Monday, April 25, 2011

Atlas Shrugged, The Movie

I have seen Atlas Shrugged. If you haven't, go see it. It is the movie our times calls for.

I could snipe at any number of little artistic flaws the film has, just as I could snipe at the artistic flaws in the novel. It is no Casablanca or Great Gatsby, respectively, but then, what is? Shall I compare like to like, dystopian fiction to dystopian fiction, Atlas Shrugged emerges as an exemplar of the form.

The villains are as wonderful in the film as in the novel. The actor playing Hank Reardon does a great Hank Reardon. He's the man's man we all hoped he would be. The plot is there, and the mystery is compelling -- even if, like me, you know what it is.

I went with my wife, who only just now started reading Atlas Shrugged, and did not finish Part I before we went to see the movie. She is loving the novel, and she loved the film. She wishes she had the time to just sit and finish the novel, and she can't believe she has to wait a year for Part II. That's a rave review from someone who is smart and highly educated, but never learned to become a literature snob as too many of us who have advanced degrees in literature become. She liked Sophocles' Oedipus plays because they are in fact great works with exciting plots, not because she was told it was great, and therefore concluded it is great. There is much to be said for an honest response to a work of literature.

In any case, this isn't her review, but mine.

Rand's works are didactic. That is a tradition in literature that was abandoned with much post-Renaissance literature, but that does not mean it is not a valid approach or tradition. Rand does morality plays, and her works should be judged as such -- as much as they should be judged in the dystopian tradition. From this perspective, her works are, again, to be recommended. One does not have to agree with her moral system in whole or part to understand her works in these traditions. And if you don't like her moral system, then the film will be something you will enjoy, since the speeches are minimized.

I will also note that Rand is quite satirical, something which comes out a bit better in the film when you actually hear the names of the legislation which get passed.

What we see in the film, which was brilliantly modernized/futurized to make the centrality of trains make sense, is a tale for today, that is taking on horrifying reality. We may desire to know Who is John Galt? for today -- but of equal importance, we need to know Who is Wesley Mouch?
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