Friday, June 20, 2008

"Atlas Shrugged" Movie Denounced, Even Before It's Made

Despite some unconvincing attempts at hype, the "Atlas Shrugged" movie is - somewhat predictably - still faltering at the development stage, with director Vadim Perelman now gone from the project. Will this ever get made? The ARCHNblog thinks no, mainly as it will be impossible, as Cinematical's Kim Vonyer perceptively notes here, "trying to make a film that's going to please both the hardcore Objectivists (those who follow Rand's philosophy) and the average moviegoer who just wants to be entertained is, in my opinion, just an exercise in futility."

So true. And as if confirmation of Vonyer's prophecy were needed, we have this, the second nutty comment this month from ARI-flavoured Objectivist Ed Cline:
"As an Objectivist, I'm happy that Perelman has "shrugged" off any attempt to translate the novel to the screen. It would take a director and producer with minimal respect for the author and the novel to pull it off, and all I can see, given the esthetic and moral turpitude and hostility of Hollywood today, is a story so botched up that I would watch it only if I were bound and gagged and tied to a movie theater seat. I was never happy with the production of The Fountainhead; there's just too much great writing and storytelling and drama in that novel, and it deserved an extended production and length at least as long as one of the Godfather films."
And you thought the "Bonfire of the Vanities" anti-hype was bad...That should give "Atlas Shrugged"'s producers an idea of what they're in for. Funnily enough, Ed doesn't mention that arch enemy of the ARI, The Atlas Society's David Kelley, was script consultant on this production. We at the ARCHNblog suspect that the only way round this might be to have Leonard Peikoff writing, directing, and even playing John Galt. It's amazing what they can do with digital these days.

31 comments:

Jelly said...

"We at the ARCHNblog suspect that the only way round this might be to have Leonard Peikoff writing, directing, and even playing John Galt. It's amazing what they can do with digital these days."

I think Yawon Bwook would make a bettew Gawt. Heawing his wadio addwess about why he and his fwiends, Fwancisco and Wagnaw, were twying to stop the motow of the wowld would be tewwific.

Damien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damien said...

Actually I once went on this Objectivist forum, and one of the people had started a topic alone the line of "How can someone read Atlas Shrugged and still doubt the power of man's mind?" I was not a member of the forum, (Nor would they have liked me too much, since I'm not an Objectivist) but I knew what the response I would have posted would have been. I would have pointed out that although I have never read the book, I could easily answer that question. Atlas Shrugged is a work of fiction, therefore, why should it convince anyone to change their way of thinking. If nothing in the real world would convince them to change their thinking no matter how overwhelming the evidence, why should we expect a work of fiction to do it, no matter how well written or realistic? The question is like asking, how can someone read Moby Dick and not want to save the whales?

JayCross said...

Why do I feel like this going to be the "Chinese Democracy" of the movies?

Damien said...

JayCross,

I don't know. what do you mean?

Wells said...

Odd thing here is that Ed Cline is the only one who can save Atlas Shrugged, The Movie!. I haven't seen a fiction writer amongst the Objectivists except for Ed Cline. Whether Ed Cline is good or not I cannot say.
Leonard Peikoff doesn't know anything about writing fiction. All Peikoff knows is how to make money off of fiction written by somebody else. David Kelley is also not a fiction writer, although he probably already knows that.

Jay said...

Damien,

Chinese Democracy is the 14+ years in the making, still unreleased Guns 'n Roses CD.

Damien said...

Jay,

Thanks for letting me know.

Dusty Rose said...

You mentioned the rivalry between ARI and Atlas Society. I find it funny: a fight between Ayn Rand's self-proclaimed intellectual heirs about who is true heir... much like the fight between Sunni and Shia Muslims, or between infinite number of Christian sects, each claiming to represent "true Christianity"...

Jay said...

Dusty Rose,

That's a very interesting observation. Good call.

Daniel Barnes said...

Love the GNR comparison, Jay.

I was going to say it was the Founders College of film...;-)

Michael Prescott said...

This isn't surprising. The vast majority of films in development never make it to the screen. Even projects with major stars attached can get stuck in limbo.

When this issue first came up on ARCHN, I said I doubted the movie would get made. Someone else triumphantly pointed me to a page of the Internet Movie Database, showing that Atlas had been officially "announced" and was "scheduled" for release in (I think) 2008. Ah, but here's the rub: anybody can "announce" and "schedule" anything, but until there's a director, a cast, and a large tub of cash, there's no movie.

