Think back to the biggest development disasters of 2010. High on the list without a doubt, and perhaps topping the list, was Atlas Shrugged. In development for years, by 2009 the Ayn Rand novel was riding a newfound wave of popularity thanks to the economic collapse of late 2008, and also to a sense of post-Obama malaise within the conservative right. There was a point where it seemed like the book might spawn a mini-series, perhaps even with Charlize Theron playing central character Dagny Taggart.
That didn’t happen. By late spring of last year, producer John Aglialoro, who bought the rights in 1992, had to make the film or lose the option. By May, he planned to shoot in June, even though at that point there was no cast in place. Stephen Polk was hired to direct a four-film series based on the book. Two weeks before shooting, he was sacked and replaced with Paul Johansson, who also stars as the pivotal character John Galt. The movie quietly started shooting.
And now, after the break, there is a trailer for Atlas Shrugged Part I.
I’ll admit, after the breathless few reports about how the movie had to be made right now, and that actor Paul Johansson would both direct and play John Galt, I stopped following up on the project. So I was surprised to see some familiar faces here: Jon Polito, Michael Lerner, Graham Beckel, Edi Gathegi and Patrick Fischler, for example. They add welcome glimmers of life.
But while Paul Johansson looks like he might work as John Galt, Taylor Schilling (Mercy) seems to be far too vacant as Dagny Taggart. (She’s a far cry from Charlize Theron, Anne Hathaway or Julia Roberts, that’s for certain.) I can accept the film’s obvious budget workarounds (even though there are places where it looks like Atlas Shrugged: The Video Game) but without a compelling Dagny Taggart, this one is dead in the water. Could that just be the editing of the trailer, or, as feared when this was rushed into production, is this pure movie of the week stuff?
I’m going with the latter. Hell, if you don’t know the novel, this probably just looks like a movie about trains. You’d think this would be advertised more specifically to the large and rather rabid Atlas Shrugged fanbase. Now discuss: does this trailer seem to represent Ayn Rand’s Objectivist ideas at all, or does the trailer play like an implicit refutation of the core Objectivist belief that individuals have a moral imperative to act in their own best interest? I.e. the producer had to make the movie, so he did, and the result is…well, this. (And would Rand see this movie as hedonist? That is, a non-valid articulation of the producers’ own self-interest.)
as a bonus, here are two brief behind the scenes clips:
Thanks to /Film reader Rob M for the tip!