Sunday, April 24, 2011
I finally got to see Atlas Shrugged today, so you finally get the benefit of my review. A few caveats before I begin. First some movies are not reviewable by the same standards used to evaluate most films. Examples of this are The Passion of the Christ and Harry Potter (all films).
The Passion of the Christ is impossible to review because if you are a devote Christian the movie passionately recreates the central story and theme of the entire religion, any production deficiencies are not of consequence for those who embrace the story religiously (literally). Conversely a person not a Christian or not sympathetic to Christianity might see the same film as a virtual snuff film with little redeeming qualities.
The Harry Potter movies are based on the most popular contemporary novels. The books are beloved by millions around the world. The books are long and filled with numerous sub-plots, red herrings, and subtleties that can not easily be translated to film. Watching the films without the context of having read the books or at least without some understanding of the plots and themes is at best confusing and at worst frustrating. Once again those who have read the books love the movies as a supplemental visualization of the stories they love. This makes Harry Potter a tough review because to review the movie is in effect to review the books either together or as juxtaposition. The two can not really be separated.
Atlas Shrugged suffers from both the issue of being based on a huge novel with sub-plots and subtleties as well as being based on an ideology; an ideology that is antithetical to that which is put forth in our “pop” culture.
What Atlas Shrugged is must be addressed with reviewing the novel or film. Rather than being dystopian prophecy it is a parable of the battle between individualism and collectivism. Collectivist will scoff at the idea that a greedy businessman could be acting morally in his pursuit of wealth. However, Ayn Rand believed that this is not a contradiction. Complicated personalities, like Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds’, do not fit into this type of philosophical novel. Therefore she wrote her characters as almost cartoonish caricatures devoid of some of the complexity one might otherwise hope for in a different kind of story.
With these caveats in mind I will put forth my review from the following perspectives. Does the movie effectively express the themes of the novel for those who do not possess the context of reading the novel? Will devotees of the novel appreciate its cinematic treatment in this film?
I will not try to interpret the film from the perspective of someone who possesses both the context of having read the novel and who hold hostilities to its ideology. These people cannot be expected to give it a fair review, not because they are dishonest but because no film based on this novel, no matter how well made, could be expected to satisfy them and still stay true to the source material.