Perelman's last movie bombed big-time and was eviscerated by the critics, which may explain why he's longer helming a big-budget project like Atlas. Plus, it sounds like Angelina Jolie wasn't too keen on him. Despite her uneven box-office track record, she's got more clout than a little-known director whose sophomore effort just tanked.

I suspect the novel is unfilmable in any way that would satisfy its fans, unless possibly it was made as a short-run series a la HBO's Rome. Even then, fans would doubtless object to casting choices, plot and dialogue changes, and everything else. Non-fans most likely wouldn't even watch.

Some things are best left to the imagination. An Atlas Shrugged movie is probably one of them.

Anonymous said...

As a UK Objectivist I'd just like to add something maybe not related to the movie but to the book Atlas Shrugged. I feel guilty for writing this but I can't be the only objectivist who feels is terrible. I read it and felt like writing to the ARI and demanding my £6.99 back.
The plot is absured and the characterisation, if you can call if that, is dreadful. All the heroes are one-dimensional bores and the villains are not much better. At least they are two-dimensional.
What was Ayn thinking when she wrote that book? I know lots of people will have become objectivists after reading this book, but I wonder how many have been turned away because of it?

Few of us objectivists are ever going to be like John Galt or Dagny, we will be fortunate to be like Eddie Willers. He represents the best of the rest I suppose, what the average man can aspire to. But If I'm honest I've meet few objectivists who are even at his level. Worse than that the book provides a cop-out. Don't worry if your not as succesful in business as John or a valued employee like Eddie provided you have the right sense of life it doesnt matter if you stack shelves for a living.

The tunnel scene is so offensive. Ayn Rand isn't the writer George Orwell was, at least in 1984 he is examining his predujices not just expressing them. In 1984 he's saying, this is what life would be like if you and me were given total power. We'd be big brother, but Ayn can't reach that level, she kills all those that disagree with her becasue she thinks this is no less than they deserve. Scary stuff.
Oh and the science in the book is hardly rational. Project X, why does the radio waves it send out not destroy it to? How much oil can you get from shale? How can Galts gulch exist in such a heavily mapped area like America? Galt's motor violates the laws of thermodynamics. I mean it gets it's power from the air.

The real Ayn Rand is to be found in the non-fiction and I can't be alone in wishing she'd never written such a poorly written, nasty big book.

Damien said...

Anonymous,

Well the fact that it is a work of fiction should make you feel some better than, I doubt that many people are really going to embrace or reject objectivism based on Atlas Shrugged, despite the undeserved praise some objectivist give it. If someone really is going to change their whole world view based on a well written novel, you should question their sanity. What matters is how the real world works, not the way a fictional representation of it works. Keep in mind a communist could write a compelling story about a successful socialist society, even though such a society could never exist in the real world. Plus the real world will always be more complex than any work of fiction. What novelist has the time to literally explore everything in their story.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>The real Ayn Rand is to be found in the non-fiction and I can't be alone in wishing she'd never written such a poorly written, nasty big book.

Well, so nice to hear an original point of view from an avowed Obectivist, Anon. Generally it's regarded as a sacred text. As it happens I agree with you on "Atlas Shrugged." I would also say that IMHO Rand is a far better polemical essayist than novelist, (although I do like some parts of "We The Living"). That's her real forte.

gregnyquist said...

Anon: "As a UK Objectivist I'd just like to add something [about] the book Atlas Shrugged. I feel guilty for writing this but I can't be the only objectivist who feels [it] is terrible. I read it and felt like writing to the ARI and demanding my £6.99 back."

Are there Objectivists out there, other than Anon above, who feel that AS is "terrible"? I've never heard such a sentiment expressed. I do, however, know of a few Objectivist who privately thought The Fountainhead the better book.

My own view is that Rand degenerated as writer as she formed her Objectivist philosophy in the forties and early fifties. It caused her fiction to become increasingly beholden to artificial ideas that stemmed from ideology and not from life. You begin to see it in The Fountainhead, particularly in the whole dynamiting of the housing project and Roark's subsequent aquital at the trial—an entire episode that shows Rand's loss of moorings to reality. In AS, Rand has now formulated an explicit ideology that smothers every last vestige of realism in her fictional world.

I can't say that, personally, I find her non-fiction to be that much of an improvement over AS. There are, to be sure, some excellent set-pieces. But, just as in AS, the need to square everything with inflexible and dogmatic philosophy tends to ruin her brilliant polemical effects.

Kelly said...

