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Atlas Shrugged: Part I (2011)
I knew a little of Ayn Rand, her philosophical and political bent, before watching this movie and indeed it was that prior awareness that piqued my interest when I discovered this production.
On the whole I tend to agree with other negative reviews with regards the production, direction, screenplay, editing, acting and cinematography. They are all second rate even by TV-movie standards though that is not surprising given the high quality of many hit TV shows. Usually if budget restricts production values then other aspects of filming tend to be improved such as the screenplay or editing but that is not the case here. Every aspect of the movie is poor. One can forgive the mediocre acting or lack of on-screen presence of any characters but one cannot forgive a poor screenplay, direction and editing.
Maybe the source material is where the problems begin. Rand's political views are a clear product of totalitarian Soviet socialism, having left Russia for the USA, and her understandable amazement at the vibrancy of the USA in the mid-20's. The development of her views seem as inevitable as the rise of Fascism around the world in the same period and feel like an anachronism, living as we do in the early part of the 21st Century. Just as Orwells '1984' and Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' speak of Dystopian dictatorships and oligarchies of a near future, only faint aspects of the Atlas Shrugged resonate with today's viewers. Rands views were as extreme as those she opposed and as such it is difficult to see how the novel can be filmed without putting the story in the distant future or some parallel universe.
When one creates an adaptation of a politically derived work it is surely the message of the politics that one is attempting to convey. To do this successfully one has to take account of the current political state of the world otherwise it will look outdated, extreme, unrealistic and wholly anachronistic. That is the effect of this production. Are there messages of importance in the work? I think there are but only viewers who see the world through the eyes of fear and distrust can believe that setting the movie in 2016 is a realistic proposition. Yes, we worry about fuel prices and about too much state control and interference but the assumption that this will happen within the next few years in the USA is most likely scaremongering. If its not scaremongering then it is even more poorly judged than I first thought.
The loony Tea Party Republicans will love this movie as it it speaks volumes about the world they feel we are quickly moving towards, if not actually in. From my more moderate perspective I would say we are not marching inexorably towards a Stalinist future either by degree or by giant leaps. This movie would have us believe that the individual will soon be reduced to an irrelevance at worst, or an inconvenience at best, and that the greater good will be all that matters if we let the State get too big. But that is not all it assumes; it contends that the sole purpose of anyone to create or invent anything is only motivated by greed and selfishness, that in doing so the rest of the population can go to hell, though they do have the freedom to choose whether or not to purchase the invention or creation. Clearly, these individualistic aspects of human nature are motivators for creative people and entrepreneurs but they are not the only ones. Indeed, war is a great motivator though who would recommend that as the best situation for us to exist in? Furthermore, altruistic motives of inventors and creators are never explored in this movie and so the viewer ends up either wholly agreeing with the message or totally disagreeing and that seems like an opportunity missed. This omission to provoke balanced thought and debate is probably the best reason for avoiding a faithful adaptation .
I can't recommend this movie to the general viewer and can only suggest watching it if you have an interest in politics, economics and philosophy in order to get a feel for the Randian world view that some crack pots believe we should adopt. For me, it made me feel that living in the West, we tend to have the political balance about right and if anything the movie helps reassure me of that view. We don't want over-controlling State structures nor do we want the selfish, 'I'm-not-playing-if-I-can't-play-by-my-rules' types running companies. This movie does nothing to convince me otherwise.
This gets 4 stars simply because there are a number of notable cameo performances from a variety of top draw actors as well as charismatic performances from Joseph Fiennes and Eva Green. As for the rest of the cast one can only describe many performances as wooden as the forests in which Britons of the Dark Ages inhabited. Most obvious miscast character is that of Arthur, who not only doesn't look the part but acts as unkingly as is humanly possible, which to be fair is more a consequence of the lamentable screenplays as it is a measure of his inability to pull off a convincing performance.
And this brings me to the script. God forbid the producers of this execrable pile of horse droppings might have deigned it worthwhile to peruse the various medieval writings, or even contemporary re-workings, of the Arthurian Legend for suitable source material but how on earth could they imagine that seemingly making it up as they go along would in any way convince the viewers that the tale is in anyway believable or inspiring.
I have read a few excellent contemporary novels set in the Dark Ages, the best of which is most definitely Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles series, so it isn't true that there is nothing new to say about Arthur et al. It is a continual disappointment that there are still producers out there who think throwing in a few breasts and pretty faces is all it needs to make a winning production. It does not. We know it so why don't the producers? It takes the sort of source material that is winning fans of Game of Thrones, which though not without it's flaws has a great story, great scripts and great believable performances.
Sadly another missed opportunity.