I’m not going to post a debate on the political or philosophical themes of the movie since they reflect more Ayn Rands original text and have been talked about ad nauseam by other reviewers. Instead, Im going to give my honest opinion on what I saw on the theater screen at 7:05 p.m., April 15, 2011 in Westwood, California.
Taking into account that I had recently re-read the entire novel and previously seen several clips of the movie, including the trailer, on the website, my initial assessment of the movie was:
I was not at all disappointed.
Here are the positives:
The movie stayed true to the novel as best as it could considering the enormity of the task of taking a book which was written nearly 50 years ago and setting it into the not-too-distant future. In our modern age of instant communication with smart phones and the Internet, leaving most of this out of the script while still incorporating flat screen televisions was impressive.
I can certainly understand the difficulty of moving the past into the present while incorporating a possible future was a daunting task, yet the movie was able to do this effortlessly while maintaining a sense of reality.The characters which Rand created were translated onto the screen by actors who seemed to understand the impact of subtlety. There was enormous amount of unspoken dialogue which communicated perfectly with only a gesture or a glance. With so much text of the novel to work with, it was quite an accomplishment.
The audience could feel the pain and frustration in the relationship between Henry Rearden and his wife, and the immediate electricity between himself and Dagny Taggart. Even nuance that Rand described so eloquently in her novel was brought to the screen without wasting one line of script. Kudos to the actors for their ability to portray such complicated characters in a believable and totally absorbing manner.
Here I will digress a bit. Ive been told that one issue with the movie was that it didnt feature any star box-office actors, such as Angelina Jolie, who had expressed a desire to portray the lead. While having a name might have attracted more box office receipts, and perhaps increased the number of theaters, I felt that it would also have distracted from the movie itself. Atlas Shrugged is not a vehicle for named stars, nor should it be, however I can certainly see it launching a few careers in a direction that neither the actors, nor their agents, ever imagined.
Staying true to an epic novel such as Atlas Shrugged was probably one of the reasons why it took so many years to transfer it to the screen. Unlike Water for Elephants which was first published in 2006 and made it into the movies a scant five years later, the process of boiling down nearly 340 pages of a book into a 140 page script (Part 1) while avoiding the modern trap of sensationalism must have been overwhelming, but this movie pulled it off.(The mystery of the disappearing CEOs could very easily been distorted into an alien abduction sci-fi flick if not for the dedication of those involved with the making of the movie.)
Whatever the reader imagined, from the high-speed train, to the scenery, to the characters was perfectly depicted on the screen and stayed true to the essence of Rands novel without being heavy-handed in its message.The ending literally brought tears to my eyes and cheers from the audience who all agreed that a year was way too long a wait for Part II.
Now for the negative:
The pacing was a bit uneven. At times, it seemed way too slow, at others, it was a bit too fast. I can understand how trying to condense so much in so little time, some details had to be omitted, but it would have helped a bit to have a broader description of some of the characters and their motivation for their actions, especially the politicians. In the book, they were pushing for complete socialization for the greater good, however in the movie is seemed that they were pushing the new laws to benefit themselves under the disguise of helping those less fortunate.
At no time that I recall did anyone explain what was meant by Atlas shrugging. There was an Atlas statue on Reardons desk, but it was never in the script. I was waiting for Francisco dAnconia to make the comment, as he did in the book, to Reardon about him carrying the weight of his family and what would happen if he shrugged, but it didnt happen. I felt that, for a movie/book called Atlas Shrugged in Part 1, that the title needed to be explained and I was disappointed that it wasn’t.
It might have been the theater that I had attended, but for some reason the music at the Reardons anniversary party was much too loud and seemed to drown out the dialogue, but thats just me.Dagny had a hand movement that drove me totally crazy. She used it several times, once when she was telling her brother she was forming her own company, and in a few other scenes. I found her to be a bit too cool and unattached, but then again, I also found Dagny a bit cool and unattached when I read the book, so the actress really did nail it!
I also heard some criticism that there was too much drinking, and that too many scenes were filmed at meals, or bars, or parties. I really didnt find that very important, or distracting. Again, that was the setting in the book. Although, unlike the book, there was hardly anyone smoking and I was very relieved to see, at the end, the cigarette with the dollar sign finally appeare. I was concerned with the modern ant-smoking craze that this would not have made it into the movie and, since it is an important part of the book, was very relieved to see that it was. (Sorry all you anti-smoking advocates out there).
All in all, I felt the movie accomplished exactly what it set out to do without compromise. Seeing Wyatt’s mountain on fire at the end, I could feel the anguish, frustration and total helplessness that Dagny showed in her facial expression and vocalized in the agony of her scream. Everyone in the audience felt it, and we all wanted to scream just as loudly.If I were rating this movie, I would give it 4-1/2 out of 5 stars. It wasnt perfect, but it was as close as anyone has gotten in more than half a century. Im so very very thankful that we wont have to wait another half century to see what happens next. 12 months is long enough!Tweet
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