How is it that one can be an objectivist and not at least somewhat enjoy Atlas Shrugged? That book is ojectivism. If the charaters seem one-dimensional isn't that just a reflection of objectivism as a whole? Galts speech is the base of Rand's non-fiction for gods sake.

PRODOS said...

Howdy.

I'm an Objectivist from Australia.

I've blogged a couple of times on the Atlas Shrugged movie's progress (or lack of).

Many fellow Objectivists have written to me expressing great skepticism and even horror at what Hollywood would or might do with Ayn Rand's story - given Hollywood people's "liberal" inclinations.

Personally, I think Atlas Shrugged can successfully be made into a movie, and I think Angelina Jolie could do a great job as Dagny Taggart. Why not?

Even if her philosophy isn't Ayn Rand's, (and I really don't know what her philosophy is) she's an actor who can play heroic women very well. (She can also do awful stuff - even if she is pleasing on the eye!)

A few years ago I interviewed Al (Albert) Ruddy who was at the time working on a TV mini-series of Atlas Shrugged.

Here's the transcript if anyone's interested:
http://www.prodos.com/transcript/atlasmovie.html

I thought his approach was sound. Of course he would have to cut out a lot of what happens in the novel. But that's the difference between a novel and a movie.

I was speaking to a painter a couple of weeks ago who paints Flamenco dancers and musicians. Beautiful work! No, the paintings don't sing or dance. But they do capture the spirit of Flamenco. They do it with single, flat frames of canvas and paint. It works! See for yourself: http://prodos.solidvox.com

I can understand the concerns of individuals like Ed Cline (who, by the way, has written some splendid adventure novels and is a hell of a nice guy.)

I appreciate where they're coming from.

The fact is that Objectivism is a philosophy - one which many people sincerely try to live by - and its followers (including me) don't want to see that philosophy bastardized. Fair enough. I respect that.

On the other hand, I'm happy and keen to see the movie made (and buy my Angelina-as-Dagny T-shirt - yeehaa!) and feel it has a good chance of turning out to be a great fun movie. And, who knows, maybe a couple of good ideas may find their way through. Stranger things have happened.

PS: I'll have to have a look through this blog. I'm curious to see what arguments are presented against Ayn Rand's ideas.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not saying it was easy to come to that point of view. I mean I have read the thing six times, very carefully and whilst everyone else thinks it her magnum opus I have come to the conclusion it is terribly written. I mean to think Ayn spent 12 years on this book. It certianlly does not show does it? Though maybe she needed to write it to get it all out as she never wrote anothe word of fiction after that.

I come on here as anon as well, I've never expressed this point of view in Objectivist circles, not even in the UK would you be allowed to say something like that! Even thought there is an Ocena between the UK and the ARI most Objectivists in the UK are linked to the ARI and I spent plenty of money on their courses and literature.

If the truth be told I'm thinking about splitting from Objectivism. The ARI at times it seems like scientology, I mean they charge like a bull, offering you all these courses where at the end of it your supposed to become a better person. Well, more fool me for parting with my cash. The courses are not cheap either.

I still maintain if you wish to find the real Ayn Rand read her non-fiction, I don't think the fiction she wrote, would err...qualify as fiction. Let's be objective about it (pardon the pun) it's very poorly written. Apart from the wonderful short story in the Romantic Manifesto.

Anonymous said...

Back to the movie I just can't see how it would ever be made. Most of the science in it is wonky and would look very quant if used in a film. I mean the motor and project X, oh and don't forget the force-field. That would definitely confuse people, the tunnel scene would be upsetting to sit through. Plus, the message of the book would be too off-putting. unless you accept the philosopy of Objectivism society is going yo heel in a hand-cart and you've go nobody to blame but yourself. What kind of audience would wish to see that?

Political films like Bicylce thief, Nighmare Alley and Il Postino at least were well made even though I don't agree with their message. They got their message across in a subtler way. Audiences would not want to sit through a three hour commercial for Objectivism.

Daniel Barnes said...

Prodos:
>PS: I'll have to have a look through this blog. I'm curious to see what arguments are presented against Ayn Rand's ideas.

Hey Prodos

Nice to hear from you.

The key arguments against Rand's philosophy according to the ARCHNblog are:

1) Her theories are verbalist: that is, they appear to be solutions to real philosophical problems, but on examination turn out to be mere word-games.

2) The woeful lack of empirical support for Rand's theories, where they do not clash with the evidence entirely; that is, despite her protestations to the contrary, Rand's theories turn out to not have much actual basis in reality.

There's a fair bit to wade thru,and this is only an occasional site, but that's the nutshell version.

PRODOS said...

