Roger Ebert Reviews Atlas Shrugged

Roger Ebert lays the smack down on the Atlas Shrugged film -- but not for the reasons you'd think.

Roger Ebert isn’t shy about his politics, but when he smacked down Atlas Shrugged, that doesn’t even come to play. He does, however, write a terrific review that confirms my suspicions about the film based on the trailers and clips that have been released:

So OK. Let’s say you know the novel, you agree with Ayn Rand, you’re an objectivist or a libertarian, and you’ve been waiting eagerly for this movie. Man, are you going to get a letdown. It’s not enough that a movie agree with you, in however an incoherent and murky fashion. It would help if it were like, you know, entertaining?

The movie is constructed of a few kinds of scenes: (1) People sipping their drinks in clubby surroundings and exchanging dialogue that sounds like corporate lingo; (2) railroads, and lots of ’em; (3) limousines driving through cities in ruin and arriving at ornate buildings; (4) city skylines; (5) the beauties of Colorado. There is also a love scene, which is shown not merely from the waist up but from the ears up. The man keeps his shirt on. This may be disappointing for libertarians, who I believe enjoy rumpy-pumpy as much as anyone.

Oh, and there is Wisconsin. Dagny and Hank ride blissfully in Taggart’s new high-speed train, and then Hank suggests they take a trip to Wisconsin, where the state’s policies caused the suppression of an engine that runs on the ozone in the air, or something (the film’s detailed explanation won’t clear this up). They decide to drive there. That’s when you’ll enjoy the beautiful landscape photography of the deserts of Wisconsin. My advice to the filmmakers: If you want to use a desert, why not just refer to Wisconsin as “New Mexico”?

Read the whole thing – it ranks up there as one of Ebert’s best reviews, which are almost always his one-star reviews. (If you haven’t read Your Movie Sucks, you are missing out.) Of course, what’s sad is that I doubt I’ll be able to keep myself from seeing this movie at some point. I enjoy a good train wreck. And in the case of the Atlas Shrugged films, I’ll get to see train wrecks both metaphorical and literal.

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Tommy says:

    Ebert lost all credibility with me after giving “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” the same rating as “The Godfather: Part Two.” Ridiculous.

  2. CB says:

    incoming…

  3. tom p says:

    It will be difficult to pass on Rand’s genius put to film, but I guess I will just have to let it go.

  4. Brett says:

    His review isn’t surprising, considering what we saw with the trailer. I especially liked this part:

    But you’re thinking, railroads? Yes, although airplanes exist in this future, trains are where it’s at.

    The obvious production reason was that they didn’t have the money for “period piece” clothing, but it’s still a good point. One of the things that I remember from my last reading of Atlas Shrugged is that the book’s setting seemed anachronistic even for the date when it was published (1957). It felt much more like a vague description of an America from 20-30 years earlier, not helped by the fact that Rand tended to be vague on certain setting elements (like referring to the President as the “Head of State”, or Congress as “The Legislature”).

  5. Janis Gore says:

    “Rumpy-pumpy.” That’s a new euphemism for me.

  6. Rick Almeida says:

    Ebert lost all credibility with me after giving “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” the same rating as “The Godfather: Part Two.” Ridiculous.

    I gotta say, this is a totally legit smackdown.

  7. Alex Knapp says:

    Ebert lost all credibility with me after giving “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” the same rating as “The Godfather: Part Two.” Ridiculous.

    Ebert himself has complained about the star ratings which produce results like this, but they’re an editorial decision. If you follow his work, you’d know that he basically uses the star rating for judging a film on its own terms. So if he thought that “Paul Blart” was an exceptional comedy, it gets a high rating.

  8. jwest says:

    They don’t lay out the technical details of the ozone engine?

    Typical conservative movie.

  9. Kylopod says:

    I understand the point about rating films according to their genre rather than according to some absolute criterion. For example, most critics would rate The Naked Gun higher than I Am Sam, even though the latter has far more substantive content than the former. It’s because one is a great comedy, the other a mediocre drama.

    But that’s hardly an excuse for Ebert’s habit of occasionally giving positive reviews to complete dreck. I say this, by the way, as a big fan of Ebert’s writing. And for what it’s worth, he did eventually come around to recognize The Godfather Part II as a great film–certainly by the time he reviewed Paul Blart.

  10. ponce says:

    Ebert gave Battle:Los Angeles one half star, which I felt was a little harsh.

    But I still trust him after 30 years.

    His reviews are frequently more entertaining than their subjects.

  11. Drew says:

    “I enjoy a good train wreck.”

    A bit on the nose, don’t you think?

  12. matt says:

    Wait I thought the engine ran off static electricity…

  13. SJ Reidhead says:

    Even if this were the worst movie ever, all the little libertarians and Ron Paul Bots would rave about it. It looks like it doesn’t even deserve one star.

