MOVIE REVIEW: Atlas Shrugged, Part One

Wil Avitt
Wil Avitt's picture

NOTE: This is a review of the first film in the Atlas Shrugged trilogy. I will review every part as a stand-alone film as they come out, then I will examine the film as a whole once all three parts have been released.

I was a bit delayed in watching this movie, so by the time I got around to the theater on Sunday, two days’ worth of reviews were already posted. I didn’t read any of them, but I did check out the rating on Rotten Tomatoes, just to get a rough idea of what I was getting into. The viewer rating was a very good 85%, but the critic rating was a basement level at a mere 10%. Suffice it to say, opinions are a bit mixed. I would place my own rating somewhere in between, but teetering more towards 10 than 85.

Atlas Shrugged, Part One is the first installment of a trilogy of movies that is adapting the novel of the same name by Ayn Rand published way back in the 1950’s. The novel has actually been reviewed on this website by our very own Republibot 3.0 and can be found here (http://republibot.com/content/book-reviews-%E2%80%9Catlas-shrugged%E2%80...), here (http://republibot.com/content/book-reviews-%E2%80%9Catlas-shrugged%E2%80...) and finally here (http://republibot.com/content/book-reviews-%E2%80%9Catlas-shrugged%E2%80...).

I haven’t read the novel myself. After R3’s review, I have no intention. I probably wouldn’t have even seen the film, based on the review of the book, except it’s my job to see and review science fiction movies for you guys. Is Atlas Shrugged science fiction? In the absolute strictest sense of the word, yes it is. The science fiction is subtle, but it is there. The film is set in the very near future (just 5 years away in 2016/17) so that right there is science fiction. Also, the film deals with a corporation, Rearden Steel, which invents a super strong, super light, allow known as Rearden Metal. That’s it, that is all the science fiction there is in this film. It may pick up as the story progresses in parts 2 and 3, but for now it’s just near future and super strong metal. Rearden Metal is seen as the invention that could save a seemingly doomed railroad, Taggart Transcontinental Railways, form going out of business due to accidents caused by the disrepair of their century+ old railroad tracks. The government (who will be talked about more in the political break-down below) are dead set against allowing Taggart Transcontinental from using Rearden Metal to fix their railroad tracks. The reason for this is never really specified, it’s just the government is evil and anti-invention and that’s about it. The CEO of Taggart Transcontinental, Dagny Taggart, decides to separate herself from her family’s railroad, leaving her younger brother James in charge, and starting a new railroad just for the express purpose of using Rearden Metal, she had forged an alliance with Hank Rearden, CEO of Rearden Steel, at the beginning of the movie before the government started trying to shut them down, to fix one rail line and prove to the world that the government sucks and that Rearden Metal is dependable, safe, and the best thing since split atoms. Sounds like a nice enough plot, right? So where does the problem lie, you ask? I’m glad you asked that, because I’m about to tell you.

The biggest problem with this movie, and the reason I rated it a measly 50 out of 100 is because it is boring. I’m sorry, that should have been Boring (with a capital B). Nothing really happens throughout the first 70 or 75 minutes of this 97 minute movie. NOTHING! We’re introduced to the characters and the situations, and a nice mystery man who is kidnapping people (or so we think) throughout the whole movie. But that’s it. It’s ok as the first act to the story, and when you learn who the mystery man is (or at least what’s happening to all of these people who keep coming up missing after he meets with them) it gets interesting. Unfortunately, that’s the end. The last 15 to 20 minutes keep you on the edge of your seat and the cliffhanger leaves you wanting to see part 2, but the entire movie up until the last 15 to 20 minutes is a snore fest. I kept looking at my phone, hoping to God Almighty it had been 97 minutes. Now, I understand that this is merely the first act of a three act play, but it watches that way and that’s a problem. Think of it this way, Star Wars (Episode 4) was the first act of a three act play as well, but it stood alone. It had a definite beginning, middle and end. Imagine if the first Star Wars movie had been only about Luke Skywalker getting ready to go to Alderaan. He acquires the droids, meets Obi-Wan and charters Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon and the movie ends with our guys flying off to Alderaan. Now imagine it took an hour and a half to get there. We probably never would have seen The Empire striking back, because Star Wars would have been a bomb. That’s exactly what the first act of Atlas Shrugged is. It’s the set-up to what promises to be at least an interesting story, but nothing much happens this first time around. In my opinion, Atlas Shrugged would have better been served as a television miniseries, and its meager $10 million budget would have been much more at home on television than in a mock blockbuster on the silver screen. It would have been a lot easier to accept this snore fest if it had been screened in the comfort of your own home. Admittedly, the first episode of the monstrously long television adaptation of The Stand was pretty boring, but it set up what you were going to see tomorrow night and you didn’t have to go out of your way, find a babysitter, and pay an arm and a leg to see it, being left for months (by which time I’m sure I won’t care what happens next) to find out what happens next. Alright, as promised, on to the political break-down:

Will Conservatives Like This Movie?
That depends on why you go to movies. Personally, I’m not a big fan of having to write this section normally, although being that we are REPUBLI-bot, I do see why it’s necessary. I don’t go to movies for real-world politics. I go to movies to be entertained. So if you go to movies to be entertained, liberal or conservative, then no, you probably won’t like it. Rent it. By then, part 2 might be out in a week or so. If you do go to movies for political commentary, then yes conservatives should like this movie a lot. The basic plot of the movie is that the government is evil and has ruined the country. It is mentioned that gas is a whopping $37/gallon in 2016, which is why the railroad is so popular again. The problem I have with that, though, is that the failing economy is only seen in the background and almost never talked about. All of the characters are rich, so it is hard to feel like you’re living in an economic disaster. But this film does seem to be very anti-big government, so yes, conservatives will like that part. There is also a warning against socialism, in the form of an engineering company who decided to flat-rate pay their employees, meaning that highest ranking manager and the lowest level laborer all make the same amount of money. This caused the smart managers and the hard working employees to go elsewhere for work, somewhere where they would be paid based on productivity and not equality, and it drove the company into bankruptcy. So, politically, there is a lot for conservatives. However, story-wise, it’s a snore fest. The set up for part 2 is good, though, so I’m hoping the story picks up.

So there it is, my final recommendation is going to have to be to rent this film, don’t waste your time or money going to the theater. Not for this. Go see Scream 4 if you really want to get out of the house. However, if it does pick up in part 2, which I think is likely, this film will be necessary to the overall story, so don’t snub it altogether. Rent it, and then we’ll see if part 2 is worth seeing in the theater. If there are any questions, or if anyone else has seen this film, leave your comments below and let’s get this ball rolling.

SheldonCooper is the code name of republibot.com’s official movie critic. He’s a trained chimpanzee who got ahold of a laptop once and no one has been able to get it back from him. He can be reached at sheldon@republibot.com.

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