Monday, April 18, 2011

'Atlas Shrugged' gets the reviews and box office it deserves (Part I of a series)

"I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it."~Voltaire (1694 - 1778)
Allow me this moment of schadenfreude, which I'll eventually demonstrate to be related to the main topic of this blog.

Fat Cat goes Galt

Box Office Mojo: 'Atlas Shrugged' Derails?
Atlas Shrugged: Part I was the top-grossing limited release of the weekend, generating an estimated $1.7 million at 300 single-screen locations.

For a pure independent release, Atlas Shrugged: Part I's opening was fine. But for the first-ever adaptation of Ayn Rand's influential mega-selling 1957 novel that had far more media hype than any other independent movie could dream of, it was disappointing.

There aren't many direct comparisons, because it's rare that an adaptation of such a famous book gets such a modest release. Atlas Shrugged: Part I opened higher than recent limited Christian movies The Grace Card and To Save a Life, and it was distributor Rocky Mountain Pictures' third highest-grossing launch, behind End of the Spear and Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. But none of those movies are significant in the grand scheme of things. They're all still blips, even if Atlas was a slightly bigger blip than many.

What's more, Atlas Shrugged: Part I's box office dropped six percent from Friday to Saturday, further indicating niche appeal. The movie would require exceptional holds moving forward to right its course.
Boosters of Atlas Shrugged: Part I might point to the movie's per theater average to spin it as a success (ex. "it did almost as much per theater as Scream 4!"), but spin is all it is. It's a common ploy to cling to per-theater average to rationalize a soft run. Obviously, it's generally easier for a small release to have a higher per-theater average than one at over 3,000 theaters (at any rate, Scream 4 was a disappointment itself).
That's really crappy box office, which makes me happy. Of course, the movie was only produced for $10,000,000, so it might actually turn a profit, enough to get parts 2 and 3 into theaters. That would make io9's reviewers happy.

Atlas Shrugged: A movie this demented ought to be against the law
Charlie Jane Anders — Every cult needs its own wacky trainwreck of a movie. Scientology got Battlefield Earth, and now the cult of Ayn Rand gets Atlas Shrugged, Part 1. But how does Atlas stand up to Battlefield Earth?
I have an entire canned list of quotes on the similarities between Objectivism and Scientology, but this isn't the post for me to regurgitate all of them. I'll just post this one.
Wasn't Ayn Rand a pseudonym of L. Ron Hubbard?~Mike Huben
Also, if io9, a science fiction site, didn't see the resemblance, I'd be disappointed.

Back to the review.
Quite well, actually. Atlas Shrugged Part 1, which just opened in theaters today, is a grand addition to the roster of movies that are both kooky and clunky. A movie this hideously wonderful really ought to be against the law.
Actually, scratch that. The federal government shouldn't outlaw dreadful movies like Atlas Shrugged – rather, the feds should just regulate them. For example, we could have a federal mandate that all such movies must star Nicolas Cage or a comparable actor – someone who knows how to bring the right level of gravitas to dialogue like, "Which do I sacrifice: an excellent piece of smelting, or this Institute?"

Call it the Nicolas Cage Full Employment Act. Or better yet, since Nic Cage is a precious national resource that's currently being distributed unevenly, the Nic Cage National Equalization Act. It should be up to the federal government to make sure that as many ludicrously insane movies as possible have access to the vital panacea that is Nic Cage.
Lots more lulzy remarks at io9. At least that reviewer enjoyed the movie, even as a train wreck (and trust me, there are lots of train wrecks in Atlas Shrugged). The same can't be said of most of the rest of the reviewers.

The Nation: Rand Appalling: New 'Atlas Shrugged' Movie Booed Off Planet
It takes a lot to get a 0% at the mass market critics' consensus site Rotten Tomatoes. Pick an awful movie you can think of and it probably managed a 5% or maybe even a 25%. Somehow, Atlas Shrugged, Part I (yes! more to look forward to!), which opens Friday, has at this writing achieved the rare feat.

In other words, not a single critic to date, from major and minor outlet, high or lowest of low of lowbrow, likes it one bit. I like the headline over the Chicago Tribune review: "Taxing Indeed." Still waiting for "Don't Go (Galt) There." Or "Born Under a Bad Ayn."
ETA: The movie's rating has now risen to 8%, which still makes it the lowest rated movie out of the top 50 currently in theaters.

