VIDEO: Atlas Shrugged: Part I (2011)

Mendo reviews the long-delayed movie adaption of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, now a Tea Partier’s wet dream: It’s 2016, the economy is in the crapper, and major figures of industry and finance (provided you believe a guy named “Midas Mulligan” can rise to a position of any prominence) begin to mysteriously disappear, going on strike to protest Big Government. Meanwhile, Dagny Taggart, VP of the country’s most important railroad, and Hank Rearden, owner of the country’s most important steel company join forces to save the economy and answer the burning question (and meme-before-memes-were-a-thing): Who is John Galt?

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  • gasmaskangel

    Dammit. I really dropped the ball on the title card for this episode. A thousand apologies for not getting it done on time. I’m going to go punch myself in the balls in penance.

    Anyways… as to the episode itself, I am a libertarian, and as such I really, really really hate this movie, the book it’s based on, and objectivism in general. Why? Because to me libertarianism is about ethics and principals, not childishly taking your toys and going home because you don’t like the rules.

    In my mind libertarianism is about asking why anyone has the right to dictate what is done with another persons life and property regardless of the many good intentions that are used to justify government intervention and taxation.

    Oh, and also its worth noting that part II is coming out on election day this year. I intend to spend it drunk.

    • TheCrazyFish

      I think that Objectivism is somewhat misunderstood. People (including a lot of Objectivists) think that it’s all about giving the wealthy elite the right to stomp all over the little guy, but that’s not what it was supposed to be about. The heroes of Objectivism are the workers, not the CEOs. The goal was to reward the people who do the most work by letting them keep all the profits of their labor. We could argue all day about whether that’s morally good or not, but that’s really not the point.

      The point is that a man like Ellis Wyatt would -logically- be the very definition of the “parasites” Objectivists and the One Percent like to rant about. All the real work to build his company was done by other people. He might’ve found the oil and bought the land, but he didn’t survey it, he didn’t build the wells, he doesn’t man them. He’s never done anything for the company except sit in an air-conditioned room, smoke cigars, and reap all the profits while raving about “parasites” taking his money. Then, when he decides he’s upset about some political nonsense he destroys it all. He just takes his ball – which isn’t even his as we’ve discussed – and goes home. He had no right. None of it was his in any but the most technical of terms. He didn’t build it, so what right does he have to destroy it?

      The fault for this whole thing lies entirely with Rand herself who was, I’m sorry to say, quite possibly the WORST possible champion this philosophy ever could have had. As you can see from this movie, she fully believed that the “wealthy elite” and the “working class heroes” were in fact the same group. She believed that if someone was rich and powerful then it must be because they worked harder than everyone else, as opposed to, you know,
      embezzlement, exploitation, inheritance, luck, or any of the other reasons a person could get money that have nothing to do with their own hard work. To put it in simple terms she was hot for confident jerkwads to the point that she let it influence her entire worldview.

      I also feel compelled to say I’m not really an Objectivist myself. I believe that there is some amount of value in the concept of letting people profit from their own labor and I think it’s something that should be discussed and debated rather than just dismissed out of hand
      like most people seem willing to do. This is why, while I also don’t consider myself a Libertarian I appreciate them as being sort of a “non-retard” version of Objectivists.

      • Zero_miles_per_hour

        I thought Objectivism was more anti-selflessness than pro-selfishness.

        • MichaelANovelli

          That’s a pretty fine line, though…

          • TheCrazyFish

            I would argue that there is no line between “anti-selflessness” and “pro-selfishness.” If you think about it like this: If a room is less bright then it will be more dark, if a man is less intelligent, then he’s more stupid, and if a man is less charitable then he’s more selfish.

            Really, the only tangible difference between “anti-selflessness” and “pro-selfishness” is word choice.

            That said, having talked to Objectivists myself I never felt like they talked in circles. The problem I saw was that they were completely oblivious to the very notion that profit and effort might not be directly related. A person can make tons of money through no real effort of their own (see: Paris Hilton, the cast of Jersey Shore, most politicians, etc) while another person can work hard their entire life, providing a very necessary service, and never get ahead because their skill or occupation isn’t something society considers worth throwing lot of money at. (see: every teacher, paramedic, garbage man, etc who has ever lived)

            Objectivists are completely blind to that idea. They firmly believe that if someone has money then he deserves it, no matter how he got it, end of story. Most Objectivists I’ve met would respond to that with some variation of “if the free market doesn’t consider garbage men important, then the garbage men should just become lawyers or some other profession the market does deem important.”

