We've seen hearty thumbs-up from Objectivists, split decisions from fans and foes, qualified non-praise from P.J. O'Rourke and Kyle Smith, and from our own ranks a dart from Kurt Loder and a laurel from Brian Doherty. So are there any other reviews and commentary about Atlas Shrugged Part I worth reading on this, the opening day of the long-awaited cinematic adaptation? As you hit refresh on Rotten Tomatoes (where it's polling a brutal 7% among critics, but a healthy 85% from the audience as of this writing), here are some readables:
Reason Foundation co-founder Tibor Machan goes down memory lane:
I saw the movie "Atlas Shrugged: Part I" (set for release April 15), and I liked it a lot, just as I did the book when I first read it in 1961 while serving in the Air Force near Washington, D.C. (The maiden ride of the John Galt Line train was the most riveting segment in the book for me and remains so in the film.) [...]
I was won over to Rand in part because I already held individualist views, having survived Soviet communism and a Nazi parent's brutality. Such collectivist, communitarian regimes held out no attraction to me. Yet I lacked the education to figure out why a human individual should be acknowledged as the center of values, and Rand helped me figure this out.
Right or wrong, I found Rand (whom I met in 1962 for a 30-minute private chat but who later banished me, too, from her group of close-knit students) sensible, passionate, a bit bellicose and all-around very insightful about nearly all aspects of philosophy. Then, three years after its publication, came "Atlas Shrugged." I read it on a single day; that is how vivid and good a read it was and, judging by its phenomenal sales worldwide, still is. [...]
Although "Part 1" didn't grab me as did the book when I first read it – how could it have? – it is a very good picture; it's modern, serious, full of poignant anti-statist and pro-capitalist dialogue (unlike most Hollywood products).
Roger Ebert does the rumpy-pumpy:
The most anticlimactic non-event since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Capone's vault. I suspect only someone very familiar with Rand's 1957 novel could understand the film at all, and I doubt they will be happy with it. For the rest of us, it involves a series of business meetings in luxurious retro leather-and-brass board rooms and offices, and restaurants and bedrooms that look borrowed from a hotel no doubt known as the Robber Baron Arms. [...]
The movie is constructed of a few kinds of scenes: (1) People sipping their drinks in clubby surroundings and exchanging dialogue that sounds like corporate lingo; (2) railroads, and lots of ’em; (3) limousines driving through cities in ruin and arriving at ornate buildings; (4) city skylines; (5) the beauties of Colorado. There is also a love scene, which is shown not merely from the waist up but from the ears up. The man keeps his shirt on. This may be disappointing for libertarians, who I believe enjoy rumpy-pumpy as much as anyone.
Hearst Newspapers' Mick LaSalle gives the rare non-Randian non-pan:
Yes, it's a right-wing diatribe. It presents liberals from a conservative point of view, as meddlers and mediocrities who resent, fear and aim to keep down the talented and the visionary. Its misunderstanding of the liberal mind is ridiculous and unfair [...]
What is a selling point are the boldly drawn characters, played by a cast of unknowns, some of whom deserve to be known. I'm thinking in particular of Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart, a railway heiress, and Grant Bowler as Hank Rearden, a manufacturing magnate and the inventor of Rearden Metal. Even with director Paul Johansson practically missing in action, giving them nothing, Schilling and Bowler are forceful and attractive.
I'd be willing to sit through Part Two right now.
Will Wilkinson talks to anxious Randians:
According to my informal survey of Rand fans, "apprehensive" and "cautiously optimistic" are the watchwords. Many fans drew parallels to the hopeful trepidation preceding the screen debuts of the "The Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" books. "It would be so great if they can pull this off," AeonSkoble, a professor of philosophy at Bridgewater State College, told me, "and it'd be really awful if they can't." But he's hopeful.
"A novel that's been a best-seller for more than 50 years should have generated a Hollywood blockbuster starring George Clooney and Gwyneth Paltrow," said David Boaz, the executive vice-president of the libertarian Cato Institute. "It's too bad that instead it's an indie film with little-known actors and a limited opening."
Yet Mr. Boaz, who caught a preview screening, seemed pleasantly surprised. "The actors looked right," he said. "And the cinematography is very good."
FreedomWorks puts together an Atlas mash-up with the Moucher in Chief:
Time magazine writer Claire Suddath attempts to get a date on The Atlasphere
NPR goes to an ideological screening in Washington, D.C.:
Variety reports that "according to online ticketing service Fandango," Atlas, "bowing at 299 locations, surprisingly ranks third with 15% of the site's advance ticket sales," behind Scream 4 and Rio.
And National Review's Daniel Foster gets into the business proposition:
[W]hat's the benchmark for success? Aglialoro said he'd like to recoup the $10 million shooting budget and the roughly $10 million he spent on rights and development. He'd also like to have cash to invest in the second installment of a planned trilogy — and of course, a profit.
"If it does a hundred million, roughly, at the box office, about half of that goes to the exhibitor — so if I were to subtract that $20 million, that would leave $30 million. And about half of that would be reinvested for the second one."
The latest of Reason.tv's many videos about Ayn Rand and the movie project: