Saturday, December 31, 2011

Atlas Shrugged Part I - DVD Review


Starring Taylor Schilling, Grant Bowler, Matthew Marsden, Edi Gathegi, Nick Cassavettes, Jon Polito, Michael Lerner, Patrick Fischler, Graham Beckel and Rebecca Wisocky.
Directed by Paul Johansson.

The first rule of adapting a book into a movie is to make the movie accessible to people who haven't read the book. I have never read Ayn Rand's 1957 1100-page novel, but this movie is written with the seeming presumption that everyone watching the movie has read the book.

Now maybe if this had been made with a Hollywood budget, with better actors, a best director, etc., that wouldn't matter as much, but the holder of the rights had to get moving on this or lose them. The result is not unlike the first episode of Fox Business Channel's first attempt at a mini-series.

Angelina Jolie was once looking at starring in an Atlas Shrugged movie, but here we'll have to settle for Taylor Schilling, known to me as one of the leads of NBC's short-lived nurse drama Mercy. She plays Dagny Taggart, a 26-year-old running the largest railroad company in the US in 2016, along with her brother James (Matthew Marsden). The country's in turmoil since gas and oil prices have skyrocketed, and several talented successful businessmen are disappearing. And about every six minutes, someone asks the mysterious question, "Who is John Galt?"

But here's the thing. Why should I care who John Galt is? Who is Mortimer McGillicuddy? Who is Joe Shlobosky? Context, people!

The Taggarts are bumping up against Hank Reardon (Grant Bowler), who's developed a new type of steel that's twice as strong at half the weight.

The movie is obviously made on the cheap, yet it's about the rich and elite few who make the country run by the power of their own brilliance and general awesomeness. It's nothing but esoteric conversations between two or more people about events and ideas, in corridors, in lobbies, at parties.

Some of these ideas are worth discussing, some of these ideas might make more sense on the page, some of these ideas might be antiquated now that it's not 1957. But another big problem with this movie is these ideas need to build to something, and after 91 minutes of conversations about things happening we never get an emotional connection to, it ends with a cliffhanger.

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