Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 is a very special kind of shitty
Directed by Paul Johansson. Starring Taylor Schilling, Grant Bowler, and Matthew Marsden. Rated PG.
Well, here’s a pickle. This adaptation of Ayn Rand’s monument to her own insanity is stupid, crazy, and inept, and it certainly doesn’t have anything like the fevered grandeur of King Vidor’s 1949 take on The Fountainhead. But it’s wildly entertaining if you’re in a certain frame of mind. Should you be spending your money on it? Hey, who is John Galt?
Make it to the end of this inadvertent camp-fest, the first in a proposed trilogy directed by Paul Johansson (better known as Steve Sanders’ old nemesis on Beverly Hills 90210), and you’ll find out. The movie gives up its secrets a little sooner than the book, the other key change being that Rand’s tale—published in 1957—is plunked in the year 2016. A decision, I’m sure, that has nothing to do with saving millions on period detail, and everything to do with lending Rand’s sermon on unregulated super-capitalism some contemporary bite.
But the plot and ideas have not been updated. With society collapsing around them, it still takes the alliance of maverick railway magnate Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling) and stubbornly individualist steel baron Hank Reardon (Grant Bowler) to get America working again, the two of them battling her spineless asshole of a brother, anti-monopoly legislation, and bogus safety concerns as they go.
“What’s with all this altruism, anyway?” huffs Taggart at one point, in between heroic bouts of enlightened self-interest and sizzling exchanges with her visionary business partner. His big steel rail? Her caboose? Hey-O! Meanwhile, why are those other great men-of-purpose like Colorado oil billionaire Ellis Wyatt vanishing from the face of the earth?
It doesn’t matter that Atlas Shrugged bears no relation at all to the 21st century (or reality, or anything else). Like the Left Behind of Objectivism, it’s made for fanatics who don’t mind a TV movie sheen on their sacred text. Meanwhile, lovers of transcendentally shitty cinema (we exist!) will find a different kind of heaven.
Watch the trailer for Atlas Shrugged: Part 1.