Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Movie Critic R. Ebert Gives Atlas Shrugged 1 Star

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

Diana Hsieh

"My basic verdict: very so-so. Very faint echo of the book, too often incoherent but mostly just boring."

I have read a number of reviews by him. He has outright torched, slammed, and smeared movies he has disliked without holding back anything at all before, and done it with a lot of witty marks full of a wealth of language to make it a more professional-style critique. Trust me, if he wanted to actually smear this movie he would have done much much worse than this review, this is one of the nicer reviews I have seen by him about a movie with 2 stars or lower, out of the one's I read anyways. As far as the accuracy of his review regarding the film, I don't think it's a smear, but it maybe inaccurate. I have heard a lot of conclusions by people today that are Objectivists, I have heard everything from it was an "unforgivable corruption, and a complete abomination" to it was "fantastic and amazing". Andrew Bernstein said his early screening weeks ago was great, whilst Yaron said it was basically "acceptable enough". I think I will just have to see it myself, there is far too much variation in the reviews for me to take someone's word on it.

Edited by Jennifer
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 65
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

OK, I've been to see it, here's my review: As (quite possibly) the first Front Range Objectist to see the Atlas Shrugged movie (a 12:15 showing in Colorado Springs) it was my intention to give a

I saw it. I hated it. Nicholas Cage makes better movies than this. I was cringing from practically the first moments when John Galt is speaking his absurdly badly written lines to recruit people to

Okay, I misread that line, at first. I read that as a critique of the movie but, after looking at it again, I can see that it is in fact the same misconception about Objectivist ethics that most lefties seem to have.

However, the rest of his review is still on the artistic merits. Given that at least one review (PJ O'Rourke's) points out the same flaws and comes from someone sympathetic to Objectivism...it's enough to turn me off from seeing it. I thought the previews looked awful anyway. I'll stick to my memory of reading the book and not bother myself with seeing it in dramatic form.

Saw the film. AS is an extremely difficult book to make into a movie. But not this difficult. I think Rand would not approve of the positive reviews. She would consider them charity, in my opinion.

This was terribly rushed (the making and the flow of the film), poorly cobbled, and irritatingly contrived ("Rumor has it Hugh Akston is working at a diner in Colorado," says Dagny before rushing out for a three-minute meeting with a gold-dollar-sign-embossed-cigarette-smoking Danny from Caddyshack). I got the feeling the book was too difficult for the screenwriter - I'm not talking about the task of converting it to a film, I mean I think the book was too difficult for him to fully grasp.

Too bad Peter Jackson isn't an Objectivist.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The difference in opinions is quite amazing. Some people are calling it spectacular, while others are panning it. PJ O'Rourke panned it, but Michael Shermer liked it. I respect the opinions of both men. The only thing I can think is that the people who like it are focusing mostly on the philosophy, while the people who dislike it are focusing on the production values.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've always thought of Roger Ebert as a great movie reviewer who is reliable in most cases. The exception has always been with movies that have strong political themes which he supports or opposes. In those cases, I've learned to disregard his review and check for myself.

"I figured it might provide a parable of Ayn Rand’s philosophy that I could discuss. For me, that philosophy reduces itself to: "I’m on board; pull up the lifeline." - Roger Ebert

Seeing a line like this is so telling (and not just with Ebert). It is a common misunderstanding. It is so easily refutable that I often take the time to get into discussions with people who have this perception.

You can call them out directly and ask: Why do YOU believe that being pro-self necessarily means "fuck everybody else"? What does that say about you? Ayn Rand's fundamental understanding of non-contradiction discards that concept instantly. Being pro-self does not even refer to how one may choose to treat others.

I'm going to see this movie asap. My dad just called me and said he and my mother loved it (they're in their 60's). He said he thinks you need to have read the book to understand what's going on. I gave him a copy last year to read, and he loved the book.

Edited by freestyle
Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree that Ebert often has a political slant to his reviews, but I also think he generally does a good job about not letting that impact how he sees the artistic value. I'll use Rules of Engagement as an example. He gives it a lukewarm review, praising its value as a well-done trial movie, though questioning its sense of war-time morality. If he were a committed far-leftist who panned every movie with a conservative slant, then he would have done the same here...considering the protagonist ordered his troops to mow down a crowd of Yemeni civilians.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree that Ebert often has a political slant to his reviews, but I also think he generally does a good job about not letting that impact how he sees the artistic value. I'll use Rules of Engagement as an example. He gives it a lukewarm review, praising its value as a well-done trial movie, though questioning its sense of war-time morality. If he were a committed far-leftist who panned every movie with a conservative slant, then he would have done the same here...considering the protagonist ordered his troops to mow down a crowd of Yemeni civilians.