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

  14. G.A. Phillips says:

    Roger Ebert sucks! I give him half a donkey poop.

  15. sam says:

    The question I need answered before I’d even consider seeing the thing is, Are there lots of scenes of trains going into tunnels?

  16. Yet another disillusioned pawn says:

    OMG!!!! I just realized that they need to do the story in three parts so that they can do John Galt’s boring and derivative sales pitch for objectivist selfishness in toto. Never mind Atlas shrugging, what are the producers going to do when the movie goers shrug?

  17. michael reynolds says:

    Ebert is a really good writer, and a very hard-working one as well. I tend to think he favors the visual over the script, but knowing that allows me to understand where he’s going and rely on his opinion.

  18. G.A. Phillips says:

    The question I need answered before I’d even consider seeing the thing is, Are there lots of scenes of trains going into tunnels?

    lol, save your strength for the fireworks show on the 4th of July old buddy….

  19. DC Loser says:

    If I’m going to watch propaganda disguised as entertainment, I’ll watch Triumph of the Will.

  20. Tlaloc says:

    “Rumpy-pumpy.” That’s a new euphemism for me.

    Watch Blackadder.

    other comments-
    the Godfather trilogy is insanely over rated. Even if we just confine ourselves to the first two there’s about two hours of just nothing that could have, and should have, been cut The story is kind of bumbling and the whole period in Sicily completely kills what tiny momentum the film had. It’s a classic case of people raving about something because other people raved about it and not because the film itself is anything better than mediocre.

    At best.

    Don’t worry about Atlas Shrugged losing money. Much like POtC it’ll rake in a considerable haul off a relatively small number of fanatic fans seeing it over and over. What it won;t do is make much of any difference to the national dialogue because it lacks mass market appeal.

  21. Janis Gore says:

    Oh, Tlaloc. I’ve seen some Blackadder. You ‘speck me to remember everything?

  22. Trumwill says:

    I often disagree with Ebert and often agree in the final analysis. But the great thing about Ebert is that he is good at articulating what he did and did not like a movie, so after reading his review I will have a much better idea if I will like it (even if he didn’t) or if I should probably skip it (even if he liked it).

    Incidentally, I found this line ironic:

    It’s not enough that a movie agree with you…

    Actually, his reviews are frequently thus that agreeing with him is enough to make it a good movie. I can only think of one movie that he really disliked despite (I think) agreeing with the politics of the movie. But that’s okay. He’s clear enough in his writing that I knew the reason he liked it would probably not appeal to me.

  23. Janis Gore says:

    I thought that someone would come up “Now can we call you Rumpy-Pumpy.” When I’m writing quicly those prepositions slip.

  24. Janis Gore says:

    I’ve read Rand. I class her with Thomas Wolfe — something you read young and supercede.

  25. Janis Gore says:

    And looking at the word, I’ve googled. It should be “supersede.”

  26. sam says:

    “If I’m going to watch propaganda disguised as entertainment, I’ll watch Triumph of the Will.”

    Nightmare on Movie Street:

    *****Double Feature*****Double Feature*****

    Battlefield Earth
    Atlas Shrugged

  27. wr says:

    Tlaloc — Although I always enjoy and admire your posts here, I have to say there’s nothing more tiresome than someone declaring that some part of the canon of great works is terribly overrated, and that people only admire it because they’re all stupid sheep.

    If the vast majority of film critics, writers, directors, actors and just about everyone else involved in the art form considers the first two Godfather movies to be masterpieces and you don’t, you should probably consider the idea that they’re not the ones who are wrong.

    No, that’s too glib, and I apologize. But you should stop to consider that there are some works of art that are masterpieces that simply don’t appeal to you. If you care, you might take the time to try to understand why these films are so admired even if you will never admire themm as highly. Or not.

    There are plenty of artworks that are almost universally adored or respected that I don’t particularly like. That doesn’t make them over rated. It just means they’re not to my taste.

  28. Tlaloc says:

    Sit down and rewatch the godfather 1 and, if you’re masochistic, 2. It’s dull as hell. Like I said there’s at least 2 hours to cut there.

  29. mantis says:

    the Godfather trilogy is insanely over rated. Even if we just confine ourselves to the first two there’s about two hours of just nothing that could have, and should have, been cut The story is kind of bumbling and the whole period in Sicily completely kills what tiny momentum the film had. It’s a classic case of people raving about something because other people raved about it and not because the film itself is anything better than mediocre.

    At best.

    I disagree. With every word.

  30. mantis says:

    Ok, I’ll watch them both again this weekend. And I will enjoy them thoroughly.

  31. wr says:

    Tlaloc — Oh, goodie, double down.

  32. MBunge says:

    “Sit down and rewatch the godfather 1 and, if you’re masochistic, 2. It’s dull as hell. Like I said there’s at least 2 hours to cut there.”

    Anyone want to lay odds that Tlaloc enjoys “The Money Pit”?

    Mike