Friday, April 13, 2012

Doubling Down.

"Atlas Shrugged Part 2", featuring an all new cast, has started shooting. This time it will work, really.


Stienberg said...

The power of the free market will save them! Just like it did the last time...oh wait.

Michael Prescott said...

The weird thing - well, one of the weird things - about this sequel is that it has an entirely different cast. I could see replacing one or two actors, especially in minor roles, but it looks like they've replaced everybody, including all the leads. Maybe they figure nobody saw the first one, so nobody will notice ...

Strelnikov said...

No, Mr. Prescott, they just found cheaper people than the last cast (which was no-name to start with.)

I think they are going to make all of the films necessary to finish "Atlas Shrugged", even if it means filming on 1980s VHS camcorders or reverting to the silent movie. May they never make a profit.

Samadhir said...

You know, I actually find this very tragic. I don't even have the heart to gloat about it.

The sad thing is, this movie is made by people who genuinely believe in what they're doing, people who are truly enthusiastic about this project, who are willing to do everything to bring their vision to the big screen, who love Atlas Shrugged and are determined to do their utmost to bring its message to the people by making these films.

But unfortunately, they have no budget, no stars, no sizeable audience and no talent or experience whatsoever (not to mention trying to adapt a novel that's so dreadful to begin with). They're like a bunch of modern Ed Woods, except the films they make are nowhere near as fun and entertaining.

The movie-going public ignored it (regardless of whatever clique of enthusiasts tried to upvote it on Rotten Tomatoes). It failed to make back even a quarter of it's already low budget. Critics hated it, when they bothered to cover it at all. The conservative and libertarian press was somewhat more positive, but even there the praise mostly centered around the message - they admitted that viewed purely as a film, it was mediocre at best.

But perhaps the most baffling, and distressing, thing about it is that even the Orthodox Objectivist movement hates it. Take the ARI website for instance. You can clearly see that these people are absolutely desperate for mainstream attention, to the point of having a "Culture Commentary" column where they point out whenever Ayn Rand is mentioned in the media, even if it's an offhand mention of the plot of The Incredibles having somewhat Randian undertones. You would think that, with their Holy Text finally being made into a film after all these years, they'd do everything in their power to promote it.

But no - it has barely even been mentioned, and when it is it's always in terms of "seeing a film shouldn't prevent you from reading the novel" and other offhand dismissals. When they've bothered to cover it in more depth, it's exclusively negative, like with Edward Cline's review on CapMag:

As much as I dislike Objectivism and as much as I'm grateful that Rand's philosophy doesn't get a wider response among the public, seeing these people's hard work and enthusiasm amount to nothing, with hostility even from the people you'd expect to be supportive above all else, is just heartbreaking.

I guess John Aglialoro must feel like some kind of misunderstood Howard Roark right now. And as petty and childish as some of his reactions to the film's poor reception have been ("left-wing film critics on a nihilistic craze ruined it!"), I can't say that I blame him. I might acted the same in his stead.

Michael Prescott said...

I understand where you're coming from, Samadhir, and I think your empathy for the hapless filmmakers is admirable. My biggest problem with Aglialoro and company is that they really don't seem to "get it." Much as they obviously admire Atlas, they don't seem to understand that the book is not just a political tract. It's a Romantic novel with operatic characters and emotions, which attempts to explore primal philosophical issues. The theme is not "Government regulation is bad," but that seems to be as deep as the filmmakers ever got. The first film mentioned altruism just once, in an offhand and flippant way - some throwaway line about altruistic do-gooders. The characters were reduced to "realistic," "modern" types speaking "realistic" dialogue. All of the book's philosophical ambition and stylistic uniqueness was lost.

Not that I'm much of a Rand fan anymore, but if someone asked me how to dramatize Atlas, I would reply, in all seriousness: "As an animated cartoon." I'm not being snide. I think that an animated production in the style of the newer Batman cartoons could work. Use limited animation with highly stylized drawings, deep shadow, strange angles, the whole film noir look. Set it in Rand's parallel universe with 1930s Art Deco architecture, Depression Era clothing styles, and 1950s sci-fi imagery for the super-advanced inventions. Let everybody smoke cigarettes. Draw the characters to match Rand's conceptions - base Dagny on Kate Hepburn and Galt on Gary Cooper (or Frank O'Connor). Heck, get Steve Ditko to supervise; he's the creator of the Spider-Man comic, and a Ran fanatic. Hire the best voices around - appearances don't matter, so you can get the perfect voice for each character. Budget is not an issue; it costs no more to draw a stylized retro New York than a "realistic" one. With this approach you could even include a lot of the book's dialogue, because people are far more willing to accept purple prose issuing from an animated character than from a live actor.

You can never capture Atlas as a live action movie, especially when hampered by a low budget and an inexperienced cast and crew. An animated movie (or better yet, a limited-run cable TV series) is, maybe, just crazy enough to work.

Anonymous said...

@Michael Prescott: Now you've got me imagining Hank Rearden as the Joker and Dagny as Harley Quinn. "Puddin..." "SHUT UP! Daddy's trying to think!"

Animated or not, I don't see how they get around Galt's big speech. No one not already an Objectivist would sit through the whole thing, but if they cut one word the natural audience will howl. I suppose they could go direct-to-DVD and make it a menu selection - or how about an Easter Egg?

Echo Chamber Escapee said...

