Skip to comments.The Little Movie That Just Might: Atlas Shrugged, Part 1
Posted on 05/20/2011 9:22:04 AM PDT by Publius
To be clear, Atlas Shrugged may not win any Academy Awards. But that is not the point. The tale behind bringing Ayn Rands 1957 novel to the big screen is almost as long as the book itself. Loathed or loved, public sentiment is anything but neutral for Atlas Shrugged.
In this first of possibly three installments, the year is 2016 and the national economy continues to spiral downward. As a result, commercial aviation is a recent memory and all traffic, freight and passenger, must move by rail. (It is ironic that in this alternate reality all rail traffic is still in the hands of private operators.) In typical Luddite fashion, elected officials attempt to garner support for themselves while exacting a heavy burden from industry. The result? Numerous prominent businessmen vanish, following a shadow named John Galt.
From a literary standpoint, the movie succeeds. All the main points are visited: Hard work, and the virtue of the reward for such hard work, lead to progress; rewarding those who do not contribute will ultimately lead to ruin; the inequity of expecting industry to respond to critics whose sole job it is to criticize. That is not, however, the reason one goes to the movie theater.
This production was constrained by a small budget, and the results have the appearance of made-for-television instead of the big screen. The principal railroad scenes are stock footage of modern day trains and a real Union Pacific track maintenance/concrete tie crew in Indiana. The climax of the film is the completion of the rebuilding of a rail line, and the first train to ply it. Ironically, that first train is a computer-generated image which is heavily based on Amtraks Acela, the very epitome of government interference in railroad operations.
As a point of comparison, a rather silly movie from last year, Unstoppable, did succeed in bringing the railroad to the big screen. Although its plot was an unrealistic contrivance of unstoppable exaggerations, the moviegoer did get a first-hand look at the grit, grime and gravity of railroad life.
In Atlas Shrugged, the plot centers around three industries: The railroad, steel, and petroleum. Malevolent special interest government intrusion is hampering their efforts, but they resolve to move ahead despite this interference. The film makers concentrate on the characters and portrayal of the squeaky-clean world they inhabit. After all, why show the gritty side of industry? Interestingly, the plot of this film is not fantasy, but was once reality. Our films heroine, Dagny Taggart, presides over a railroad where locomotive parts are hard to come by, and some lines have track that is over a century old. Imagine Penn Central circa 1972. Imagine parked trains derailing. Now imagine direct government involvement. Hardly fantasy, these things actually happened. It was this world which led to creation of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation.
Should the film makers have paid more attention to railroad details? At a screening/Q&A session arraigned by the Reason Foundation, the first two questions asked by the audience were about the railroad scenes. Not too many people have seen the inside of a steel foundry or an oil refinery, but railroads are a universal tie which binds us all, either as onetime passengers or perhaps via family connections. This preexisting subconscious familiarity with railroading is just the sort of connection needed to attract an audience.
In spite of it all, the film does work. It is rather dense, and as such will sail clear over the heads of the average moviegoer. It is a thinking movie for a thinking audience. Is the free market the answer to all our problems? Of course not; but neither is the free market so infinitely large as to subsidize everything else. Some may see this as a political statement, others as social commentary. In the words of Alfred Hitchcock, Its only a movie.
A railroader’s view of the movie.
Have seen the movie and have about 150 pages left in the book. This has definitely opened my eyes about government control ...
FReeper Book Club: Introduction to Atlas Shrugged
Part I, Chapter I: The Theme
Part I, Chapter II: The Chain
Part I, Chapter III: The Top and the Bottom
Part I, Chapter IV: The Immovable Movers
Part I, Chapter V: The Climax of the dAnconias
Part I, Chapter VI: The Non-Commercial
Part I, Chapter VII: The Exploiters and the Exploited
Part I, Chapter VIII: The John Galt Line
Part I, Chapter IX: The Sacred and the Profane
Part I, Chapter X: Wyatts Torch
Part II, Chapter I: The Man Who Belonged on Earth
Part II, Chapter II: The Aristocracy of Pull
Part II, Chapter III: White Blackmail
Part II, Chapter IV: The Sanction of the Victim
Part II, Chapter V: Account Overdrawn
Part II, Chapter VI: Miracle Metal
Part II, Chapter VII: The Moratorium on Brains
Part II, Chapter VIII: By Our Love
Part II, Chapter IX: The Face Without Pain or Fear or Guilt
Part II, Chapter X: The Sign of the Dollar
Part III, Chapter I: Atlantis
Part III, Chapter II: The Utopia of Greed
Part III, Chapter III: Anti-Greed
Part III, Chapter IV: Anti-Life
Part III, Chapter V: Their Brothers Keepers
Part III, Chapter VI: The Concerto of Deliverance
Part III, Chapter VII: This is John Galt Speaking
Part III, Chapter VIII: The Egoist
Part III, Chapter IX: The Generator
Part III, Chapter X: In the Name of the Best Within Us
Coda: Ten Years After
Afterword and Suggested Reading
Good movie. It got some bad press ( I think almost all of which was based on the political ideology, not the movie)but people should see it if they can.
