Netflix Review: Atlas Shrugged: Part One

I physically had to watch this film.  I have had a love for Atlas Shrugged since I first picked the book up ten years ago.  Since then I try and read it once a year, and have mostly succeeded.  If you have been to this site before, you know that I very rarely watch any movie more than once.  So reading a 1000 page book over and over again should tell you how much this book means to me.  Click here if you are interested in why I love Atlas Shrugged so much.

So with how reviled this film was by just about every single reviewer I read and friend who had seen it, I needed to watch this film.  I have a part of me that desperately wants to make movies.  There is no movie I would rather make than Atlas Shrugged.  So to see it on film has been a dream of mine for a long time.  I am very sad to say this film was not a good dream.

The first problem is about the exact same as in my The Hunger Games review actually.  If you had not read the book coming in, absolutely nothing these characters said or did would have made any sense.  The screenwriters (I will not shame them by naming names) took over 300 pages of writing (Part One) and condensed it down to an hour and a half.  The thing is that they just took specific scenes and played them out.  There is no explanation.  There are no motivations explaining why these people are saying such ridiculous things.  They are just saying it.  I have read the book over and over, and I felt the way these people were acting was idiotic.

Next is that they basically copied scenes from the book, but it seems as if the creators of this film had not even read the book themselves.  The main reason I say this is motivation. In the book, there are creators and looters.  They can be easily described as people who feel in control of their lives and people who feel they are victims.  The characters in the book fall along the scale from perfect creators  to perfect looters, but most of the characters have characteristics of both and simply lean more one way than the other.  It is not a book about business verses government.  It is a book about people taking control of their own lives or giving it away.

With that explanation there are two main problems with this movie.  The first is every single looter in it.  Looters in the book think they are doing things for the greater good, but are immensely afraid of ever making a decision or any type of decree.  Because they can try and hide the fact that they are responsible for the problems the world is experiencing, but their subconscious knows it is them and the power they are giving up that is destroying  themselves and everyone else.  Their main motivation is fear.  Every explanation from Ayn Rand of the looter’s thought process involves fear, worry and terror.  Yet, in the film they are shown as doing it for malicious reasons and with full intent and understanding of what they are doing.  They even discuss how they are going to get certain people and how their master plan is coming together.  In the book, they thought that what they were doing was beneficial for everyone.  Here they are very consciously trying to destroy people and businesses.  That does not make sense with everything else that is going on.

The second problem with motivation is the main character, Dagny Taggart. (Taylor Schilling).  I do not know if this is the script writer’s fault, the actress’ or the director’s; but there is nothing there.  She has no emotion at all.  She is not tired from working unending hours. She is not angry at the looters for anything they do.  She just kind of talks.  Dagny Taggart is supposed to be incredibly powerful.  She never gives up and she is basically the only person keeping the United States running in the book.  In the film, she looks well rested and happy.  So what she just spent the last nine months basically without sleep trying to save the entire railroad system, she also just got a mani-pedi.  Just stupid.

I don’t know who Atlas Shrugged: Part One was made for.  It was not made for the casual movie goer.  There is no way they would understand what is going on.  It was not made for the fan of Atlas Shrugged.  The entire book is about putting real value into everything you do and trying your hardest and doing things with all of your heart and mind.  This film was slapped together and looks like it was done as cheaply and shoddily as possible.  Any fan would recognize that instantly.

Don’t see this film.  No matter how much you love the book and have wanted to see it on screen, don’t subject yourself to this maddening experience.  The acting is horrible.  The script is horrible.  The film is horrible.  Do not see Atlas Shrugged: Part One.

Have you seen this film?  What did you think of it?  Let us know in the comments below.

~Ryan Lynch