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Atlas sucks: The movie version of Ayn Rand’s manifesto looks as bad as the novel.

February 15, 2011

Ayn Rand’s foes and fans alike should be thrilled by the trailer of the new film version of her novel Atlas Shrugged. On the one hand it looks slavishly faithful to the book. On the other, it looks stupefyingly awful. Oh, wait: those are the same thing.

Let’s not mince words: Atlas Shrugged is one of the worst novels written in the history of, oh, this solar system. You’d have to go to Gallifrey or Tralfamadore or perhaps Ferenginar to find a sustained narrative this craptacular. Flat, cartoonish characters styling around in an Art Deco landscape spouting hyper-capitalist philosophic gibberish do not, I’m afraid, make for a good novel.

Or apparently, a good movie. The preview captures Rand’s vision pretty darn well. Everything seems flat, like images in a Goebbels propaganda poster. The trailer is actually smartly put together, with the music and pacing of a thriller — except that the content is some dull mishmash about capitalists and super metals and trains and evil bureaucrats.

There’s no discernible chemistry between Grant Bowler, a decent character actor cast as  industrialist Henry Rearden, and Taylor Schilling, who portrays heroine Dagny Taggert like she’s a minor android from Blade Runner, delivering all her lines, whether flirting with Rearden or threatening an adversary, in the same monotone.

Here, have a look for yourself at Huffington Post, which has the film’s first trailer. Or if you want to see it on a site that features some sympathetic comments, go to, where apparently a few Objectivists hang out.

Now that I think of it, probably the best planet to find something as awful as Atlas Shrugged is Psychlo.

As you may remember, Psychlo is the home world of the evil aliens in L.Ron Hubbard’s equally inept novel, Battlefield Earth. Like Atlas Shrugged, it was made into a movie by true believers, among them John Travolta (Hubbard was the founder of Scientology). The instant it appeared in 2000 Battlefield Earth was hailed as one of the worst movies ever.

I expect Atlas Shrugged will fare about as well.  Ayn Rand was never much of a novelist anyway, and Atlas Shrugs exists primarily as a manifesto for her cockamamie “philosophy,” Objectivism, which purports to exalt reality, reason, capitalism and the primacy of Man (always masculine and always capitalized at

It’s actual tenets:  Greed is good, selfishness is the highest virtue, there is no God, and we need the true capitalist elite — those greedy, selfish innovators – to tell us what to do lest we descend into lazy aimlessness like a bunch of unwashed hillbillies. It’s a simplisitic view of humankind that borders on fascism. Indeed, I’ve always thought Atlas Shrugged might have been called Triumph of the Will, except that title is already famously taken.

Rand’s millions of followers likewise exhibit a simplistic view of the world. Consider this Wall Street Journal essay by Stephen Moore from 2009. Moore argues that Rand’s anti-government vision is more relevant now than ever . He abhors the stimulus package and the auto industry bailout as “the very acts of economic lunacy that “Atlas Shrugged” parodied in 1957.”

“Politicians invariably respond to crises — that in most cases they themselves created — by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.”

Hmm, let’s see. I guess it is beside the point that in 2009 we had just endured eight years of an administration that did everything possible to deregulate business and industry and allow capitalism to flourish unfettered. Or that Rand’s most famous acolyte, Alan Greenspan, had been in charge of the Federal Reserve Bank for almost 20 years.

And what happened? Wall Street greed heads, unrestrained by sensible banking rules, ginned up the economy into a classic bubble. You know the rest, since it’s not over yet.

What’s more, the bailouts Moore deplores have worked better than anyone could have guessed. U.S. automakers are stronger and more competitive than they’ve been in years. Money lent to industry and banks have for the most part been repaid ahead of schedule.

Oh, and here’s another example of Randian simple-minededness. At the end of his piece, Moore asserts that Atlas Shrugged is “s the only classic novel of recent decades that was never made into a movie.

But then Mr. Moore has probably never read, say, Catcher in the Rye, Song of Solomon, Henderson the Rain King, Cat’s Cradle, Lost in the Funhouse, The Sunlight Dialogues, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, One Hundred Years of Solitude, them, A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain, The Moviegoer, White Noise, The Poisonwood Bible, The Public Burning, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao…

The movie that debuts April 15 is only the first of a trilogy — after all, Atlas Shrugged is 1,000-pages long. Considering how wretched the trailer looks, I’ll be surprised if the second and third installments see the light of day. But I hope they do. I’m always down for a good laugh.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2011 9:33 pm

    One of Rand’s later works was THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS in which she chews the same cud she chewed in THE FOUNTAINHEAD & ATLAS SHRUGGED. How such a small-minded, meanspirited, hypersexed seducer could have so many rabid followers is a gargantuan mystery to me. Her so-called philosophy can be summed up in a phrase attributed to Darwin, but actually written by Herbert Spencer: “Survival of the fittest.” Come to think of it, that’s sort of what we’ve got going right now. Lovely world it makes, ey?

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 15, 2011 10:55 pm

      Yeah, I read We the Living, the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged (excepting John Galt’s 60-page speech), and that was enough fascist propaganda to do me a lifetime. She was a big honking hypocrite, too, as her manipulative relationship with Nathaniel Branden shows. This was dramatized effectively in the 1999 Showtime movie The Passion of Ayn Rand, starring the divine Helen Mirren as the old harridan herself. I reviewed it at the time with great pleasure. You can see what I thought here:

  2. February 16, 2011 1:23 pm

    Thanks, Chauncey. I’ll go read that review. I love Helen Mirren, but I never saw the movie.

  3. February 16, 2011 1:33 pm

    Terrific review, Chauncey. Now I’ll have to see if I can find that movie. Thanks!

  4. February 26, 2011 2:22 pm

    I’ve read Fountainhead and I could not put the book down. As a novel it works for me and I found her philosophy intriguing, startling even (this was some 20-30 years ago) and the characters cold but compelling. I don’t feel motivated to read the others as I understand she pretty much beats the same ideas to death.

  5. Joe permalink
    June 24, 2011 2:14 am

    Ayn Rand was a textbook sociopath. Just do a search on Rand and William Hickman and you’ll begin to get the picture.

    Her philosophy really only seems to appeal to the mean-spirited and simple-minded.

  6. Hugh Bell permalink
    August 21, 2011 1:42 pm

    My wife insisted I read Atlas Shrugged. I did. She asked me what I thought of it. I told her it was the master plan of Hell.

  7. John G. permalink
    June 10, 2012 7:16 am

    I am a randian and I hate people who are not rich or CEO. Let them die.

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  1. 11 Words + Atlas Shrugged | Ferndale Public Library Observer

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