If you go down the sidebar over there and click on the tag, atlas shrugged, you will find several blog posts about, you guessed it, Atlas Shrugged, the 1,000+ page magnum opus of Ayn Rand, the founder of the “philosophy” called objectivism. Should you decide not to click that link, I’ll give you the short version: I hate Ayn Rand, I hate objectivism and I hate, hate, hate Atlas Shrugged.
So why am I reviewing Atlas Shrugged: Part I, the film adaptation of the first third of that giant, nigh-unreadable slab of awfulness? Because despite my loathing for everything Ayn Rand and her book stand for, I am fascinated by the subject. I suppose it’s the same way people become fascinated with Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia; these things are just so horrible that you want to find some reason, any reason why otherwise normal human beings would allow them to exist. There are folks out there who look at Atlas Shrugged as nothing less than a guidebook to life. Members of Congress and candidates for president subscribe to Ayn Rand’s insane rantings about how selfishness is a virtue and kindness equals weakness. Hatred for poor people or disabled people or anyone not born into the right situation is an article of faith.
The word “epic” gets thrown around a lot in regard to Atlas Shrugged, but I don’t think that’s a very accurate term. I suspect it’s invoked because Atlas Shrugged is just so damned long, not because it has a grand scale to its storytelling. In most respects it’s an extremely pedestrian tale and the book only becomes remarkable due to Ayn Rand’s odious teachings, conveyed directly to the reader in enormous chunks of indigestible dialogue. One infamous speech in Atlas Shrugged goes on for more than 70 pages, depending on the printing of the book. If you think that’s madness, then you’re already one step on the way toward completely rejecting Rand’s novel.
But if Atlas Shrugged is not epic, then what’s the point of giving the movies an epic treatment by breaking the story into thirds? That’s an excellent question. A ruthless screenwriter could pare down the essentials of the novel into about two-and-a-half to three hours of film and leave pretty much everyone except Rand completists satisfied. Allowing Atlas Shrugged to wallow in its own filth for six hours is taking it too far.