglialoro and Brian Patrick O’Toole haven’t done anything of substance either. Their treatment of part one of Rand’s book is pure soap opera. The characters are cardboard. The dialogue is awful. So is most of the acting.

And because it is in three-parts, the film has a mini-series flavor.

In places, the movie is gorgeous. Sumptuous sets dot the indoor landscape, and the quality of the outdoor cinematography is exceptional.

However, in places it looks as if the producers ran out of money. The main characters take exploratory trips in an automobile to several cities and states. Each region of the nation has its own unique weather and terrain characteristics. Yet the trips they take seem to be on the same road and you see the same scenery for every trip.

A sure sign of a production short on cash.

Another problem. This is part one. The film ends abruptly. My investigation shows parts two and three have not begun production. Part one may be all you’ll ever see. This puts even more wonder into part one’s cliff-hanger ending.

I’m done. Now you can start with the hate mail.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, April 22 at the Carmike 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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