            That logic is…well, I shouldn’t have to explain why it’s stupid, so let me just say this: Michael Jordan was one of the greatest basketball players ever. When he tried his hand at coaching and baseball he failed miserably at both. This is because people do not have every skillset there is just sitting in their brain waiting to be accessed. The commonly accepted number is 10,000 hours to get good at something. That’s nearly 5 years of 40 hour weeks, and that’s just to become proficient, not even to become a master.

        • I’ve tried to understand Objectivism by reading what people who identify themselves as Objectivist have to say about Objectivism. Because everything written by outsiders seems to be so unfair, since it makes Objectivists seem really stupid. The only conclusion I’ve been able to reach is a central tenet of Objectivism is talking in circles.

      • Cristiona

        If I remember right, Wyatt did something beyond owning the company.  I think he invented the drill bit or the technique or something that could be used to access hard to get at oil.  I could be wrong though, but I’m pretty sure there was something like that in the book (that the movie appears to have glossed over).

  • gasmaskangel

    Oh something else worth pointing out, I looked up the book on audible and that fucker is over 67 hours long in audio book form.

  • Sofie Liv

    Thank you for reviewing this!
    I actually wanted to get a bit more into what all this was about, but… you know, didn’t find the energy to dig into what I could only see as tons of face-palm required shit.

    Thanks again for condensing it down to these nice fifteen minutes, that sure saved me a lot of time, and ones again convinced America is a freaking weird place! 

  • Skzip88

    Very sleek production this episode, probably the best yet.

  • TheCrazyFish

    Great review. Really hilarious, though you still have an issue with the audio balance changing between the voiceover parts and the face-time parts. Judging from the newspapers, trains, and the way everyone dresses I feel like this probably was supposed to be a period piece but they changed it at the last minute after realizing they didn’t have enough money. Either that or they made the mistake of sticking a bit too closely to the source material.

    • MichaelANovelli

      Sorry about that, by the time I did the VO I had a terrible cold…

  • sinthalis

    One of my co-workers thinks Ayn Rand is the second coming of Jesus Christ. He almost had me talked into reading this book, but I think I’ll pass.

  • Sand Ripper

    If you want to learn about Objectivism in an entertaining fashion, just play Bioshock.

    • MichaelANovelli

      Or watch Gone With The Wind.  Similiar moral with better characters…

  • Delawheredad

    Excellent review. What is absolutely terrifying is the number of important, policy making people swear by her  bankrupt “philosophy.” 
    She was one of the greatest hypocrites of all time. While railing against things like social security, as an old woman she happily cashed her SS checks (under an assumed name of course).  Apart from problems like those  her fiction was really of a period.
    During the Cold War her writing had something of a point. It was a radical reaction to Communism and Socialism.
    With the end of the Cold War her  “philosophy” should have faded away with the Berlin Wall. Instead her disciples have doubled down on their devotion. I guess if you like to be a selfish S.O.B she is the writer for you

    • MichaelANovelli

      I will concede that there are aspects of Objectivism I could agree with if the conclusions drawn from them weren’t completely illogical.  Ayn Rand was always a little more Ellsworth Toohey than Howard Roark, irony of ironies…

    • Cristiona

      It could be argued that cashing the checks was perfectly Objectivist: if the government is stupid enough to give away money, you’d be stupid not to take it.  Now, if the government had done away with Social Security and she started yelling about, “Where’s my checks?!” then it’d be hypocritical.

  • Zorha

    Laughing tears @ 8:00, again. It doesn’t matter who John Galt is as long as he pulls a Rorschach and drops the director of this cinematic euthanasia down an elevator shaft …

    • MichaelANovelli

      Well, I hope that you still stayed for the whole thing…

      • Zorha

        Oh I always finish everyone you’ve offered up. I don’t expect you to suffer alone through these thematic abortions … that being said I saw an odd today on ehow with a badly scrawled: “Who is John Galt?” I can’t believe Part II vomits out in October 2012!

  • weirdo

    Wait where are all the randbots? AFAIK Rorschach is a better written version of Galt.

