Has there ever been a Hollywood adaptation of a major novel as faithful and yet so misguided and downright strange as the three-part version of Ayn Rand 's Atlas Shrugged that now comes to a conclusion with the third installment? Independently produced by Rand faithful and marketed almost exclusively to a like-minded audience, the project at the very least embodies a do-it-yourself tenacity the author herself would have vigorously endorsed, as box-office receipts have fallen very short of covering the productions' costs. Self-distributed beginning Sept. 12 on 254 screens, the minimally promoted film will generate a box-office total close to those of the first two, which amounted to $ million and $ million, respectively.
When Rand was writing in the 1950s, one of the pillars of American industrial might was the railroads. In her novel the railroad owner, Dagny Taggart, an enterprising industrialist, has a FedEx-like vision for expansion and first-rate service by rail. But she is continuously badgered, cajoled, taxed, ruled and regulated -- always in the public interest -- into bankruptcy. Sound far-fetched? On the day I sat down to write this ode to "Atlas," a Wall Street Journal headline blared: "Rail Shippers Ask Congress to Regulate Freight Prices."
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.