Some Notable Atlas Shrugged Movie Reviews: P.J. O'Rourke, Kyle Smith, and Others


In the comments of a previous post rounding up some Atlas Shrugged Part I reviews, roystgnr asked, "to avoid wasting everyone's time, could we just post reviews by people who dislike Rand's politics but liked the movie and reviews by people who like Rand's politics but disliked the movie?" Since I aim to please, here's the New York Post's libertarian-leaning film reviewer and underrated columnist, Kyle Smith:

[T]he movie's chief flaws — on-the-nose-dialogue, a cheesy score, no-name actors — are fixable, and it is alive with the potency of Rand's convictions. "Atlas Shrugged" is a rough draft of a movie, but one that's good enough to renew interest in the story's cinematic possibilities. […]

"Atlas Shrugged" is like the Bible (the only title that outscored it in an unscientific 1991 survey that asked readers which books had most influenced them). Neither is to be taken literally. Each makes a lot of valid points. […]

Most movies, even movies that earn many times what "Atlas Shrugged" will make at the box office, don't matter. "Hop" and "Sucker Punch" are not going to create any activists, stir any conversation, make people want to read more about the subject. Despite playing on only a couple of hundred screens (and only covering the first third of the novel), "Atlas Shrugged" is going to have an impact. It'll make kids want to read the book, it'll get argued about on widely read blogs, it'll make some viewers question their assumptions: Why is it, exactly, that we are supposed to hate successful businessmen? […]

This is Rand's moment: Her demon vision, despite the odor of brimstone and the screech of axe-grinding that envelops it, seems less and less unimaginable. For all its stemwinders, its cardboard capitalists and villainous bureaucracy, "Atlas Shrugged" makes ringing statements: that wealth has to be created before it can be divided up, that government isn't necessarily your friend, that the business of America is business.

Libertarian-leaning current events funnyman P.J. O'Rourke, in the Wall Street Journal:

Atlas shrugged. And so did I.

The movie version of Ayn Rand's novel treats its source material with such formal, reverent ceremoniousness that the uninitiated will feel they've wandered without a guide into the midst of the elaborate and interminable rituals of some obscure exotic tribe. […]

In "Atlas Shrugged–Part I" a drink is tossed, strong words are bandied, legal papers are served, more strong words are further bandied and, finally, near the end, an oil field is set on fire, although we don't get to see this up close. There are many beautiful panoramas of the Rocky Mountains for no particular reason. And the movie's title carries the explicit threat of a sequel.

But I will not pan "Atlas Shrugged." I don't have the guts.  If you associate with Randians—and I do—saying anything critical about Ayn Rand is almost as scary as saying anything critical to Ayn Rand.  What's more, given how protective Randians are of Rand, I'm not sure she's dead.

The woman is a force.  But, let us not forget, she's a force for good.

Are there libertarian-agnostic non-Rand-fans who've liked the movie? I haven't found any yet, though Preview Week is still young. There were some notable savagings by Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, though. Plus this newspaper editorial from the apparently existing Harrisonburg (Va.) Daily News Record, headlined "Objectively Evil: The Truth About 'Atlas Shrugged.'" Sample from that:

A staple of modern libertarian thinking in some ways codified into the law, Objectivism is radically anti-Christian, denies the natural and moral law and assumes that man exists solely as an individual whose highest goal is satisfying his cupidity and concupiscence. It suggests that mankind is a collection of aimless atoms that bounce off of each other occasionally, but otherwise bear no selfless reciprocal duties or imperatives. Indeed, Rand thought selfishness was a virtue.

Such an ideology denies reality. For one thing, history teaches us that mankind everywhere has always lived under some political authority. As well, men and women are not just individuals, but members of families, communities and towns who work and live together. The natural and moral law, as well as revelation, commands them to be good members of society and to love one another as they love themselves. The law commands this not because a neighbor demands it, but because God expects it as a matter of charity and justice, although he leaves men free to disobey him. Rand vigorously and viciously rejected these simple Christian injunctions.

Objectivism, then, is objectively evil, the merits of Rand's arguments about collectivism regardless. [..]

So perhaps the conservatives ought to stop buzzing about this film and learn something about the atheist rationalism Rand espoused and the torment it has visited upon the world.

You'll definitely want to click through that last link….

Reason.tv's latest Atlas Shrugged vid here; our Ayn Rand page here. Read the behind-the-scenes Brian Doherty feature that everybody's now catching up to, then wash it down with his December 2009 chronicle of Rand's post-TARP resurgence. Cathy Young's "Ayn Rand at 100" remains a lightning rod of controversy, and this Manuel S. Klausner tale of how Rand almost sued Reason is one of my very favorite things.