I've not seen this movie... so I have to ask. Is it plain from the movie that you are supposed to _approve_ of this?

The message of a movie is not necessarily "what the protagonist did". It can very well be, "Don't do what the protagonist did." (This is why they invented the term "protagonist", it's neutral as to whether the protagonist is the "good guy" or the "bad guy".) As such it's possible Ebert loathed the actions of this protagonist, but liked the message of the movie.

I don't know, I haven't seen it.... but based on what I've read here there is either a fallacy in your logic (assuming that the protagonist's actions are the message when the movie in fact disapproved of those actions) or you simply left out a fact (that the movie showed the actions with approval) in recounting it. I can't know which one from what you are saying here.

Link to post
Share on other sites

My parents and I went out to see it yesterday (one of the first opening days I've been to in a while. Ironically the other two times I have gone to a movie on opening day were the first Narnia movie and Eragon.) I am a teenage homeschooled girl that wore a shirt with the original cover of Atlas Shrugged to the film. My dad has read maybe part one a while back. Mom has not read it. I was probably the youngest there...

Well, we enjoyed it. Usually I talk through based-on-a-book movie, pointing out all the mistakes. I kept my mouth pretty much shut through the thing and had fun. The music and scenery were great (but where the heck were they in Wisconsin?) and the acting was good. I was pretty impressed and we are looking forward to the next movie.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've not seen this movie... so I have to ask. Is it plain from the movie that you are supposed to _approve_ of this?

The message of a movie is not necessarily "what the protagonist did". It can very well be, "Don't do what the protagonist did." (This is why they invented the term "protagonist", it's neutral as to whether the protagonist is the "good guy" or the "bad guy".) As such it's possible Ebert loathed the actions of this protagonist, but liked the message of the movie.

I don't know, I haven't seen it.... but based on what I've read here there is either a fallacy in your logic (assuming that the protagonist's actions are the message when the movie in fact disapproved of those actions) or you simply left out a fact (that the movie showed the actions with approval) in recounting it. I can't know which one from what you are saying here.

It's obviously more complicated than that. He does it because there are--in this crowd of mostly peaceful protestors--a few snipers, and he then goes on trial (I won't spoil it by telling how it ends). The movie clearly intends for the viewer to sympathize with his decision. Now, regardless of the actual morality of his actions (and I would argue he was in his rights to fire on the crowd), the point is that a committed leftist would not see it that way. A true leftist would unequivocally condemn his actions and consider it the moral equivalent to firing on a crowd composed entirely of peaceful protestors. Ebert's review doesn't do that, though it does seem to express some reservations. Regardless of that, he also praises the movie for its strengths as a courtroom thriller.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's obviously more complicated than that. He does it because there are--in this crowd of mostly peaceful protestors--a few snipers, and he then goes on trial (I won't spoil it by telling how it ends). The movie clearly intends for the viewer to sympathize with his decision. Now, regardless of the actual morality of his actions (and I would argue he was in his rights to fire on the crowd), the point is that a committed leftist would not see it that way. A true leftist would unequivocally condemn his actions and consider it the moral equivalent to firing on a crowd composed entirely of peaceful protestors. Ebert's review doesn't do that, though it does seem to express some reservations. Regardless of that, he also praises the movie for its strengths as a courtroom thriller.

That sentence I bolded answers my question. Given that fact, a full bore leftist would not have been happy.

On the other hand there are leftists who absolutely hate Ayn Rand's egoism, but understand something about the war we are in, and how you sometimes have to do things like this. E.g., Christopher Hitchens. So it's possible for a secular altruist to not hate that message you are talking about. That is sheer speculation of course, when applied to Ebert as an explanation for why he didn't condemn the movie you are talking about.

What is beyond question about Ebert is that he obviously hates what Ayn Rand has to say... and from that I conclude that if indeed he were going to let his biases overwhelm his professionalism, this would be the place it would happen.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The best revenge on Ebert, et. al., is to do everything to ensure the movie is a success. Word of mouth, the internet, your own ticket purchases... Let's roll!

I thoroughly agree with this. We need to do everything we can to promote the film. It is the least we can do.

I suspect that many people in the movie industry are surprised by how well the film is doing. On Yahoo, they list movies that are "also in theatres" on their movie page. Atlas Shrugged did not even show up on the list yeaterday. Today, it is listed number three.

