Yes, being a good Objectivist and Egoist, I make the claim that this is the only movie review of Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 that you need bother reading. Naturally, being a fan of Ayn Rand and her 1957 tome of a novel, I enjoyed the film version and highly recommend it to all. Was it the best adaptation possible? No, obviously not. Its small budget and condensed filming schedule could not capture the novel in all its glory. If a David Lean or Stanley Kubrick had 5 years to develop, film and edit, along with a $300 million dollar budget, then yes, we would probably have one of the greatest films ever made.

atlas shrugged part 1 movie
This is the only movie review of Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 you need bother reading. Image courtesy of The Pinkston Group.

But instead we get a movie shot in two weeks using only a handful of sets and less money than some TV dramas cost. Not to mention the daunting task of adapting 400 or so pages of a novel that is over 1,300 pages long and took ten years to write. So are there holes in the script? Of course there are. Yet, Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, still manages to hit the crucial points and sets the stage for Parts 2 and 3.

Naturally, the critics, most of whom are Liberal in their political leanings, are panning the movie. They complain about the quality of the film, which I’ve already explained. They also spend a good deal of ink and bytes trashing the seemingly one-dimensional, cartoon-ish characters. Again, I’ve somewhat explained that aspect, given the need to condense such a massive portion of Rand′s novel into about 110 minutes of screen time. But, of course, there is also another consideration they, the critics, are either ignorant of or are deliberately avoiding. Which brings me back to why this is the only review of Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, you need bother reading.

Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism is rooted in Aristotle. The epistemology of A Is A. But more than that, Aristotle, as may recall if you studied the Greek classics, spent a good deal of his time classifying animals into specific categories. Separating vertebrates from invertebrates, then further defining them in sub-categories, such as fish, amphibian, reptile, bird, or mammal.

When it comes to us humans, one of Aristotle′s students, Theophrastus, took upon himself categorizing the basic types of humans. These types are known classically as ‘The Characters’. His systematic approach generally involves classifying people in groups of moral types. In all, he defined 30 separate moral types, such as The Flatterer, The Boor, The Reckless Man, The Chatty Man, The Stupid Man, etc. Ayn Rand writes using this classical view for her characters, especially for minor ones. Her writing aesthetic is that of the Heroic. Her main characters, her heroes like John Galt or Howard Roark are modern day Ulysses and Hercules. Men who should be gods, or at least worthy of respect and admiration.

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Thus, many of the characters you will encounter in the movie, Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, come out of this systematic approach by Theophrastus. Philip Reardon is The Sponge. Wesley Mouch is The Hack. Dr. Ferris is The Expert. Given the time constraints, the only characters which get some fleshing out are Dagny Taggart, Hank Reardon, the two key players in the film and to a lesser degree, James Taggart, Ellis Wyatt and Lillian Reardon. Oh yes, and of course, lurking in the shadows, John Galt. Who is John Galt? Well, in Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, he wears three primary hats, The Engineer, The Enigma and, in Dagny’s mind, The Destroyer.

Which brings us the plot, if you already do not know it by now. The film is set in America of 2016, where an oil shortage has risen the price of gasoline to $37.50 a gallon. The economy is collapsing as the government levies more and more regulations and laws the politicians consider ′for the public good′. These include the ‘Dog Eat Dog Act’ and ‘The Equalization of Opportunity Bill’, meant to level the economic playing field to ever-lower degrees of mediocrity.

Dagny Taggart, played by Taylor Schilling, struggles to save her family’s railroad company, now vital as the cheapest method of long distance transportation. She turns to Hank Reardon, played by Grant Bowler, who has developed a new type of steel, Reardon Metal, that is stronger and lighter than any other steel. Reardon′s wife, Lillian, played well by Rebecca Wisocky, already feels neglected as it is due to her husband’s devotion to his business. Now she must also contend with another mistress as Hank and Dagny develop a relationship. Matthew Marsden, who plays James Taggart – Dagny’s brother, and Graham Beckel, who plays maverick oil tycoon Ellis Wyatt, also deliver fine performances. Paul Johansson, the film’s director, plays John Galt, though he is mainly just a man in the shadows wearing a long raincoat and slouched fedora.

Thus ends my movie review of Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, which opened in about 300 theaters across the country. How many more will be added is hard to say due to the movie being independently produced and distributed. The film’s official website has a section where requests for showings can be suggested and arranged. If you’ve already read Ayn Rand′s novel, then your attitude towards it will most likely determine whether or not you enjoy the movie. If you love, or hate, the book, then so too this film version. I suspect that those whom have never read the book will probably split about 50-50, depending on their political leanings and awareness. I recall that Steven Spielberg once said that in the near future, with computerized film making technology ever improving, that the day will come when some 12-year-old girl from Iowa will win the Academy Award for best picture. Perhaps in that future, as CGI and cyber-thespians become better and cheaper, somebody else will make a 60-hour long adaptation of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and do her novel proper justice. Until then, it is what it is, or as Aristotle would say, A Is A!

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The Official Atlas Shrugged Movie Web Site

The Characters of Theophrastus

Right Review: ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand – Read the Book, See the Movie!