@Michael Prescott: if someone asked me how to dramatize Atlas, I would reply, in all seriousness: "As an animated cartoon."

I think this is an excellent idea. I vaguely recall that when I was on some Objectivist mailing list years ago, an aficionado of anime suggested this. The older generation cried sacrilege: you can't reduce the greatness of Ayn Rand to a cartoon! Cartoons are for kids!

But really, animation isn't just for kids. It is the most (and perhaps only) practical, cost-effective way to create a highly stylized world on screen. If you're George Lucas or James Cameron, you hire actors to perform in front of a green-screen and create your stylized universe in post-production. On a shoestring budget, it makes more sense to skip the live actors and just draw the whole thing.

Anon69 said...

On the recasting, there's this from

“The message of Atlas is greater than any particular actor, so it’s one of those pieces of literature that doesn’t require in our view the interpretation by a singular actor,” [Harmon] Kaslow says. “But just from a practical standpoint when we set out to make Part I we had a ticking clock where if we didn’t start production by a certain date John’s interest in the rights could lapse. We didn’t have the luxury at that moment to negotiate future options with the various cast members.”

So it's Leonard's fault.

CW said...

Re: George Lucas

It's worth noting that LucasFilms has been producing computer-animated Star Wars shows for TV (Clone Wars), and while much of the machinery and scenery is rendered in a manner that resembles the (sort of) live-action movies, the characters are quite stylized and obviously not made to look exactly like the characters do in the film.

Part of this is due to the "uncanny valley" effect, where a computer-generated character that appears almost but not quite human can appear eerie or even disturbing. Part of it may be cost - a stylized character may be easier and cheaper to animate for TV. And some of it may even be aesthetic preferences.

In any case, even Lucas can resort to not using real actors to make his stories, if the situation is right.

livvyjane said...

Hmmm, you guys don't seem to realize that so many things that Rand forsaw are coming to fruition right now. This book was written over 50 years ago and its scary accurate. I would suggest pulling your head out of the sand and looking around a bit.

Anonymous said...

"Hmmm, you guys don't seem to realize that so many things that Rand forsaw are coming to fruition right now. This book was written over X years ago and its scary accurate. I would suggest pulling your head out of the sand and looking around a bit."

Said every year by objectivists. You just have to increase the year by one, every year, that they say this, where the X is.

i guess it's just like ever year, a rock journalist will say, "this is the year music died"...
Only this time it's Livvyjanes turn. Oh well...gee, wonder what will happen if we don't take our heads out the sand?

Echo Chamber Escapee said...

@livyjane: you guys don't seem to realize that so many things that Rand forsaw are coming to fruition right now. This book was written over 50 years ago and its scary accurate. I would suggest pulling your head out of the sand and looking around a bit.

Okay. Head out of sand, looking around. What am I supposed to be seeing?

How the government reacted to Apple's runaway successful products (iPad, iPhone) -- or any other marketplace success -- by limiting the number Apple could make and ordering that an equal number be sold in each state, just like the Fair Share Law?

Or how the government tried to reduce unemployment by making it illegal for companies to fire workers and for workers to quit, just like Directive 10-289?

Or how the government took over GM and ordered the profits to be distributed to everyone based on need and none of the workers could count on what they'd get paid, and so they all turned on each other and wrecked the state of Michigan?

Or how taxes in the US today are much higher than they were in the 1950s?

Sorry, but not one of the implausible economy-wrecking regulations Rand made up for her dystopia has a real-world counterpart. (And by the way, the tax burden is decidedly lower now than 55 years ago.)

If you want me to be scared, you're going to have to tell me exactly what things Rand foresaw that are "coming to fruition right now." And you're going to have to be more specific than "increased regulation" or "taxing the rich."

Anonymous said...

ECE, objectivists have been saying that since year dot, which is 1957, so we are now in 55AS (55 years after Atlas Shrugged was published) and they are still saying the same thing.

They probably wrote letters to the NYT back in the days before the internet bemoaning that the society was going to hell in a handcart and the only cure was to read Atlas Shrugged.

Yet only a handful of books have shaped our society, the bible, Koran, the Rights of Man, The Communist Manifesto, to name the obvious but I'd struggle to think of any novel, even a philosophical one that has had any impact. Even a good one! Which AS certainly isn't.

Like the writings of Nostradamous, AS is interpreted in a way that is forward looking & ahead of its time. Yet no Objectivist can use the book today and tell you what will happen next year.

Well done Linnyjane, you've made the objectivist grade, moaning on the internet that, in the word of Chambers, has literally gone to smash and the solution is to read AS. No doubt if you were a WWI officer in the trenches you'd tell the troops they'd be home for Christmas.

Anonymous said...

lets see: (i) government mandates that banks lend to people who cannot pay them back, banks seek to mitigate risk by packaging loans and selling them off, borrowers default triggering the "biggest recession since the great depression," (ii) by administrative fiat, executive branch of government prevents Boeing from opening a new line of production in a right-to-work state, (iii) by administrative pressure, executive branch suspends normal bankruptcy rules to give union workers priority over creditors in GM bankruptcy, (iv) federal reserve embarks upon an unprecedented monetary expansion likely to result in hyperinflation (but not until after the November election). Just a few. Fortunately we have not devolved into a dystopian society, but that does not reduce the potency of the economic/political message. I will leave the deeper philosophy to someone else.