It was maybe fifteen years ago that I first read Ayn Rand’s tour de force novel Atlas Shrugged. Four or five years ago, I read it again, and it was even better the second time – more interesting, certainly more relevant, and still a page-turner. It still amazes me that a novel written in 1957 could read like it was written yesterday, especially because the protagonists, who were mostly CEO’s of major corporations, were struggling against government-enacted policies designed to make sure everyone had their fair share, leading to laws and directives enforcing a policy that’s hateful and repugnant – the redistribution of wealth. Yet that’s exactly what Rand wrote about 57 years ago. Then after several failed attempts to get a movie of Atlas Shrugged in production, it finally happened, and the first film was released in 2011.
Admittedly, I’m not a movie reviewer by any stretch of the imagination, so this won’t be what you’d call a review of Atlas Shrugged. For anyone who hasn’t seen the films yet, don’t worry – I’m not going to give away any spoilers, and I’m probably not going to mention very much about what the film is actually about. They way I see it, if you enjoyed reading the novel by Ayn Rand (and I did), you probably jumped on these films as soon as they were released. No, it’s really just my own thoughts on what’s good and what’s not so good about the films. And that’s part of the problem: there are two of them already, and a third is supposedly in production this year, so that will be three films to tell the story contained in one novel.
Atlas Shrugged was a long novel, weighing in at something around 1,100 pages or so. Because of the many important details and subplots, there was simply no way to bring this novel to the screen and do it justice without the film stretching into a five or six hour epic. Although it’s just my guess, this is partially why the producers chose to make three films instead of one. Many moviegoers don’t have the patience to sit through one extremely long film, even with intermissions. Another reason was, more than likely, the budget. To make an extemely long film and make it right takes a lot of money, and perhaps it was decided to make Part 1, see how it performed, and let profits fund the making of subsequent parts. I don’t really know, and their reasons don’t matter anyway – it’s the way it was done, for good or ill.
When Part 1 was released, I didn’t really see the point of viewing it and waiting a year or more for Part 2. And the same with waiting for Part 3. But curiosity got the better of me, so I sat down last night and watched the first two. Now, like many others, I’m in the unenviable position of having to wait to see Part 3 when it’s released. That is, if it’s released, because when you make one part only, or even complete the second part, the rest may or may not ever materialize. Another thing I predicted is exactly what came to pass – the cast of characters is completely different from film to film, and it was more than a little irritating to start the second one and see different actors in the roles after I’d gotten familiar with the faces, voices, and mannerisms of the original cast. This isn’t to say that the second cast wasn’t good; they were. Actually, they were as good as the first, and in one or two instances they were better, but it takes awhile to get used to the new faces and get comfortable with them. I thought for a moment about saying which actors were my favorites in each version, but it’s pointless to do so, because when the third and final film is released, there will be a completely different cast anyway.
What was good about the films is that they more or less faithfully followed the storyline of the novel. Sure, there were a couple of minor differences, but the films in no way were the watered down versions I expected them to be, and for this I applaud the people who were in charge of making them. The cast may have changed but, as Led Zeppelin so aptly put it, the song remained the same. All in all, I’m looking forward to the release of the third and final installment in this series.
One thing that will be interesting, though, is to see how they handle John Galt’s speech. If memory serves, it took up something over 90 pages in the novel. Much as I would like to see the entire speech included, it isn’t going to happen and I know it.
Which just goes to point out why the book is always better…