Grae's Rating:

1.5

Rand is made bland.

Grae's currently on vacation in an exotic land until the end of April. Subbing for her is fellow MDC writer Alonso Duralde. Follow him on Twitter at @ADuralde.

Who's In It: Taylor Schilling, Grant Bowler, Graham Beckel, Jsu Garcia, Matthew Marsden, Michael Lerner, Jon Polito

The Basics: In this long-awaited adaptation of the novel by Ayn Rand, railroad magnate Dagny Taggart (Schilling) and steel tycoon Henry Rearden (Bowler) do their best to repair America's railroad infrastructure and to maintain the nation's commerce despite constant interference from the government and the disappearance of many of the business world's best and brightest. The catch-phrase of the moment is "Who is John Galt?" -- a way to shrug off unanswerable questions -- so Taggart names her new railroad The John Galt Line. Many predict the line will fail, since she's using Rearden's untested new super-metal, but they forge on ahead anyway. Will their efforts be in vain? (Don't expect answers yet -- this is the first of a proposed trilogy.)

What's the Deal: Putting aside Rand's controversial political philosophies for a moment -- because agreeing with Robert Redford's opinions about habeas corpus didn't make The Conspirator any easier to watch -- Atlas Shrugged is a talky bore. Scene after scene unfolds in restaurants or boardrooms or limousines, and while a talented filmmaker could certainly make all this chatter about railroads (see below) and back-room back-stabbing feel vivid and interesting, TV director Paul Johansson (who also plays a significant, cloaked figure in the film) doesn't know how to make this material ping. It doesn't help that there's a whole lot of declaiming here, with people talking at, and not to, each other, about their political viewpoints, with none of the characters changing at all from beginning to end.

Why Dagny Taggart is Like the Invisible Girl: You've probably never seen it unless you bought a bootleg at Comic-Con, but Roger Corman once churned out an awful, mega-low-budget big-screen version of The Fantastic Four that was produced quickly and cheaply only because Corman's rights to the material were about to expire. That's what happened with Atlas Shrugged as well -- producer John Aglialoro apparently spent 17 years trying to get this film made, and he finally rushed into shooting with two days left before he'd lose his rights to the book. The result is a film that has the flat, airless look of a Tori Spelling made-for-cable movie filmed in Vancouver.

Clang Clang Clang: In the 1950s, it made sense to tell a story in which railroads were the crux of America's infrastructure, but for a movie set in 2016, it just doesn't ring true, despite one sentence of narration early on about the collapse of the airlines. And for a society that's supposedly falling apart, this is the most scrubbed-up dystopia you'll ever see. At one point, Dagny gets out of a limo in a huff and walks through the streets that are supposedly filled with the unemployed and desperate, but there's never any impression that this well-dressed woman walking alone at night is in even the slightest bit of danger.

Why None of This Matters If You're a Rand Fan: In the same way that evangelical Christians turned out en masse for clunkers like Left Behind (which actually borrows heavily from Atlas Shrugged's plot) and The Omega Code, followers of Ayn Rand and her philosophies will ignore this movie's flaws and revel in the very act of getting to see this story played out on the big screen. (That's my impression from seeing it at a sold-out show on opening weekend, anyway.) So if you're a card-carrying Objectivist, by all means, go see it and have a ball. If you're not, however, tread carefully.

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Comments (9)

Gene - 4-19-2011 7:45 PM
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I do consider myself an Objectivist, more or less, but I can't tolerate a bad movie (unless it's the right kind of bad). A better film extolling the most accessible of Rand's ideas is The Incredibles. It's a pity that Atlas wasn't in more capable hands. It would probably be more suited to a mini-series set in a period when rail could be king.

Mr.Pinko - 4-20-2011 11:15 AM
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"Clang Clang Clang: In the 1950s, it made sense to tell a story in which railroads were the crux of America's infrastructure, but for a movie set in 2016, it just doesn't ring true" That's really funny how the reviewer is so clueless. Obummer has pushed to build a super train on the northeast corridor despite the governmental run AMTRAK operating at a bankrupt loss. I find it amusing how most reviews are with a political agenda and the Lefties are trying so hard to sabotage this movie into failure just like the Government tried to do to Dagny ;-) iOwnTheWorld

Mr. Pinko2 - 4-20-2011 6:08 PM
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@the above; I don't categorize all objectivists as such since you clearly take what you want and spin it the way you want; just because 'Obummer' (haha see what you did there) pushes to build a new supertrain does not mean that 'railroads are the crux of America's infrastructure.' You're giving us objectivists a bad name by saying 'the lefties are trying so hard to sabotage this movie;' just stop. We don't need to give our enemies more ammo... like you

Diana - 4-25-2011 7:57 AM
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I will go see the movie then make my own decision. The thing is, the book itself is very wordy and detailed and slow at the beginning but a true contribution to people who are concerned about thinking through to the end what happens if you continue all the giveaways to the unproductive while punishing producers. If Part I is successful enough and lays the proper foundation, I'm sure that Part II and Part III will be gratifying, just as the book builds in gratification. I certainly will not left leaning critics influence what I think. Go see it for yourself!

donovan - 5-08-2011 1:59 PM
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I've read the book. It's about how awesome rich capitalists are and how the rest of us are no-talent wretches who should gratefully serve them for minimum wage (paraphrasing). Eventually, all the rich people get together with all their talent and money and hide, while the rest of the country crumbles. I don't think the currently struggling middle and lower classes are going to watch this movie and sympathize with arrogant billionaires, who turn the U.S. into a 3rd world country on account of their greed.

Ted - 5-21-2011 12:00 PM
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@donovan Well, so what is your great alternative to the reality that Ayn Rand describes? The book is indeed about TALENT, and the question is: Why should anybody use their talents if they are despised and punished for doing do? This principle EASILY exends to the "middle class" that pays all the taxes and bears the burden of the overstated wages and corruptions of the unions and their Democrat lackies. No great industry was ever ultimately founded on FRAUD. Big labor, however, is in its ENTIRETY a fraud, because it undermines the market for labor. Overvaluing some activities and, as a result, undervaluing others, with the politicians and labor bosses choosing the winners. In short, Donovan, get your head out of your ass and grow up

Max - 6-07-2011 12:41 PM
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"clunkers like Left Behind (which actually borrows heavily from Atlas Shrugged's plot)" You truly are clueless aren't you, ever heard of the Bible? Duh. Unreal the level of ignorance you have.

Axial - 3-19-2012 6:58 PM
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@Ted Well, so what is your great support for the reality that Ayn Rand describes? The book is indeed about TALENT, and the question is: Why should anybody use their talents if they can't make a decent living for doing do? This principle EASILY exends to the "middle class" that pays all the taxes and bears the burden of the artificially inflated profits and corruptions of the corporations and their Republicon lackies. No great industry was ever ultimately founded on FRAUD. Big business, however, is in its ENTIRETY a fraud, because it undermines the market for labor. Overvaluing some activities and, as a result, undervaluing others, with the politicians and CEO's choosing the winners. In short, Ted, get your head out of your ass and grow up.

David A - 8-16-2012 7:24 AM
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I will tend to agree that the movie had a made for TV mini series feel to it, however, sort of like fake gold plating. The objective is to make us hate regulation and big government, while feeling compassion for people who want to make as much money as possible. Duping the poor working class souls to buy into the belief system of the rich and powerful that were left intergenerational wealth, the Republicans want you to believe the goals of the rich are the same goals of the poor. The movie makes clear that the corrupt politicians views were skewed toward the self interests of a few choice wealthy people and crafted policy was done to benefit only them at the expense of others. It is very easy to support Ayn Rand's views

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