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 Atlas Shrugged: Part 1

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PostSubject: Atlas Shrugged: Part 1   Sat Mar 31, 2012 11:14 pm

I know there's a thread on this already in the Movies section, and I'm late to the party, but I just had the opportunity to see the movie and thought I'd post a few thoughts.

Fair warning, there's going to be spoilers of both the book and the movie throughout this whole thing.

First, whoever decided on the pacing should be shot, simple as that. We live in a time when three-hour movies are not uncommon, and every scene in the movie felt rushed and detached. You had this sense that a HUGE amount was going on that wasn't on-camera. I understand that the building of the John Galt Line took nine months, so call the first part of the book a year in length, maybe a little less. Roots certainly covered a similar amount of time without feeling rushed. The Godfather wasn't too much less. The Fellowship of the Ring took up most of the year between the Shire and victory. Yet you got the sense that these hit the parts that were important to the story. In AS:TM (Atlas Shrugged: The Movie, as opposed to Atlas Shrugged, which is how I'll refer to the book) you don't get that. It looks like a series of inter-related meetings, but it doesn't show any of the action. It doesn't even show the press release at the first run on the Line, which WAS a meeting! If anything actually happened, it wasn't on film; if anyone talked about it, it was. Kinda violates that whole "Show, don't tell" thing in film.

Rearden has always been the character that resonates best with me. I understand him best, and many times feel like he does at the beginning of Atlas Shrugged. Led to one rather uncomfortable moment when my wife asked why Rearden would marry a woman like Lillian. Which made the first half of the movie painful to watch. I've sat through family get-togethers like that first one we see. I didn't smile and nod and act all happy, then wonder off to enjoy a nice supper with a friend. It's painful. You don't grin and bear it, you just bear it, so that you can get to the next moment when your life happens. THAT was what I wanted to see Rearden do in AS:TM. Instead, we get a man who suffered an insult I'd probably kill a man for, and his only response was to smile. Worse, even in business we never see Rearden actually stand up for himself until the Equalization of Opportunity Bill. He jokes about the meeting notes, saying "File it", but it's far too light-hearted, nothing more than a joke.

AFTER the Equalization of Opportunity Bill is passed, we see the real Hank Rearden. Hard, implacable, unyielding--a man that fits that wonderful office (seriously, for the CEO of a steel company? I'd love to have an office like that myself, to be honest!). My only complaint about that whole issue is that we don't see enough of how he handled Danager. We see how he handled the other guy, but not what the proper course of action is. A major missed opportunity there.

The sex scene was....Dr. Hsieh described it as "tepid". I'd say it's worse than that. This is the type of sex scene you get when the characters have sex out of sheer boredom. Don't get me wrong, having sex because there's nothing better to do that afternoon isn't a bad thing--but that's not what's supposed to be happening here. Hank and Dagney experience an overpowering emotion and are more or less swept away by it. And Hank is supposed to be tortured by this. That part is particularly important--Hank is a man of unbending morality, and he should clearly see this as a violation of it. Until I really thought through that scene I swore that I'd kill myself before doing something like that. Yet in the morning, the film shows Hank giving Dagney a peck on the cheek. "You're up early." "I didn't want to wake you." Pathetic.

Dagney......I'd say she was wooden, but that's giving her too much credit. It's not that she's implacable--Hank Rearden demonstrated perfectly well that you can be implacable and still have a personality. Dagney simply didn't respond to external stimuli, outside of a few cases. My wife made a very good point: her eyes are a major flaw. They never change in the movie. Her tone was also really, really flat. There's the flatness that shows that you're suppressing powerful emotions, and there's the flatness where you're simply reading lines off a teleprompter, and Dagney was doing the latter.

Eddie was a tad more flamboyant than I had imagined him, but overall was pretty good.

Jim Taggart was....odd. He reminds me of the '80s Guy in Futurama. He seemed supremely confident, but only at playing people. The fact that there was a model train in his office really struck me, and I can't figure out why. I mean, the guy obviously doesn't care about the railroad, and having a model train could suggest that he thought the whole thing was a game. That said, if I were running a railroad I'd have a scale model of the whole damn system built if I had to do it myself (and I may insist on it, just because that's a very good way to learn the nuances of the system). It seemed too....good....for a man like Jim Taggart is supposed to be.

Ellis Wyatt is perfectly cast. My wife and I both agreed that while he looks totally different from the book's description, he looks like the type of person who could do what he did. We've both worked with a lot of drillers, and the actor looks and acts like a driller who's worked his way up the ranks to become a CEO. There's something about the way they move, the way they talk....A coworker of mine once joked that drillers are pretty far down the evolutionary ladder (no, I didn't correct him), and the actor certainly played a person who started out that way, then earned what he had.

John Galt is....incongruous. Everyone else is wearing more or less modern business attire--suites, ties, that sort of thing. Galt is wearing a Dick Tracy trenchcoat. Don't get me wrong, that's not a bad look--I've seen a lot of managers wearing them in person--but NO ONE else is. And while I'd expect Allen Grant or Indiana Jones to wear a hat like that, the fact that no one else in the movie wears a hat makes this rather....odd. It just seems like they needed a way to hide his face, and I'll be honest I've always pictured Galt in a trenchcoat and hat, so they figured "Hey, let's do that!" without considering how it fit with the rest of the movie. It could have worked, but as it was it was just lazy.

As for the plot? It didn't seem to matter. It's like the directors and writers thought it was good enough to simply put the characters on-screen, without enough information that people familiar with the plot could piece it together. There's no sense that the John Galt Line is necessary other than Dagney saying it's necessary, and a few shouts by Wyatt. There's no sense that Dangey leaving the company has any consequences. The only indication that any of the events has a personal impact on anyone are in the bad guys, and Rearden becoming what he should have been in the first place! The plot of Atlas Shrugged is driven by the values and beliefs of the characters. The plot of AS:TM is simply a means to get the characters on film.

As for the philosophy, thus far it's been presented as Libertarianism, which is fundamentally wrong (and Rand herself explained why). But that could be something they fix later--it's not until later that the book really delves into it either.

Overall, I'd say it's better than most of what's on TV right now, but that's not saying much at all. I'm going to watch it again, to see what I missed, but it's simply not a good movie, certainly not the ground-breaking or inspiring movie that it should have been.
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PostSubject: Re: Atlas Shrugged: Part 1   Sun Apr 01, 2012 12:28 am

Francisco d'Anconia is something they also failed at. The speech he gives Hank during the party was one of my favorite in the book. And there's nothing like it in the movie.

Speaking of the party, I didn't really like how they did the bracelet trade either.

Ego, Life, Truth, Reason.
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Atlas Shrugged: Part 1
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