Second, as a filmmaker, a movie only "works" if it can make a profit. All else is sour grapes. A movie's #1 purpose---ask the investors---is to entertain and thereby turn a profit. I do not see AS doing this, even with DVD sales.
Last I looked, it had earned $4.5m, and the stated production cost was $10m. One thing I've learned in my brief movie career is that almost everyone in Hollywood lies---about production costs, box office receipts (thank God for Boxofficmojo.com), and so on. Most insiders think AS cost between $15 and 20m. I do not see it ever recouping that.
I do not think the lack of success had to do with railroads, as many critics think. Rather, it is a multi-part pic. This worked with "Lord of the Rings," because it was a trilogy from the outset and viewers knew what to expect. Second, it was funded for the duration, so that audiences knew that if they got invested in the plot, they'd "see" the end. Finally, it did not skimp on talent or special effects. But with AS, even die-hards went in knowing it wasn't going to be more than one part of the story.
Haven’t seen the movie yet but this sounds like an unbiased review.
Go see it and when the DVD/Bluray disks go on sale order up a bunch of them from Amazon and give them away for gifts.
Saw it twice and loved it. Really hoping it’s a “sleeper” and that it takes off on DVD and becomes a cult classic. Just as importantly, I hope it turns sufficient profit to insure parts II and III get made. It could develop quite a following by then.
Don't miss it - and take a liberal ;o)
I took my brother, the only lib in all our family. I did not outline it to him other than it was from a book that was over 50 y rs old = that has been in constant print ever since, and is the highest selling novel in history....and that it gave a pretty good description of what happened to the rail roads in the country. (We're in our late 70's, so he remembers when we used to go across the country on trains - )
After the movie, on the way home, he didn't talk about the movie - other to say than it was 'good."
But he did take me out the dinner...which he hasn't done in years ;o). (I think he learned something.)
It’s totally bombed at this point. $4.6m dollars in 5 weeks. That’s beyond dismal. Those who say that it will make it up on DVD, don’t grok business in any way. Box office success not only determines the price of the DVD, but the distributors cut. The lower a movie performs at the box office, the greater the cut the distributor gets from DVD sales. Only makes sense considering the distributor takes bigger risks with box office flops than it does with box office hits.
Even if a good deal were cut, there would still be little to no money. When a movie bombs this badly it ensures that it’s going to be a sub-premium priced DVD probaby $9.99 (premium is $19.99 and up) from the start. Movie makers make next to nothing on those.
Worse, the cable movie franchises, including Netflix will be able to buy the right to air it for a song. The movie makers aren’t going to be making any money here either.
Last I heard, the producer was still intent on making the other two films, but that was after a %47 drop. I’m inclined to doubt that he still feels that way after revenues dropped an additional 170% the week after he said that. He’s probably not even allowed shoe laces and sharp objects at this point.
This isn’t going to make any money for the film makers on DVD. Get real.
It really can’t turn sufficient profit at this point. See 13 for an explanation.
Thanks. What’s your opinion on why it did so bad? Production, marketing, or both? Or something else?
IMHO, it was cursed with a single word. Moviegoers heard that it was “political” and that’s all it took.
I saw the movie and liked it very much.
What I don’t get is that there were plenty of Freepers who mocked this movie and said how bad it was going to be, they didn’t spend enough money on it, blah, blah, blah, BEFORE the movie came out.
NOW, it is, oh, there won’t be any more parts, trains, blah, blah, blah, didn’t make enough money.
I detect a pattern.
Call your local movie theaters and demand it.
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