Replying to Daniel Barnes ...


The key arguments against Rand's philosophy according to the ARCHNblog are:

1) Her theories are verbalist: that is, they appear to be solutions to real philosophical problems, but on examination turn out to be mere word-games.

2) The woeful lack of empirical support for Rand's theories, where they do not clash with the evidence entirely; that is, despite her protestations to the contrary, Rand's theories turn out to not have much actual basis in reality.


Okay. Thanks for the summary.

Sounds like an interesting challenge.

I have a couple of close friends and colleagues who at times get "upset" about Ayn Rand and Objectivism - as they understand it - and enjoy debating with them.

(I also welcome private emails: prodos "at" prodos "dot" com)

PRODOS said...

Replying to "anonymous" (UK Objectivist) ...


Back to the movie I just can't see how it would ever be made. Most of the science in it is wonky and would look very quant [quaint?] if used in a film. I mean the motor and project X, oh and don't forget the force-field. That would definitely confuse people,


Well, it's not "science" is it? It's science fiction.

Some science fiction does try to seriously present what the author believes are viable new technologies or believable extrapolations of current trends.

But most science fiction that I've read treats the science as a "for instance" or a "what if". It's not meant to be taken literally.

For example Isaac Asimov's "positronic" robot brains in the I, Robot books. Time travel stories (Back to the Future). Alien crafts and civilizations, faster than light travel. And so on.


the tunnel scene would be upsetting to sit through.


It's upsetting to read.

Plus, the message of the book would be too off-putting.

Really?

Do you mean the idea of "what if the men of the mind went on strike"?

Or do you mean its portrayal of good and evil?

... unless you accept the philosopy of Objectivism society is going yo heel in a hand-cart and you've go nobody to blame but yourself. What kind of audience would wish to see that?

That's not the message I got from Atlas Shrugged.

I don't think an appreciation of Atlas Shrugged relies on accepting Objectivism.

In any case there are many movies (as well as music, paintings, poetry, etc.) whose underlying philosophy is far from my own, but which I enjoy greatly.

Political films like Bicylce thief, Nighmare Alley and Il Postino at least were well made even though I don't agree with their message.

They got their message across in a subtler way.


Sorry, I haven't seen those films. But yes "subtle" can work well.

So can a stylized over-the-top comic-book style.

Audiences would not want to sit through a three hour commercial for Objectivism.

Nor would I.

First and foremost, I want to be entertained.

Anonymous said...

Gee whizz Prodos, it's 2008 forcrissakes there are no 'men of mind' and 'men of muscle' anymore! If there ever were any in the 1st place, remember it's just a work of fiction.

Every man & woman who works in the UK uses their mind! Society is not divided like that!!!!

The 1st 100 pages or so of Atlas Shrugged are great, but then it becomes fairly easy to work out what is happeing or going to happen. Audiences will not sit thorugh scenes invlolving long, philosophical speeches.

You have to admit that the level of characterisation found in the book woul appear childish to a 5 year old.

That is why I dislike the book, our enemies are not that incompetent and nobdoy is whooly good or evil as they are drawn in this book.

Not enough emphasis was placed on characterisation, dialogue, plot etc all the literary devices that make a book good and enjoyable in the first place. I know they say that bad books make good movies but truly any film maker will struggle with the materials they are presented with her.

Holywood is famous for being jam packed full of liberals, unless you can get John Miluis to direct it who can you trust?

As for the movies I list you should see Bicylce Thief and the wonderful French film Z to see how to make an entertaining and enjoyable political film. Sure, I disagree with a lot fo what they said but full marks to them for entertaining and getting their message across.

PRODOS said...

Replying to Anonymous (UK Objectivist) ...

Gee whizz Prodos, it's 2008 forcrissakes there are no 'men of mind' and 'men of muscle' anymore! ... Every man & woman who works in the UK uses their mind! Society is not divided like that!!!!

Yes, I see where you're coming from. That's a fair point, and poses a big challenge for anyone who wants to produce Atlas Shrugged.

In one sense, the setting of the novel is recent history - having been published in 1957. But so many things have changed enormously since then.

For instance, WOMEN have changed enormously since then! (Thank goodness!!) It's nowhere near as novel or radical to find powerful, highly successful women today as it was in the 50's and 60's. And that would affect how the Dominique character would be presented.

Interesting issue. Thanks.

The 1st 100 pages or so of Atlas Shrugged are great, but then it becomes fairly easy to work out what is happeing or going to happen. Audiences will not sit thorugh scenes invlolving long, philosophical speeches.

