Monday, June 6, 2011

Atlas Shrugged Part I: A Review


Here's How You Objectivist...

First, some confessions.  Firstly, I have never finished Atlas Shrugged.  I tried reading Ayn Rand's epic novel and just couldn't get through it.  Second, I like to think that I have a rudimentary understanding of Rand's philosophy.  In my college days, while most of my classmates were drawn to the musings of Castro and Chomsky, I was slowly coming under the spell of this Russian 'radical for capitalism'.  Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), I was also intrigued by what the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship was also saying.  It was a struggle between Ayn Rand and Jesus Christ for my mind and heart--the latter won.  With all that, I can say that while I've heard of both Rand and her magnum opus, I do not know enough of it to embrace it with the fervor that Objectivists do.

Perhaps that is the problem with Atlas Shrugged: Part I, the film of a planned two-or-three part adaptation of the novel.  I wondered if people's views of Rand and her ideology affected how they received the film.  I have my own views on the film itself which I will share, but as I went home I thought that the best way to handle something as controversial as Atlas Shrugged was to have someone watch it who had no preconceptions, who would be able to judge the film solely on the final product and not on the baggage both the book and the author carry. 

With that in mind, I asked my best friend Gabe to see it.  He has never heard of Atlas Shrugged or Ayn Rand or Objectivism or anything regarding her political views.  In short, he was as pure a viewer as I could find.  I therefore asked him to watch it and give his own review.  This is the first time I've ever invited anyone to give their own review for any film, but Atlas Shrugged is a special case: one where the fervor it unleashes (both pro and con) may cloud a person's perspective as to how good or bad the film actually is.  In short, many people won't be able to see the forest for the trees.  I feel confident that I did, but in this case, let's hear from the audience.

And now, without further ado, I present the review for Atlas Shrugged: Part I as given by Mr. Gabriel Pedregon.  Gabester, take it away. 

What can we say about the future of our country in the way we are behaving right now? In this movie Atlas Shrugged, it displays what the country is headed for if we don't watch what we are doing. When the movie begins, it takes place in the future. I believe it was the year 2016. What I grasped from the beginning was a repeat of the United States history of economical torment. There was a second "Great Depression," as it was in the 1930s, and also a gas shortage which also happened in the late 1970s. At this point in viewing the motion picture, I intended to observe this film with a very intense attitude.

It started with a railroad company called Taggard Transcontinental and its business going downhill during the economic depression in 2016. It was run by the president James Taggard (Matthew Marsden),who apparently didn't know how to run "Jack Squat" when the depression hit. Later on, all the decisions were being made by his sister Dagny Taggard (Taylor Schilling), who did a lot of the negotiating and trying to make deals, while brother was sitting in the big office, not being productive.

Later on, Dagny Taggard clashed with a steel tycoon, who I thought was, the greedy Mr. Henry "Hank" Rearden (Grant Bowler). This person ran Rearden Steel. This was when I got really intense with the film and at a point I wanted to jump into the screen and just strangle the guy's throat. There was a point in the film where I really think the the bourgeoisie of America really just thinks of nothing but themselves and doesn't contribute to balance the crumbling society of the United States.

During the movie, many businessmen started disappearing when they received a letter and asked the question of: "Who is John Galt?" This point, it got interesting and had me wondering. Did this John Galt have the solution to the problem the country got into? Towards the end, Rearden made a deal with Taggard and they constructed a better railroad in Colorado and the train made record time and the rails didn't mess up. This did show that our industries can work well together by striking up deals to better benefit society. At the end, the answer seemed to have lied in this small town and by the time Dagny Taggard got to it, someone was burning it to the ground and that was how Part I ended. I felt like this movie was like a TV series, making you want more of what is to come next.

Overall, the acting was very well, and it did show the attitudes of industry executives and how much power they want to have in making their business a monopoly, like Rearden did. The directing was really good, I have to say and it was a good storyline. Director Paul Johansson told us a story in Atlas Shrugged:Part I of how our business big shots don't control their greed and spending wisely, we are going to find our country going into the commode for the years to come.


Thank you, Gabe. 
Now that I've read his review, I think it would be a good moment to stop and have a small chat about the film itself. 

Rick: Gabe, you didn't see Hank Rearden as a hero, yet you also seem to have contempt for James Taggert.  Who would you say is the hero in Part I?

Gabe: I really thought that Dagny Taggard was the hero, because like I had mentioned, James didn't do much but she was really out there and did come to terms with Hank Rearden and worked well with him.

Rick: Technically, that would make her a "heroine", but now I'm being nit picky.  I remember at one point you whispered an enthusiastic "Yes".  It was when Dagny and Hank decided to look for that super-engine.  Why were you so enthusiastic about them going off to find it?

Gabe: This showed me that this would have been the solution and a way they could maybe have that super-engine patened and used for making better engines for her trains, of course the steel rails from Rearden steel are good.

Rick: Now, let's move on to the technical aspects of Atlas Shrugged.  You thought the acting was good, and it might help to point out that Grant Bowler (Hank Rearden) was raised in Australia, yet his American accent was to my ears pitch-perfect, like when fellow Aussie Keith Urban sings flawless American country but when he speaks his native accent pours out.  Was there a particular performance that you thought was either good or bad?

Gabe: I would have to agree that Grant Bowler's character was outstanding for him being an Aussie and he truly displayed a perfect character of a big shot executive for an industry company, of course the question that I have is, "Who is John Galt?" don't worry, I won't go missing but I can't wait to find out in Part II.

