Atlas Shrugged: Part I Reviews
Go read the book if you want a great philosophical centric and thought provoking read. This movie will provide nothing but a bizarre feeling of confusion and disappointment.
It's not even fair to criticize this movie as a movie. There's literally no nuance or artistic merit to anything going on in front of or behind the camera. There was supposedly a 20 million dollar budget but it looks like a hallmark movie. There are more times than I could keep count where the actors ran out of breath mid sentence and they just went with the shot anyways.
I'm assuming the dialogue and characters are directly transferred from the book. So instead all I can really criticize is the ideology.
This is possibly the most sociopathic movie I've ever seen.
The government is nothing more than a boogey man, attracting all of the evilest and greediest (although greed is only evil if you're not working in the puplic sector) people in the world. Luckily all of the good people (you know the kind of people that say things like "No you listen I'm taking over this business we jointly own", who try to use sex to rob people, and people who cheat on their spouses) have had exceptional success with their business and have helped grow the economy and made the lives of all Americans better, but not the Mexicans they had to be sacrificed because they were inevitably going to be socialists (yes, this actually happens).
The two main characters impose their wills upon the other evil and weak businessmen and are universally successful, unless the evil government is involved. The fact that libertarians leach on to this story is laughable. This isn't libertarianism. This is red pill power fetishism. It's wish fulfillment for sociopathic businessmen, with a complete lack of understanding of the existence class politics.
Edit: Oh, and they have it take place in the 21st century when the book is based around the train and steel industries of the early 20th century. You've got to be kidding me.
Basically the plot is this: the rich, successful white businessmen are fiendishly oppressed by a government that's trying to make them support small businessmen and the less privileged. These noble figures care so much about, well, themselves that they abandon the society that rejects their desire to form monopolies (quite literally the stated and heroic goal) and drive small businesses and dissatisfied workers out of business (again, quite literally exactly what we're shown in scenes designed to make clear that we should support this) that they abandon it to its fate and leave to form their own government where they're free to oppress people in peace.
This "oppression" consists entirely of strawman arguments which present the government not so much as the extreme form of a nanny state but as an entirely imaginary system where the government crushes big businesses but does nothing for anyone. All "villains" are simultaneously altruists out to provide opportunities for the less wealthy and greedy fatcats out to line their own pockets. It's not that those two traits are incompatible, but they make no effort to merge them or even point out their hypocrisy. The villainous businessmen are willingly giving up their profits to help the less fortunate and yet somehow also seen as lining their pockets from this in a typical fatcat way. How can those two ideas coexist? And the film doesn't even try to make sense of it because that'd mean assuming that there are rational beliefs possible outside their own.
Yes, this film is about objectivism; the idea that greed is good doesn't go far enough. Greed isn't just good it's the only good. Altruism isn't just naive it's evil. Any attempt to help your fellow man is wasted because if they aren't already successful it's because they're not working hard enough. The poor deserve to be poor. No free meals. No helping hands. No supporting small businesses. Nothing that would damage the almighty profit. If it doesn't benefit you personally you shouldn't do it. All history is made by supermen, people who are smart enough to recognize that only profit matters and good enough to maximize that. They drive the economy and they create jobs, although as the film makes clear they also don't follow safety regulations or pay a living wage. If they deserve to survive then they should have been better businessmen. It's about the single most appalling philosophy of the century. Even fascism and communism at least paid lip service to the idea that their society (however narrowly defined) needed to be kept from starvation and abuses of the wealthy.
And the film itself is designed to do nothing but promote this agenda. It's not really well-equipped to do anything else. The entire plot is just people talking about how great their business is, or how awesome it is to not care about other people. So yes, we get to watch people talk about business regulations and economic policies all day. Yay! The basic concept is that in the dark future year of 2016 (my God, that's like tomorrow!) the entire world is brought low by an oil shortage. This creates a new reliance on the railroads, which the country now relies on to transport goods cross country. You might be expecting this to mean that people have stopped or severely limited driving cars, boats, or airplanes. Nope. They still use them just as before. But now rail is big! So the lead character has found this businessman who is marketing a brand new type of metal that could revolutionize the rail industry (10x stronger than steel!). Her brother decides he doesn't want to use this new steel because he wants to support the small businesses he usually buys from. What a jerk! She overrules him somehow and orders the new steel put in. At this point her brother conspires to sabotage his own line and prevent it from being completed. Because the plot assumes that all non-greedy people are stupid. That's the only explanation this film can find for why people wouldn't sell their own family for profit. After all, they're already acting against their own interests by supporting smaller companies, so they must be irrational. There can be no other explanation. So our hero now has to succeed in her ultra high-tech railroad against all odds.
And that's basically the whole plot. Nothing really happens in this entire film. A series of wealthy businessmen keep being accosted by a mysterious man in a hat, as their names appear with the word missing written under them. it was at this point that I came to the horrible realization that this film thought it was a thriller. Honestly, it's hard to find words for how dull this is. It doesn't really have any plot, and what little there is gets delivered in highly stilted and unbelievable pronouncements. Despite this oversimplicity the film just fails to make sense. It's confusing, needlessly so. Who are all these people vanishing? Why does it matter? Is this supposed to be sinister? It's all exposition and nothing is exposited. Just again and again they state the same thing: looking out for your interests is the only true good. I'd call it propaganda, but that's supposed to make an idea seem attractive. This just made me fall asleep, and I don't sleep through films easy.
There are a few funny scenes. Like the testing of their new bridge. They treat this as if it's some dramatic moment as they ride in their train across it half-expecting it to fall. It's so obviously a falsely dramatic moment I couldn't stop laughing. Only morons would test a bridge like that without having done stress tests first. By the time they ride over it would be obvious if it would hold up or not. What's more, making it over once is irrelevant. The question is whether it stands up over time. And of course, the train rides along the course of a valley until it reaches a tall cliff. Naturally that's where one puts their railroad bridge! That said, moments like this are few and between. The film wasn't as campy as I had hoped. It isn't really anything. Just a bland mess with a repulsive message.
It's rather hilarious to read the positive user reviews of this film because they're all passionate ideologues. That's not funny because they have an ideology, but because they stutter around for a bit looking for something, anything, positive to say about this trainwreck and end up criticizing the film left and right before moaning about how much better the book was (like poetry!) and finally settling on a positive review just to make a point. Reading the positive reviews should actually show just how bad this film is because you can see that even its fans have little to offer apart from criticism. They only support it because of what it stands for. I feel no sympathy.