    • MichaelANovelli

      Give them time, I’m sure they’ll come to say their piece…

    • Arakasi

      Well, Alan Moore did base Rorschach off of Steve Ditko’s Mr. A & The Question, and Ditko was a pretty ardent Objectivist; so the similarities are probably not coincidental

  • Mike
    • MichaelANovelli

      Except for the last paragraph, I enjoyed it a great deal…

      • TheCrazyFish

        Not to bash Hubbard because I know how you feel about that, but there is some similarity between Rand and Hubbard, mostly that they both promoted their philosophy through fiction novels, and also they’re both widely despised and their teachings widely ignored.

        • Kev

          Except one’s writings is the foundation for an insane brainwashing cult and the other is L. Ron Hubbard.

          • MichaelANovelli

            Plus, Rand never wrote anything as good as Under The Black Ensign!

          • Kev

            She never wrote anything as brilliant as gaining leverage over a Man-animal either. :)

          • MichaelANovelli

            Well, there were a lot of things Rand would never have considered, like: What would a man-animal like to eat?  What would he consider a treat?

          • The_Stig

            How about…

            *slams a severed head on the table*

            Your friendly neighborhood barkeep!

  • MichaelANovelli

    Anyone else think that the back cover of the DVD being slanted makes it look like Soviet propaganda?

    • TheCrazyFish

      All it needs is a hammer and sickle, and maybe a few backwards ‘R’s. Also a lot more red.

  • Cristiona

    I read Atlas Shrugged about 12 years ago, and from what I’ve seen here and what I remember from that, it looks like the makers of the film latched on to a few key things without fully understanding them and without understanding the motivations behind the actions.

    Some of the stuff with the Rearden steel.  It’s a cartoony world of “fairness” being taken to ridiculous extremes.  Since Rearden’s steel is so much better and cheaper than anyone else’s, it gives him an effective monopoly; there’s no reason to use normal steel.  But since the formula is proprietary and he won’t share the secret with anyone, he’s the sole supplier.  Well, that’s not “fair”, so the government passes punitive laws to either force him out of business (nobody can have it) or force him to give up the formula (everyone can have it).  But it’s such an extreme that it’s really hard to take seriously.

    So, it seems like the movie took ideas from the book without understanding them, and plot points from early on that weren’t resolved until later in the book, leaving you with a shallow film that’s littered with loose ends.  Which is a pity.  I mean, it’s not a great book, and it’s almost impossibly dry (especially the “greed is good” speech by Rearden and the even longer radio address by Galt), but I think it still could have been made into an interesting movie.

    Oh well.

    • TheCrazyFish

      The funny part is that the government wouldn’t even need to go to any sort of underhanded roundabout measures to break Reardon’s monopoly. There are actually already entire books of laws that exist solely to break monopolies like that.

      Here’s the thing that gets me, though. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Reardon because he came up with this amazing new thing and now he’s not even allowed to use it, because he’s being told that he either has to give it away or else no one can use it ever. Except…he can’t possibly be the one who came up with it. He’s not a physicist, a metallurgist, or a scientist of any other kind. No, someone in his employee invented Reardon Steel, someone who was then completely screwed out of his rightful payment. The guy who is actually responsible will never be rich. No one will ever even know his name.

      See, that’s why Rand was a hypocrite. I can totally see the argument of letting someone profit from their own hard work, except that executives aren’t responsible for any of said hard work, by the very definition of what an executive is.

      • Sunrise089

        Sorry, but there aren’t “whole books of law” on anything of the sort. Cristiona described a monopoly that occurred not through anti-competitive practices (which antitrust laws are designed to deal with) but through having a superior product. That’s no more illegal than the iPod dominating the mid-2000s media player market or Microsoft dominating the desktop operating system market. “But didn’t Microsoft get sued for antitrust violations?” you might say. Yes – for claimed anti-competitive practices, specifically leveraging their legal desktop near-monopoly to enhance their web browser near-monopoly.

        The very simple rule is that monopolies that occur because Company X is anti-competitive in some way are generally illegal and monopolies that occur because Company Y’s product happens to be so good everyone wants to buy it are generally legal.