So far, Yahoo Users give the film an A-. You can go to Yahoo and add your own rating. And your own review. Here is mine:

Dagny Taggart Will Rock Your World

Link to post
Share on other sites

Stephen Hicks gives his review.

In part:

"Rand’s original novel is philosophically principled and stylized romantically, so it grates on the nerves of those who are intellectually opposed to a free society and/or who are emotionally cynical or neutered. For the same reasons, the movie will have its automatic opponents."

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is the best Objectivist-written review I have come across thus far:

http://thewildwebster.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/shrugged-part1-first-impressions/

Also something most certainly related no one has brought up yet:

Randex

has 32 new articles on Ayn Rand: 10 ✓ positive, 10 ✖ negative, 2 ✓✖ mixed, and 10 neutral. See them all at http://randex.org/.

Edited by CapitalistSwine
Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw it. I hated it. Nicholas Cage makes better movies than this. I was cringing from practically the first moments when John Galt is speaking his absurdly badly written lines to recruit people to his strike. This is invented dialog that Ayn Rand never wrote, and never could have written.

I caught myself staring at the back of seat in front of me several times instead of watching the movie. It was a continual struggle not to leave the theater.

The movie consists of a bunch of rich people talking at parties and in offices. There are more talking heads in this movie than in a submarine movie like Das Boot or Crimson Tide, but I'll grant it has more outdoors transition shots than 12 Angry Men (a movie that takes place entirely within a jury room) so that it can establish that this next set of talking heads is now in a different building. The movie is boring because it has almost no action.

The movie violates basic axioms of movie story-telling such as "show don't tell". The movie opens with a big chunk of narration and is regularly interrupted with fake newscasts throughout the duration. I think Agliaro stole his technique here from Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers. The movie gives no clue why I'm supposed to be rooting for Hank Rearden, he is just another rich guy with a Washington lobbyist until the controversy over Rearden Metal starts being a plot point more than halfway through. Hank Rearden gains the reader's respect in the novel by being a self-made man but there is no hint of any of that in the movie. Also unlike the novel, here Rearden is utterly unconflicted in sleeping with Dagny. An unconflicted Rearden necessarily leaves "the role of the mind in man's existence" an abstraction for politics and economics with no relevance for anyone's personal life. The giant sucking sound you hear is all the drama being vacuumed out of Rand's story.

The ham-handed way John Galt swoops in to steal people is compounded by the screen going to black and white freeze frame picturing the latest person to disappear, augmented with text on the screen. Text on the screen breaks the "fourth wall" and is contrary to Rand's style. That is pure unforced director failure. It also sucks all the mystery out of "who is John Galt?", the audience knows John Galt is the strike instigator from practically the first frame of the film.

Why is Ellis Wyatt announcing to the world that he is on strike in a voice over at the end of the movie? Wyatt leaves a message at his oil refinery he could be reading, but this alternate text he reads comes out of nowhere and is not anything any character in the movie should know about.

I am not criticizing this movie from a purist or fan perspective. It does not matter that Eddie is Black or Dagny is blonde or Dan Conway gets no screen time. What matters is that the movie is inarticulate. The puppet show on screen mocks the sequence of events as they happen in the novel but without any explanation or motivation and as a result no drama. There is no discernible theme, no case being made.

Miscellaneous bitching:

Why is Dr. Robert Stadler speaking with a non-American accent? Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne makes a better fake playboy than the no charisma nobody cast as an unkempt (why?) Francisco d'Anconia. For all the scenes of people eating and drinking I can see the Food Network optioning this movie to play overnights when there is no infomercial to play. The scene of Dagny and Rearden attempting to techno-babble bluff their way through the scene of discovering the remnant of Galt's motor was badly written and badly acted, but the lines were so bad they would be a challenge to sell by any actor.

I hadn't read Ebert's review until I saw the movie myself. I think he was too kind, and even too bored to properly hate this clumsy stupid movie. I can believe he hates Ayn Rand, but since this movie is bad that satisfies him so there is a distinct lack of outrage on his part.

I do not want part 2 or part 3 to be made. If you haven't seen the movie yet, strongly consider not going.

spoiler: Dagny Taggart's last line of dialog is ripped off from a far superior film:

Link to post
Share on other sites

I cannot make sense of the Rotten tomatoes review: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/atlas_shrugged_part_i/

It received a 10% rating from critics which is the lowest review I can ever recall and I use this site often. However, 85% of the audience enjoyed it (this was based on over 7,000 ratings).