My favorite was from Roger Ebert.
"The most anticlimactic non-event since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Capone’s vault. I suspect only someone very familiar with Rand’s 1957 novel could understand the film at all, and I doubt they will be happy with it. For the rest of us, it involves a series of business meetings in luxurious retro leather-and-brass board rooms and offices, and restaurants and bedrooms that look borrowed from a hotel no doubt known as the Robber Baron Arms."
The pithiest came from Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic.
"It has taken decades to bring Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" to the big screen.They should have waited longer."
Time to add those to my collection of anti-Objectivist quotes. Speaking of which, here are some of my favorites about the movie.
"There are two novels that can transform a bookish 14-year-old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about orcs."~Raj Patel in The Value of Nothing.

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
~Dorothy Parker on Atlas Shrugged

"Who is John Galt?" A two dimensional character in a third rate novel written by Alan Greenspan's dominatrix.~Inventor on Daily Kos.
Ah, yes, Alan Greenspan. This is where the post turns a little more serious. The late Paul Samuelson had the following to say about him:
And this brings us to Alan Greenspan, whom I've known for over 50 years and who I regarded as one of the best young business economists. Townsend-Greenspan was his company. But the trouble is that he had been an Ayn Rander. You can take the boy out of the cult but you can't take the cult out of the boy. He actually had instruction, probably pinned on the wall: 'Nothing from this office should go forth which discredits the capitalist system. Greed is good.'
Yet again the similarity between Objectivism and Scientology appears, and not in a funny way, either.

Greenspan also makes a cameo in Maureen Dowd's comment on Atlas Shrugged, along with Paul Ryan.
Congressman Ryan has said the reason he got involved in public service was “by and large” because of Rand, and he has encouraged his staffers to read “Atlas Shrugged.”

You’d think that our fiscal meltdown would have shown the flaw in Rand’s philosophy. She thought we could derive morals from the markets. But we derived immorality from the markets.
What Rand and acolytes like Alan Greenspan failed to realize is that if everyone acts in self-interest and no one takes into account the weakness to the entire system that occurs when everybody indulges in the same kind of risky behavior, the innocent and the guilty are engulfed.
Ms. Dowd brings me to the serious point of this post (gloating is not a serious point), Objectivism is a philosophy that is contributing to our problems. Worse yet, it is becoming a response to our problems, making them even worse.

What, you say, Objectivism causes collapse? Yes. It's all there in the manual. But that's the subject of Part II.

Stay tuned.


  1. I got bored with Trolling them because they just repeat the same nonsense over and over again.

  2. I was wondering. Honestly, I'm surprised I don't have a bunch of them trolling the comments section already.

  3. If everyone was an objectivist, or even the "1%" the Occupiers rave about, then perhaps the economic downturn could be blamed on objectivism. As it is, Alan Greenspan can't be held totally at fault. Clinton didn't have to deregulate the financial industry. Is Clinton an objectivist?
    This is mostly a collection of one-liners, not a researched and supported argument. Any Rand was in support of RATIONAL self interest, which she tried very hard to distinguish from simple greed or hedonism. She was opposed to living one's life for others. If you want to live completely vicariously, go live and volunteer in a soup kitchen. Rational self interest as advocated by Rand would certainly involve taking into account the weakness of markets, housing bubbles, etc., and not simply for the purposes of economic exploitation. Objectivism does not advocate theft or manipulation. It is not an argument for manifest destiny for the wealthy. It just states that our primary moral imperative is to be self-sufficient and pursue our own happiness and goals. Once you have achieved some goals, if you still aren't happy, you should rationalize that the goals you have pursued haven't worked, and set different goals. One should realize after a few millions that if they still don't have what they want out of life, they won't have it with billions.
    Rotten Tomatoes audience ranks Atlas Shrugged part 1 at 80%. They apparently understand and appreciate the message.
    I still see nothing "cult-like" in Objectivism. Maybe during Rand's life, when she had followers. You're doing nothing but smearing the only worthwhile presidential candidate we have in this country, the only one that wants to re-regulate the financial sector, restore power to the constitution and eliminate much of the police-state bureaucracy.
    How is that altruism? Please, don't use your time and energy to make this world shittier.

    1. It took you long enough to show up. As for trashing "the only worthwhile presidential candidate we have in this country, the only one that wants to re-regulate the financial sector, restore power to the constitution and eliminate much of the police-state bureaucracy" since when have I said anything negative in this blog about Buddy Roemer? Oh, you mean Ron Paul. Read my farewell post to him which is currently the most recent entry in this blog. Then vent your spleen on that post. I'm looking forward to it.