        On the “fruits of their labor issue” for the creation of a product, you’re forgetting it wasn’t costless for Rearden to hire whatever metallurgist, engineer, etc helped come up with the formula. He paid that guy a wage, and like many real contracts, presumably that guy’s inventions went to the company, owned by Rearden, that paid him. No one put a gun to the head of the employee and made him sign. And why might signing such a contract be a good idea? Probably because most basic research doesn’t product anything of value, but engineers and scientists need to earn income. Think about the Manhattan Project or more recently the Large Hadron Collider. These are expensive things that will either product great value or produce nothing. Since any single scientist wouldn’t want to bet his life on whether he will find some sort of profitable discovery, we’re fortunate that large corporations like Rearden’s fictitious one, or 3M or GE in the real world (or government, or private non-profits) have the resources and time horizons to spend money now in hopes of an unlikely but valuable discovery;dr – It isn’t illegal in real-life for a company to have a monopoly because their product is good. And it’s only because of executives who “aren’t responsible for hard work” that costly private sector research happens at all.

        • TheCrazyFish

          Okay, so “whole books of laws” was an overstatement. What’s your point? Have you never heard of hyperbole?

          • Sunrise089

            Sorry if my post was unclear. My point, with all due respect, is that your statement “the funny part is that the government wouldn’t even need to go to any
            sort of underhanded roundabout measures to break Reardon’s monopoly” is factually in error. Nothing to do with hyperbole. If you had said “there’s one page of good, valid law on this topic” rather than “whole books” you’d still be making the error.

            Remember, the original point you were replying to was “Since Rearden’s steel is so much better and cheaper than anyone else’s,
            it gives him an effective monopoly; there’s no reason to use normal
            steel.” In that scenario there’s nothing actionable going on. I referenced Apple and Microsoft in my previous post, but you can also add in Google’s search engine, ARM’s mobile device intellectual property, and Sirius/XM’s satellite radio as other examples of companies who have effective monopolies in their industries and yet aren’t broken up by the government.  

            In the same way simply making a harmful statement about someone doesn’t create a valid defamation claim (the statement also needs to be untrue) or simply killing a person doesn’t create a valid murder claim (the killing must be unlawful in addition to some other requirements), simply having an “effective monopoly” does not give anyone cause “to break monopolies like that” unless there are also anti-competitive practices occurring.

            That said, I think some of your other thoughts are fair. I think we disagree about how common it is for executives to do the more blatant screw-over actions you reference in your newer post, but you certainly bring up valid questions about how credit and recognition are assigned for inventions in the modern corporate world.

          • TheCrazyFish

             Fortunately, such blatant screw-overs don’t happen as much anymore as they used to, thanks to labor unions and the news media, but it does still happen a lot more than it should. (Granted “how much it should happen” here means “not at all.”)

            In either case, as near as I can tell the primary argument of Rand’s philosophy is that all that stuff /should/ be happening far more often than it is. Rand seems to believe that the workers who support these executives are in fact no more than uppity slaves who need to be put in their place.

            I can’t abide that kind of thinking, and I think it stands in direct opposition to the whole “let people profit from their own hard work” thing. That’s the point I was making when I called Rand and her supporters hypocrites.

          • MichaelANovelli

            Well, my main argument to Objectivism (and Libertarianism to a lesser extent) is that they already tried Laissez-Faire economics and they didn’t work…

      • sloopyinca

        So the fact that his employee undoubtedly signed a contract and was compensated by Hank Rearden means nothing to you?  That happens every day:  a man or woman is contracted to do research and is well-comnpensated for their work.  When that work results in something patent-worthy, the company gets the resulting patent.

        It’s a fair exchange of goods with no coercion involved.  I can think of nothing fairer than that.

        Oh, and FWIW, the development of Rearden metal is addressed in the book.  He studied metallurgy and was the sole developer.  The fact that numbskulls like you can’t fathom the fact that a single person can invent or create anything makes me weep for our future.

        • MichaelANovelli

          In the book, Rearden may or may not have done all sorts of things.  However, since they failed to address that in the film, it’s irrelevant.  The movie is the movie and the book is the book.  We can debate each one seperately on their own merits.  Still, the debate about whether or not executives can claim credit for innovations done in the name of their companies is a fascinating one…

      • Cristiona

        Actually… I think he was a metallurgist, that was how he got his empire in the first place.  As I recall, there was very little “old money” the book.  I think Dagney was the only one who inherited her business.

