There are people who understand Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and then there are people who understand Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The latter are in the best position to offer insightful criticisms of the new movie.
Ron Pisaturo offers exactly this kind of sensitive, insightful criticism in his essay “Exposition vs. Drama: A Scene Viewable Online from Atlas Shrugged, the Movie vs. the Scene from the Novel,” which explores differences between the viewable clip “Henry Rearden Comes Home” and the corresponding scenes from the novel.
With his finely tuned sense of Ayn Rand’s purposes, Pisaturo is not happy with the movie. And for anyone with a deep appreciation for Rand’s genius and subtlety — and more than a passing familiarity with her essays in The Romantic Manifesto — at least some of Pisturo’s criticisms will ring true. His criticisms also seem compatible with Katheryn Schwalb’s review, published at the Atlasphere.
My purpose here is not to ascribe blame. Perhaps the movie’s deviations from the novel were intentional, perhaps not. It may be that the director and actors had less time to prepare for this scene than I took to critique it. Also, what is written in a screenplay is often very different from what ends up on the screen. Nevertheless, whatever the intentions and commitment of those who worked on the movie, this scene from the movie is what it is. If some good is to come from this scene, I think it will be that that the scene will serve as a foil to enhance understanding of and appreciation for the Romantic, dramatic style in the writing of Ayn Rand.
Virtually any adaptation will be inferior to the source material, and many criticisms from inside the Objectivist movement ignore just how much worse the movie could have been, in less sympathetic hands. (Dagny Taggart as a prostitute, anyone?) Really, what are the odds that anyone in Hollywood would have produced a movie even close to this one in faithfulness?
So even Pisaturo’s criticisms should be held firmly in context. That said, I confess I’d be fascinated to see a full-length script for the movie by someone as sensitive as Ron Pisaturo.
Come to think of it, maybe we should just have a thousand Atlas Shrugged movies.