Saturday, November 12, 2011

Copywriters Shrugged

When I heard that Ayn Rand's gran novel, Atlas Shrugged, was going to be finally converted into a movie, I was initially excited. But also a bit alarmed; Atlas bumped around in Hollywood purgatory for years. The book has got some exciting stuff in it that is movie-worthy--Rand started out as a screenwriter--but it also has pages* of abstract objectivist philosophy that no way could be translated onto the big screen and still have the fans not burst a synapse. I thought it was a daunting task that easily could turn into a failure.

And it turns out I was right.

Well, not quite. I have not seen the movie itself, though I probably should just because it's the sort of thing I am supposed to watch before I criticize. But by all accounts--even by fans--while it's fairly faithful to the novel, it is also incredibly boooring. It's exactly what you think--a lot of people sitting around and talking about philosophy, interrupted by trains.

(For the record: I love the book, although it could have used an editor and be about 200 pages less. It gets windy and overblown at times, and as such is a turn-off to people who may otherwise enjoy her work. And--as it is set in a quite industrial America--there is a reasonable amount of action and suspense to make it interesting. The most accessible Rand novel--and the one I prefer--is We The Living. People who normally would be scared of reading Rand would probably enjoy this book; it is a fictionalized pseudo autobiography. The philosophical pontification is left at a minimum, it is a reasonable-length book, and is, thankfully, interesting.)

Anyway, the whole point is that I learned two things: they are continuing with parts II and III, even though the first one bombed. The second thing is this news article, which for some reason I find infinitely humorous.  Basically, they let a non-Objectivist write the blurb on the back of the DVD, in which he described the movie--in its usually uninformative and overblown prose--as one of "self-sacrifice." Anyone who has ever had even a whiff of Rand's work knows this is rolling Hitler, Stalin, Mao, child molesters, ax murderers, and EPA regulators all into one and hurling it at Rand's corpse. The production company has since set up a method in which purchasers of the DVD can get free replacement title cards.

It is fun when ideologues get angry.


*When I say pages, I mean that to the fullest extent of its definition.

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