      • TheCrazyFish

         Okay, apparently I need to clarify something here. People seem to be under the impression that I’m making a different point then the one I actually am making. To be clear: I’m not saying that a wealthy individual or corporation using his/its money to fund research and development is evil. That would be a very stupid argument to be sure.

        The point I’m making is about who gets credit. Let me move away from the example of Rearden as I admit I never read the book and don’t know if he invented the steel or not, and the point isn’t whether he did that or not anyway. The point is, is he solely responsible for his company’s success? And the answer to that question is no, of course not.

        Even if you could say that an executive is /mostly/ responsible for his company’s success he’s still not solely responsible. Rearden’s steel company was a team effort and yet… who gets to take credit for all the good they do? Rearden. Who gets to get rich? Rearden. Who gets to have his name put in the history books? Rearden.

        What do his employees get? They get to go home and eat dog food for dinner tonight because Mr. Rearden decided to slash salaries so he could afford a bigger jet, then later on in life maybe they’ll get to be fired one week before their retirement so that Mr. Rearden won’t have to give up any of his “private jet” money paying their retirement benefits. Then they get to die and be forgotten by the world while the monster that tormented them is remembered as a great hero and visionary.

        Don’t pretend that that sort of things never happens in the real world either. If you don’t believe me that real people like that exist do a google search for these names: Thomas Edison (with special regards to his dealings with Nikola Tesla), George Pullman, Henry Clay Frick, Bryant and May Match Company, Triangle Shirtwaist Company,  and I’m just going to randomly stop there (though with two side notes of “Enron” and “the airline industry in general”).

        To all those people who want to tell me I’m stupid and evil for disagreeing with a broken philosophy from a stupid and poorly written book, stop, take a deep breath, and remind yourself of this before you post that angry comment: “these are the kind of monsters you’re defending.”

  • Bart_Fargo

    You jokingly suggested that Ayn Rand’s ideal man would be a sociopath. IIRC, she once expressed a major crush on a 1920’s serial killer.

    • MichaelANovelli

      Yeah, I remember hearing that, too…

  • MichaelANovelli

    Well, it’s nice to see that the inevitable comment section argument is at least about something of substance.  It’s a nice change…

    • TheCrazyFish

      Dang, you’re right. We must rectify this. Mendo, your hat is stupid!

      (Just kidding, though I know this post probably won’t get approval anyway.)

  • Tim Terrell

     You wrote “Fountainhead” was better than “Atlas Shrugged”. It was still ham fisted and overbearing in it’s message.

    • TheCrazyFish

      What are you talking about? I don’t remember Fountainhead being mentioned at all in this review.

      Also, just saying it’s “better” doesn’t mean much. It’s like saying that getting stabbed in the thigh is preferable to being stabbed in the chest. It is, but you still don’t want either one.

      • MichaelANovelli

        There’s a note in the end credits…

        • TheCrazyFish


    • MichaelANovelli

      At the very least, Fountainhead is much shorter…

  • TheCrazyFish

    On another topic, I’ve never been clear on exactly how Ayn Rand’s name is supposed to be pronounced. You pronounce it as it’s spelled, with a long “A” but I’ve also heard it pronounced as “Ine Rand” and as “Ann Rand.”

    • MichaelANovelli

      I’ve heard various pronounciations myself.  In my defense, according the English rules of grammar, Proper Nouns don’t actually have “set” pronounciations, so no matter what the right one was, technically any way you pronounce it is right.

      Sure, let’s go with that…

  • I suspect the supposedly incorrect DVD cover is a scam to convince people to buy the movie on the logic that edition might be collectible in the future. Since all of the copies of the movie I’ve seen feature the wrong blurb, I believe it was in their rational self interest to make up that lie about the cover to justify some further sales.

    • MichaelANovelli

      That sounds convoluted enough to be true…

  • To quote a recent viewing at a tea party gathering (just to watch this movie): “Why is the acting so bad?”

    I tuned out after awhile. I’ve seen better acting in 1970s ABC movie of the week!