Rick: I'm glad you brought up John Galt.  We never see him but curiously he is at the center of the story.  What do you think he is up to?  What do you think is his motivation?  I'm just asking for guesses since I know you haven't read the novel--believe me, it's a long, LONG, story.

Gabe: With John Galt, who knows, he could be a professor, a average Joe, or even a business man himself that might be starting a new type of economics to bail out the country of what has been happening in the year 2016 and he could be starting some sort of "cult" for business tycoons.

Rick: Very interesting, although we won't know for sure until Part II comes out.  Now, Atlas Shrugged is only 97 minutes long, as compared to The Green Hornet at 119 minutes or any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies which clock in at over two hours.  Did you think the movie was rushed or that it might have expanded on the plot? 

Gabe: I wouldn't think that the movie was rushed, I think Johansson wants us to anticipate and wants us hungry for what is to come in the next part of the movie.

Rick: From your viewpoint, you though Atlas Shrugged was a well-made film with good (though not great) acting and an involving story that made you want to know what happens.  Is that accurate?

Gabe: In a sense, it all did come together in the end of Part I so I would say that it is accurate and is leaving me wondering till the next one comes out.

Rick: There's just one more point I'd like to go over before we conclude our little chat.  Now, before the movie, what did you know about Atlas Shrugged or its author, Miss Ayn Rand? 

Gabe: Believe it or not, I didn't even know this movie was based on a novel, which makes it even more fascinating that Paul Johansson used a novel to make a movie like this and teach us a lesson. To me, a good director is a good story teller, which I had learned in a film class I took my last semester of college.

Rick: So I take it you though Johansson was successful in telling a good story?  Secondly, what lesson did Atlas Shrugged Part I teach?

Gabe: Well I would say it is much of a story that has a lesson and his audience was intent for the United States and the first part taught us that somehow when our economy is in the toilet, we can sure work together to bring it back up again, but we should prevent it from happening and not having history repeat itself.

Rick: That's an interesting take and I'd like to pursue it a bit further.  How is the future repeating itself in the 2016 of the film? You've said that Dagny is the heroine of Part I, but who would you say is the villain?

Gabe: The beginning of the film just impacted me a lot before it actually started and that is what I have grasped from the film and of course what happened in the 30s and 70s is what was happening in 2016 and I would have to say the villain of part I would be society itself.

Rick:  Society?  You mean the American people themselves?  How are they the villains?

Gabe: Yes, because I would have to say we need to be careful in our investments and for tycoons to share their wealth instead of wanting more and making the market competitive and not so much monopolies.

Rick: Share the wealth.  Was that the message you got from Atlas Shrugged Part I?  That the tycoons and industrialists have a responsibility to give their fortunes to those who have less? 

Gabe: Well, I'd say to let others just have a piece of the pie.

Rick: That's an interesting take on the film.  Well Gabester, I think that about does it for your perspective on Atlas Shrugged Part I.  I can't thank you enough for agreeing to give me your input about the film.  I'm wondering if you'd like to do it again for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes should you go see it at the Plaza Classic Film Festival.  Would you be up for it?

Gabe: We'll have to see when it comes out and if it interferes with my work but yeah, and I would really like to see Godfather Part II  and Taxi Driver, but yeah this was interesting and I thank you for letting me be a part of your blog.

Rick: You're welcome, Gabester.  It was enjoyable to get a perspective from someone who didn't know about the book or its author. 

Now for a few Editor's notes.  The review for Atlas Shrugged Part I written by Gabe Pedregon will stand as the official review from Rick's Cafe Texan.  It has not been altered by me in any way: his words and thoughts are all his own.  Nothing in his section has been changed save for spelling and grammatical errors.

I will in a future date put in my own Personal Reflections on Atlas Shrugged Part I;  it should not be considered a substitute review.  Instead, it will merely be my own thoughts on the controversy the book, the film, and the author has created.  I will discuss some points Gabe did not cover (score, cinematography) and will put in my own view of the acting and directing, but those will be secondary to a reflection on factors not having to do with the film itself but on the emotions the film and its creator foster to both her admirers and detractors.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say that for a layman who has never read Atlas Shrugged and does not know anything about Ayn Rand's philosophy, your brother Gabe did a good job on his review. It is also noteworthy that he saw that there was a lesson in the story which seems amiss in most movies today.

    He understands that economically America is 'in the toilet' and something needs to be done by average Americans. I say we all need to get involved in what is going on politically--that is what I understand him to say when he blames Americans for the economy. We leave it up to others and wind up with a socialist as president.

    What he doesn't understand, because modern culture and philosophy have taught him not to, is that the businessmen who make their own way by hard work and dedication, who do not take favors from gov't or anyone else, should be looked upon as heroes. That it is not a person's duty to give up his values (business, love or otherwise) because someone demands it. That rational self-interest means staying true to your values and standing by them at any price. This is what the men who 'disappeared' do. They give up the world rather than compromise their values.

    If he understood the underlying philosophy, he would see Hank Rearden as a hero. He would understand that the men in government and the chrony capitalists who conspire to take away the businesses Rearden has built, are moochers and looters who take and destroy instead of make and provide. He would understand that men like Hank Rearden (Steve Jobs, Ray Kroc, Sam Walton) build multi-billion corporations by their own vision and provide a multitude of jobs and benefits to the average worker and consumer in return. That's how we benefit from their efforts.

    So everytime we become disgruntled about businessmen who screw up the economy, we need to ask what political favors are they getting from Washington and chances are you'll find them in cahoots, playing favors, and getting bailed out!


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