This is not a review of Atlas Shrugged Part I. I am simply too emotionally connected to the book to review the movie fairly. While it has been 30 years since I have read Atlas Shrugged (yes, I have purposefully avoided re-reading it for fear it wasn’t as great as I remember), its impact on my world view was so profound that no movie could live up to the book. While I have cast aside much of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy and whole heartedly accepted Christ as the objective measure of morality, my political views continue to be guided by Atlas Shrugged. Sure I was just an impressionable teenager growing up on a farm outside of Knoxville, Tennessee when I read Atlas Shrugged, but it inspired me like nothing else had before. While Atlas Shrugged did not start my journey to libertarianism (reading Restoring the American Dream by Robert Ringer as a high school freshman did), it sealed the deal. I have viewed politicians – from both parties – with suspicion ever since.
For me this is very similar to when the first Narnia book was made into a movie, I had to see it on opening day. And I actually care that it makes a lot of money for reasons more than just because there will be sequels. Strange I know. I am no longer a middle school kid who cares if a song from my favorite band is in the Top 40 Countdown but it feels similar somehow. Of course, there are differences between the two movies. Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had a $180 million production budget and a $60 million advertising budget and was made by an established movie production company and distributed and promoted by Disney. Atlas Shrugged Part I was made on a shoestring budget (by Hollywood standards) of $10 million. Narnia opened in thousands of theaters. Atlas Shrugged Part I opened on fewer than 300 screens. And many of the theaters who showed it on opening weekend only show independent movies or are considered second tier theaters. I saw it at a theater that decided to show it at the last minute due to all the calls they received asking for it. (Thank you Regal Downtown West.) Other than on the Internet, I have seen no advertisements, trailers or any other promotions for the movie. Mostly it has been promoted by a few conservative talk shows.
Given that the movie was rushed into production and filming reportedly was completed in only six weeks, I was afraid the movie would be underwhelming at best and embarrassingly bad at worst. Well, I am happy to report that I enjoyed it. While a few scenes would have benefitted from a few more retakes, the made-for-TV look early on disappears as the story takes over. My biggest disappointment was that it was only 102 minutes and it even seems shorter because it is such a good ride. I look forward to talking to people who have not read the book to get their reaction.