Some early buzz (see here) had me hopeful about Atlas Shrugged Part 1, the movie, but, alas, as of this afternoon, not a single critic—including Roger Ebert—has given the movie a good review at the Rotten Tomatoes website. Eleven have been posted so far.
And the film opens tomorrow.
Here’s Loren King of the Boston Globe summarizing a scene in which a union head expresses concern for rail workers’ safety:
When a union head storms into her office to complain that the new rails haven’t been tested for safety, Taggart counters that workers should be happy she’s providing jobs, and whether to work or not is their choice. This being a simplistic tale of visionary capitalists and the weaklings who get in their way, of course the train is safe. It barrels though scenic Oregon at 250 miles per hour. Triumphant, Taggart and the married Reardon celebrate with champagne and soft-core sex.
That sounds pretty damning. It’s rarely a good sign for a movie when a critic, in summarizing some of its content, can make it sound ridiculous or predictable (and that summary makes it seem to be both).
But one thing I was looking forward to—a strong feminist lead—might still hold up. Here’s Todd McCarthy at the Hollywood Reporter:
Poised, beautifully groomed and impeccably coiffed, Dagny [Taggart] strides through the corridors of male hesitation, indecision and ineffectuality with a fierce confidence . . .
Sounds like Hillary Clinton to me.
And in tart language, Silas Lesnick latches onto one of the movie’s apparent flaws (noted by other critics as well): its lack of character complexity:
Every scene in the film is a corporate meeting between two fantastically dimensionless characters, either “good” or “bad,” pretty much alternating between good/bad and good/good pairings. Cut, now and then, with footage of a train, leading to the film’s dramatic climax… people riding on a train.
Most damning, Kurt Loder at Reason didn’t like the film either, though he summarizes its plot clearly:
[T]he story concerns strong-willed Dagny Taggart, who’s fighting to save her family railroad, Taggart Transcontinental, from the inept leadership of her brother, James, a moral weakling, and from the metastasizing reach of government regulation. Dagny finds a kindred spirit in Henry Rearden, a principled industrialist who has formulated a new kind of steel that Dagny intends to use in upgrading Transcontinental’s decaying tracks. She and Rearden are opposed at every turn by collectivist politicians and corporate titans corrupted by their addiction to the government teat.
I’m still going to see it. But I’m less hopeful about being provoked by it intellectually, or enjoying it as a film, than I was a few weeks ago.