In the last few days I watched the “trilogy” movies Atlas Shrugged, parts I, II and III. I put trilogy into parentheses because it’s not really a trilogy, but I am getting ahead of myself…
The trilogy is based on the novel by Ayn Rand of the same name. The novel is one of the longest written in the English language with 645,000 words and over 1,000 pages. I read the book in 2008 and wrote a review here. I gave it three stars. Atlas Shrugged is a book you cannot shrug off, and it leaves a mark on you, it alters your thinking, and it is just as relevant in the age of Trump as it ever was, or perhaps more so. Before I get into the movie review, therefore, here is my plug. Go and read Atlas Shrugged, it is worth it, and it will change the way you think about our society.
Browsing the movie offerings on Amazon Prime in pandemic stupor, I came across the Atlas Shrugged Trilogy:
Atlas Shrugged: Part I – came out in 2011.
Atlas Shrugged: Part II – The Strike – 2012
Atlas Shrugged: Part III – Who is John Galt? – 2014
I watched the first movie and it struck me that it was pretty poorly done and that it didn’t do the book justice at all. Also, it played in the “near future” of 2017 – which for 2011 is reasonably far away. I thought that didn’t work. Atlas Shrugged plays in the 1950s, it is about railroads, steel and rust-belt industries in general. They have telephones and railroads. Commercial air travel is still in its infancy. By placing the story into the age of smartphones, Apple, and Facebook, but still dealing with the subject matter of making a railroad work, just does not play very well. It would have been much more effective if the movie had played in the original time period, mid 20th century. It would have been more authentic.
Then I watched the second movie and I was completely jarred. All the actors of the main characters were completely different. Yes, Dagny, the protagonist, was still a young blonde woman. Her assistant, Eddie, was still a black man. But that’s where the similarities stopped. They didn’t even try. All the characters that played in Part I had roles in Part II, but all the actors were different.
Enter Part III. AGAIN all the actors changed. Every. One. Of. Them.
This was truly bizarre. It was hard to watch. The most jarring character changes were those for Ellis Wyatt and Francisco d’Anconia.
I am not even going to go into the story line here, since I won’t recommend you watch the movies, but I have to tell you something funny.
Today, via email, a good friend from high school asked me about a classmate, and he praised my memory of details from 45 years ago. What had gone completely obscure and murky for him were vivid images for me, completely clear. We remember what we choose is important for us, and we forget events and people that had no impact.
Memory is selective. I just experienced this now when I sat down to write this review about the trilogy. Since I remembered reading the book a long time ago, I did a search for the title and found it. But guess what else I found? This review I wrote in 2012 about, you guessed it, Atlas Shrugged: Part I. It was actually pretty good, and it’s a better review of the movie than this is. I encourage you to read it.
So – in 2020 – in pandemic boredom – I watched all three parts of Atlas Shrugged and absolutely had no recollection first of watching the movie, then of writing a pretty extensive review and coming pretty much to the same conclusion – don’t bother.
Atlas Shrugged, the movies, are so bad that you’ll likely forget you ever watched them in the first place.