Fans are filling in the (many) blanks in the movie in their heads instead of assessing the movie objectively, or thinking that this movie "ought to succeed" for some ulterior reason.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen 20%/76%, User Ratings: 3,840,705. Audiences went to Transformers 2 expecting to see giant robot battles, and got what they expected.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Fans are filling in the (many) blanks in the movie in their heads instead of assessing the movie objectively, or thinking that this movie "ought to succeed" for some ulterior reason.

That's a really good point however I hope the high ratings by audience members (even if wrongly conceived) leads them to read AS.

A theater showing it is only 6 minutes away so I may have to go see it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have already heard numerous stories of people who have not read the book going to the movie and deciding they want to read the book.

So I don't buy anyone's argument that the movie will fall flat for people who haven't read the book.

And I stand by my position that I think it's well worth seeing.

Grames, I obviously disagree with the conclusion of your review, but I wanted to compliment you on making several criticisms that were actually germane, they don't stem from an attitude that anything less than perfect is a mortal insult to the book. Many of the things you cite are things I'd change as well if I could. I am not as hard over on hating using fake newsclips to push the narration forward--I think it's an economical way to do so; it would take five minutes or more to replace each of those clips so given the low-budget nature of the movie I give them a pass on this. (My great hatred of the Starship Troopers movie stems from other issues with it!)

I've spent some time thinking about "what I'd do if I were allowed to add 20 minutes to the movie" and a couple of things I would add would be a flashback to the scene where Francisco breaks up with Dagny to go on strike (and in that scene Francisco would be clean-cut!), Rearden's tirade about how he was rotten for having slept with Dagny, and the scene where Dagny sees dozens of volunteers to run the train. I'd add transition dialog to Stadler's talk with Dagny so the transition from why he let the SSI diss Rearden Metal, to his talk about the students, would be less jarring. I'd kill the Wyatt voicemail voiceover at the end as well as the description of Atlantis right before it. I'd not have Galt visit Wyatt the night of the run (they could simply move that clip to right after the announcement of the tax on Colorado, I think, for "free"). All things they could potentially film when they re-assemble the cast for part II.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Francisco's San Sebastien mines "soliloquy" delivered at the party at Rearden's place is only a single paragraph long and could have livened up an otherwise useless character (in the movie) and could have provided a point to the movie.

Francisco shook his head regretfully. "I don't know why you should call my behavior rotten. I thought you would recognize it as an honest effort to practice what the whole world is preaching. Doesn't everyone believe that it is evil to be selfish? I was totally selfless in regard to the San Sebastián project. Isn't it evil to pursue a personal interest? I had no personal interest in it whatever. Isn't it evil to work for profit? I did not work for profit—I took a loss. Doesn't everyone agree that the purpose and justification of an industrial enterprise are not production, but the livelihood of its employees? The San Sebastián Mines were the most eminently successful venture in industrial history: they produced no copper, but they provided a livelihood for thousands of men who could not have achieved in a lifetime, the equivalent of what they got for one day's work, which they could not do. Isn't it generally agreed that an owner is a parasite and an exploiter, that it is the employees who do all the work and make the product possible? I did not exploit anyone. I did not burden the San Sebastián Mines with my useless presence; I left them in the hands of the men who count. I did not pass judgment on the value of that property. I turned it over to a mining specialist. He was not a very good specialist, but he needed the job very badly. Isn't it generally conceded that when you hire a man for a job, it is his need that counts, not his ability? Doesn't everyone believe that in order to get the goods, all you have to do is need them? I have carried out every moral precept of our age. I expected gratitude and a citation of honor. I do not understand why I am being damned."
Link to post
Share on other sites

Fans are filling in the (many) blanks in the movie in their heads instead of assessing the movie objectively, or thinking that this movie "ought to succeed" for some ulterior reason.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen 20%/76%, User Ratings: 3,840,705. Audiences went to Transformers 2 expecting to see giant robot battles, and got what they expected.

I think a better comparison would be Silent Hill, which got 29% from critics and 65% from general audience. Although the difference is not as much as Transformers 2, it was an esoteric movie that would be completely incomprehensible to someone who hasn't played the video game. But if enough fanboys go see the movie and give it rave reviews, it will get high rating among general audiences.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/silent_hill/

Link to post
Share on other sites

So if I understand you correctly, Wrath, you are saying the folks who go to the movie, not having read the book, and then leave, vowing to read the book, are _lying_ about having gotten something out of the movie?

I am not trying to strawman here, just verify my understanding. Because if that's not what you are claiming, I don't understand where you are coming from.

Edited by Steve D'Ippolito
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...