    • MichaelANovelli

      Wait, they all got together *just* to watch this film?  That’s sad in ways I didn’t know were possible…

  • are you still gooing to be doing Zardoz in the future? :D

    • MichaelANovelli

      Yes, but it’s proving to be a challenge…

  • Voyager 6

    How do you pronounce Ayn Rand’s name?  Well, I pronounce it “Callous, solipsistic, hate-mongering Nazi lunatic bitch”, but that’s probably just my Kiwi accent coming through.

    • MichaelANovelli

      Not to be rude, but “Ayn” is much shorter…

    • The Crazy Fish

      Hey, hey. Ayn Rand didn’t like Hitler any more than you do. The autobahn was wasteful government spending, after all. ;p

  • The Waffle Man.

    I wonder more about what gives that last guy the right to burn up his oil fields. The millions of years of hard work he spent converting dinosaur bones into useable fuel?

    I’ve always felt like Objectivists and Libertarians have tended to have a blind spot about how natural resources get distributed.

    I assumed Reardon had to have invented his steel himself, because otherwise the film’s attitude towards him makes no sense, but that just leads me to ask what possible relevance this could have to the real world. It seems to me that even if you get rich because of one of your own inventions, by the time you own 30 different companies you’re probably too busy running them to actually make shit yourself. When was the last time Bill Gates soldered a circuit board together?

    • MichaelANovelli

      Well, you have to remember, in the Objectivist mindset, “hardworking” means “rich”.  If Rearden has money, regardless of how he got it, he deserves it.  Therefore, since he was the one who got rich off of his idea, he’s the only one entitled to it…

  • packman_jon

    Wow.  I’m not surprised at all this film was Objectivist Porn.  This, along with Gingrich’s Moonbase (the idea and rationalization) helps solidify my position that people who are on the Rand bandwagon have no idea how the private sector they worship works. 

    One, most CEOs that don’t make headlines do give and are pretty generous (the last company I worked CEO donated a lot and volunteered locally! Cool guy too). 


    Three, Trains? The high speed rail idea you pointed out is brilliant. Internationally, (non-frieght) rail is considered infrastructure worldwide since the 20th century-ish.  You haven’t had private sector infrastructure since the 1800s with dirt roads and tollbooths.  Yeah, only the most diehard Randites would want that.  Most importantly, the assumptions surrounding trains is ridiculous.  Especially the assumption us Americans would hop on the train instead of using smaller vehicles or bikes (as seen in  most price spikes like the 1970s and mid 2000s)


    Damn the Objectivist bandwagon boils me up.  Mostly for the first point I made (why are there more politicians that are “objectivist” than corporate leaders? Because one group of people actually knows how the real world works! – mostly)

    • MichaelANovelli

      A very good point.  After all, Wendy’s very heavily supports the Republican Party, but they also run a private charity for orphans.  The Dave Thomas Foundation is actually the only charity I support, but that’s a whole other thing…

  • For some reason this movie makes me think of Bioshock and the city of Rapture.

    • MichaelANovelli

      I imagine that was intentional.

  • MichaelANovelli

    It just occurred to me: this went up the day before I got out of the army!

  • Atlas shrugged part 2 comes out in theaters today!!!!!!!!!!!

    • MichaelANovelli


  • The_Stig

    This movie would have kicked so much ass if it had a steampunk setting. But then again I think everything would kick ass if it had a steampunk setting.

    Then again, I’m not even sure steampunk could save Atlas Shrugged.

  • ayn rand,  INventor of trekobabble!!! 10 years before Roddenberry!!!

    • MichaelANovelli

      I had not thought of that before…


    So they set this in 2016? I wonder why they chose that year….

    • MichaelANovelli

      I just don’t understand why people who hate Obama so much believe the world will end the year he leaves office…

  • David White

    Wyatt could buy and sell the world with all the oil and gas he had in his backyard!!

    • MichaelANovelli

      And yet, him starting the largest fire in human history is still a good thing, for some reason…

    • Kid Charlemagne

      More to the point, in the real world, Wyatt and Rearden and Dagny Taggart and the other tycoons could buy the politicians with their pocket change, and have the government run to suit the tycoons–as their real-world counterparts have done.

      • MichaelANovelli

        Oh, but politicians are evil, you see, because they’re elected by the Non-Specials! ;)

  • annewilson118

    Interesting piece . Coincidentally , if your company has been searching for a MHA RMA Request For Modification and Affidavit , my wife encountered a template form here