What “Atlas Shrugged” offers is a story line that resonates with many ordinary viewers who work or want to work for a living.
The critics told me not to see this movie. So I did.
They said the production is amateurish, the dialogue stilted, the actors leaden. It isn’t and they aren’t.
They said it is boring and unintelligible. It is not.
The movie in question does not have one single, death-defying car chase scene. Nor are there scenes of fevered fumbling with fasteners or furtive, furious sex. (Film critic Roger Ebert wrote, scornfully, that the solitary love scene, for which it received a PG-13 rating, is shown “not merely from the waist up but from the ears up” — a shocking condemnation, indeed!) Again going against the popular trend, there’s not even the obligatory vomit scene, and nary an “f-bomb” is dropped. You can take your grandma to the show even if she has 20/20 vision and is a skilled lip reader.
But taking the critics at their word, if the movie is amateurish, stilted, leaden, prudish, boring and unintelligible, why are movie-goers flocking to see it? By the end of its opening weekend, April 15-18, “Atlas Shrugged Part I” had earned $1.67 million in just 300 theaters, with per-theater averages third only to “Rio” and “Scream 4” — not bad for a self-distributed flick with a budget of $10 million. (By comparison, the budgets for “Rio” and “Scream 4” were $90 million and $40 million, respectively.) According to Hollywood Reporter, the number of theaters showing the “Atlas Shrugged,” now at 425, will expand to 1,000 by the end of the month.
The average rating by 85 percent of the users at the Rotten Tomatoes movie review website is 3.9 stars out of 5; 7 percent of the 29 “approved critics” at the site give it 3.4 stars out of 10. Obviously, I am not the only one whose opinion is at odds with those of paid critics.
What “Atlas Shrugged” offers is a story line that resonates with many ordinary viewers who work, or want to work for a living. The movie is a distillation of the first 10 chapters of novelist Ayn Rand’s 1957 epic of the same name. Although the 1,168-page novel is more than half-a-century old, it currently ranks No. 21 in Amazon’s Top 100 Books, No. 2 in both Political and Classics books, and No. 13 in Literature. According to a 1991 Library of Congress report, “Atlas Shrugged” ranked second only to the Bible in the influence it has had on readers’ lives.
The theme of “Atlas Shrugged,” according to its late author, is “the role of the mind in man’s existence.” The novel dramatizes the conditions that would exist if creators and producers — the figurative Atlases who innovate and take risks, creating wealth and a higher standard of living for all — were to withdraw their efforts. Many see events and conditions since the economic collapse of 2008 as real-life parallels to the novel, where handouts and bailouts and the “power of pull” determine who succeeds or fails in industry. Some scenes from the movie might have been culled from any night’s evening news programming on TV.
Ask yourself: Why don’t the critics want you to see the movie?
Cheryl Miller can be e-mailed at Fortuna_reilly@yahoo.com.