You might be wondering what possessed me to watch Atlas Shrugged. It’s a fair thing to ponder, but I think I can defend myself. It’s not that I thought there would be any merit to it. Haha, that’s a good one. No, in fact, it’s because I already knew it had no merit. I was simply curious to see for myself how one of the most boring, humorless, and egocentric authors I’ve ever read translated into film. Now I know. Much like Ayn Rand herself, it ain’t pretty.
This totally made-up shit storm starts out by showing us an America decimated by another Great Depression. What’s the culprit? That question takes a few more scenes to answer. Oh, but get this: gas prices are $37.50 a gallon. Go ahead and re-read that if you need to. I shouldn’t have to explain exactly how stupid that is on its face. It’s pretty fucking stupid, though. The movie tells us that conflicts in the middle east have cut off oil supplies to the U.S., and “political shenanigans” are keeping us dependent on foreign oil. Look, I don’t care what perfect storm of fucked the filmmakers are trying to convey, but back in reality, most political statements about being energy independent are made by near-autistic individuals who can count cards but can’t tell you how much a pack of gum costs. Brace yourself for some interesting facts via oilprice.com:
“many commentators use the total consumption of 18.8 million barrels per day and the 5.35 MBD of crude oil production to then conclude the U.S. only supplies some 28.5% of its oil consumption. This is not true; including other liquid oil supplies drawn from natural gas wells, etc., the U.S. still produces about half of the oil it consumes. The U.S. remains the Number Three producer of oil, just behind Russia and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. produces roughly the same amount of oil as Canada, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates combined (numbers 6,7 and 8 in the list of top oil producers). The U.S. is also far and away the world’s top consumer of oil.”
We contribute to the global oil economy, and we also use from it. We’re not just sitting on our asses as we buy up oil from other countries. And in case you haven’t noticed, there are already quite a few conflicts in the middle east. Gas has got to be upwards of $20 a gallon, then, right? I mean, there are wars and shit, and we need that oil. Wait, what’s that in my pocket? Oh, it’s my receipt from the last time I filled up my gas tank. I think it shows I paid $3.41 a gallon. Hmm. That has to be a typo. I probably paid $34.10 a gallon.
Shortly after the creeper makes off with a middle-aged businessman, we’re introduced to the President of Taggart Transcontinental Railroad, What’s His Fuck Taggart. OK, his name is James, but I call him What’s His Fuck for short. In a nutshell, he’s the most ineffectual half-wit for a president I’ve seen in a while. At almost every turn, someone is telling him how much of a shitty job he’s doing, and all he can do to retort back is to double-down.
Another thing that pisses me off about James and his Washington pals is that any kind of social reform or fair business practice is always brought up by them, and they always have nefarious plans underneath. Of course, anyone who wants to keep any sort of level playing field when it comes to anything ever has to be secretly plotting the destruction of America. I won’t pretend to understand this kind of paranoia, but if I ever start exhibiting signs of it, just shoot me in the face. It’ll be messy, but it can be cleaned up later.
The relationship between Henry Rearden and Dagny Taggart is pretty funny, though. They click so well because they’re both Objectivists, and they just see the world as it should be. Oh, if only I could siphon some of their wisdom, then I, too, could find myself in a relationship based on nothing but purely selfish ambition.
One thing that’s so obvious it hurts is that the dialogue isn’t dialogue at all. It’s quite apparent that it’s just a bunch of ideological diatribes alternately spoken in succession. No one on the face of this planet has conversations like the people in Atlas Shrugged. If someone tried that shit with me, it would end up something like this: “Hey, buddy. You know, altruism is a red herring. Those in charge would like you to believe it’s the path to truth, but, let me ask you, Who is John GaaaaAAAHHHHH MY NOSE! YOU BROKE MY NOSE! STOP BEATING ME MERCILESSLY!”
Here are some examples of actual lines from the movie that were totally not written by Ayn Rand as she stared at herself in the mirror with an important look on her face:
“You just love to feed the monopolies, don’t you?”
“What is wrong with the world, Paul?”
“Why ask useless questions? ‘How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky? Who is John Galt?'”
“He said, ‘Happiness is a delusion of those whose emotions are superficial.’ The guy’s a genius!”
“At a time of desperate steel shortages, we can’t afford to allow the expansion of a company which produces too much and might replace companies which produce too little. That is how you create an unbalanced economy.”
The people responsible for this movie were hell-bent on making sure everyone understood that helping out your fellow man is deplorable and world-crushing. You’ll have to pardon my heavy use of quotes, but this whole movie is a continuous stream of vacuous nonsense. When Henry and Dagny go visit a plant that used to produce engines, Henry helpfully explains to her why it was shut down, and Dagny has her moment of zen.
Dagny: “It’s a real mystery why the 20th Century Motor Company failed.”
Henry: “It’s no mystery. Bad ideas brought it down.”
Henry: “As I understand it, the company flattened the wage scale and still paid everyone according to their needs, not according to their contributions.”
“Dagny: “Why all these stupid altruistic urges? It’s not being charitable or fair. What is it with people today?”
Oh, so they stopped paying a few people ridiculous amounts and started giving everyone else fair wages. I see now. What were they thinking?
In the end, I only found one piece of common ground with any character in the film, and it happened to be in the last shot.