You worked out what was going to happen after the 1st 100 pages? I certainly didn't! Ha!

I agree that long, philosophical speeches wouldn't work. Well, I don't see how they would work.

You have to admit that the level of characterisation found in the book woul appear childish to a 5 year old.

Well, you're talking to someone who enjoys films like Die Hard, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. :-D

That is why I dislike the book, our enemies are not that incompetent and nobdoy is whooly good or evil as they are drawn in this book.

Actually, it's the soft, gray, mushy characters who I found to be most evil and ugly. There are still plenty of them around, aren't there?

Within the EU and the UN? Within the highest ranks of modern corporations? (Like the fools who have been climbing on board the Global Warming juggernaut).

Not enough emphasis was placed on characterisation, dialogue, plot etc all the literary devices that make a book good and enjoyable in the first place.

Well, here you may be referring to aesthetic preferences.

An Objectivist friend of mine here in Melbourne, hates the novel, The Fountainhead, and adores Atlas Shrugged. She can't stand Roark (the architect).

Within Atlas, I love it when Francisco appears, but I find it very hard to get interested in John Galt.

I have a good friend who is hostile about everything to do with Ayn Rand. Except he loves Anthem.

It's a shame Ayn Rand didn't get to write a few more novels and experiment with different styles and characters.

I know from reading her journals and notes that this is something she did want to do.

Holywood is famous for being jam packed full of liberals, unless you can get John Miluis to direct it who can you trust?

Well, at the moment I trust Angelina Jolie to use her influence. But frankly, I think a "liberal" could do the job. Just as an atheist could make a good movie about Jesus.

As for the movies I list you should see Bicylce Thief and the wonderful French film Z to see how to make an entertaining and enjoyable political film.

Thanks! I'll check them out and let you know.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I'm alone in Objectivism in thinking it's a poorly written book.

As for the films I mentioned, please do check them out and love them to the bone. Though in Z you will find the leftists fighting for democracy.

As for soft, gray and mushy. Why do you put it like that? As if all these three must automatically go together.

I know plenty of people who are soft, or soft & gray and they are neither evil or ugly.

Though I'd love to here what your definition of mushy is? Is that how you describe some women after watching a 'weepie' movie? If so, what could possibly be evil or ugly about that. Unless your referring to their mascara when it runs and I agree that's not a good look.

I don't know enough about Global warming to comment and going by what I've read on the ARI neither do they! As for people who climb aboard that bandwagon (such neuttral terms you use) I fail to see how that makes them fools. They could be wrong, yes, but when a man or women is wrong about something why does automatically make them a fool? I'd be curious to know. For most people it's hard to come down on a side on Global warming as scientists on boths sides argue their respective viewpoints so well.

Wells said...

This movie is going to fail. I think everybody here sees that.

So in the interest of speeding along the post-mortum I will ask.

How would you fix Atlas Shrugged, the Movie!?

PRODOS said...

Replying to "Anonymous" (UK Objectivist) ...

Good morning.

I don't think I'm alone in Objectivism in thinking it's a poorly written book.

For me, it remains one of my all-time favorite books.

As for soft, gray and mushy. Why do you put it like that? As if all these three must automatically go together.

I was referring to characters like Wesley Mouch, and those with "mushy" undefined goals and "gray" morality.

I wasn't using the terms to condemn or even refer to such qualities as sensitivity, gentleness, cuteness, sweetness, or sentimentality.

For most people it's hard to come down on a side on Global warming as scientists on boths sides argue their respective viewpoints so well.

True.

I was referring in particular to various corporate heads, and EU and UN types, not to people in general.

I've dealt with many of them - as well as politicians - who do not believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming, but find it expedient to go along with the so-called "consensus" or who are afraid to say what they really believe. i.e. That AGW is a myth.

I don't know enough about Global warming to comment and going by what I've read on the ARI neither do they!

Oh? I find the Ayn Rand Institute's material on Environmentalism and Global Warming to be very well argued.

For instance:

The Danger of Environmentalism

The Real Meaning of Earth Hour

Bye for now.

meg said...

We shouldn't denounce the movie too much, it'll just fuel Objectivists' persecution complex

Anonymous said...

Were not paranoid.

All we know you all think we are.

Anonymous said...

This movie must be made, because it will expose the bozosity of Ayn Rand's fascist, narcissistic "philosophy." It will do for Objectivism what Battlefield Earth did for Scientology.

Jack Black should be John Galt, and he should be a heroin addict.

For added fun, the entire production should be a musical.