Atlas Shrugged: "spectacularly good" or "incomprehensible gibberish"?


Atlas Shrugged Part I is rolling out pre-release screenings around the country, including in Washington, D.C. last night, and the reviews are coming in. A sampling:

Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, IMDB:

I was convinced Atlas Shrugged could not be put on film, but this movie proved me wrong. It has a contemporary look and feel, while retaining the Art Deco elegance of Rand's novel. The acting is superb, particularly Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart and Grant Bowler as Hank Rearden. Bowler manages to cram more meaning into a half-cocked eyebrow than most actors in a dozen lines of dialogue, and Shilling captures the sleek, cold elegance of Dagny, while giving just a hint of the passion simmering beneath the surface. Indeed, all the performances are impeccable.

This is a beautiful movie to watch, with sets, locations and costumes that are both gorgeous and convincing. The run of the John Galt Line is thrilling, and when it crossed the bridge made of Rearden Metal, I wanted to stand up and cheer. […]

It's too bad that [Rand] didn't live to see this movie because, I believe, she would be surprised and pleased by how well it captures the essence of her work. This is clearly a labor of love that will help make Rand's ideas accessible to many who have not yet read her work. And it's exciting and rewarding for those of us who have been Rand fans for many years.

Timothy Farmer, The Film Stage:

[There] are countless scenes of rough, bleak dialogue that never seem to stay on the track. This soon becomes the tone of the entire film: incomprehensible gibberish. I'm more than willing to give credit to the sound engineers, mixers and operators for their crisp captures. That said, I haven't a clue in hell what was rolling through John Aglialoro's and Brian Patrick O'Toole's craniums when they wrote the screenplay. Somebody please have them admitted for a CAT scan ASAP. […]

Remember chemistry class? Did you fail it by chance? Well, if you did do not feel alone, because all of the filmmakers here are in the same camp. There is absolutely no chemistry between the characters, not even a single metabolic drop. […]

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 attempted to embody the drive of American innovation by using bold characters, yet it fell short on numerous levels. It was neither compelling nor entertaining to watch. I was hyped on the thought that the book was finally being transformed after forty years into a film, yet had my doubts. My doubts won. And if for some idiot reason they end up making the second and third installment, please fasten my head directly to the railroad tracks and redo the entire script. Then, and only then, will this film provide anything remotely related to a worthwhile film.

Rand biographer Barbara Branden:

I am delighted, overwhelmed, and stunned. […]

The movie is not so-so, it is not OK,it is not rather good—it is spectacularly good. […]

The script is excellent, as  is the acting. The music is first rate, and immensely adds to the tension that the action and the tempo of the film create.  Visually,  it is very beautiful. And wait until you experience the first run of the John Galt Line! […]

To a remarkable degree, the movie captures the spirit, the sense of life, that was Ayn Rand's alone.

Does it have faults? I suppose so.  I could not care less—and I suspect you won't care either.

Silas Lesnick,

[T]he intent of this review is not to debate the politics or ethics of Objectivism, but to ask whether or not the film has any value outside dogged, self-serving propaganda.

Put simply, it does not.

"Atlas Shrugged" is double-feature material for "Battlefield Earth," offering a slavish interpretation of a story whose primary reason for being retold in the first place is cult devotion. While said devotees may deem the film successful at literally bringing the events of the book to the screen, there's zero sense of character, dialogue or pacing. That is, the requisite traits that even make this technically a story in the first place are close to nil.

John Sexton, Big Hollywood:

They got it right.

Sure I would have loved to see the $40 million dollar version of the same movie, but the bottom line is that it works and works well.

More positive notices from Hans Schantz, Eriks Goodwin, and Judd Weiss.