Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart, Atlas Shrugged: Part I
The marketplace not only shrugged at, but downright turned its back on Atlas Shrugged: Part I, the widely derided film adaptation of Ayn Rand's 1957 novel about the individual's struggle against collectivism and government forces.
Directed by Paul Johansson from a screenplay by John Aglialoro and Brian Patrick O'Toole, and starring Taylor Schilling as Rand's heroine Dagny Taggart, Atlas Shrugged was supposed to have been – as the title indicates – part one of what would ultimately become a film trilogy like, huh, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings or Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors.
According to reports published in the last couple of days, that was no longer going to happen. Atlas Shrugged co-producer and co-screenwriter John Aglialoro blamed the liberal media and film critics for their willful, politically motivated box office destruction of his opus.
That, however, would be an acknowledgment that the United States' (purported) 11 million Tea Party members to whom Atlas Shrugged was targeted actually read – and believe in – film reviews written by bleeding-heart lefties. (Now, please, Tea Partiers, don't go calling me a bigot or compare me to a Nazi because I'm referring to liberals as "bleeding-heart lefties.")
So, Aglialoro now says he was misquoted. On the right-wing site Big Hollywood, in addition to singling out Roger Ebert and Peter Travers as enemies of his film and its ideals, the producer claims he wants to do Atlas Shrugged parts II and III, but without betraying Ayn Rand's "principles." In other words, without losing money.
"This has to be a profitable venture." Aglialoro explains. "The challenge is in finding a way to overcome the critics and the rest of the establishment, who are united against us."
In the same piece, co-producer Harmon Kaslow goes on to claim that CNN, CNBC, and MSNBC, for unspecified "editorial reasons," refused to air a 15-second commercial for Atlas Shrugged.
"This unforeseen censorship effectively puts the brakes on our follow-up marketing efforts where we were trying to reach millions of people unaware of the movie being in theaters now," Kaslow adds. (Scroll down to take a look at the "censored" ad.)
When Atlas Shrugged opened, Fox News reported that Hollywood executives were "baffled" at its box office performance. If true, they didn't remain baffled for very long.
Atlas Shrugged: Part I had a passable opening for a movie at only 299 theaters, $5,590 per site. The following weekend (April 22-24), the political drama plummeted, losing nearly 50 percent of its business despite screening at 150 (50 percent) more locations. Its average thus dropped to a dismal $1,890 per site. It'll likely soon disappear without a trace.
Also at Big Hollywood, quoting the ever-reliable New York Post, we learn that the New York Times (purposefully?) refrained from reviewing Atlas Shrugged when it came out, which may (once again purposefully?) have led to a major loss of revenue for Johansson's film.
Below is the initial paragraph from Carina Chocano's Times review, which was published yesterday, April 28. I don't know about you, but I get the feeling that Atlas Shrugged: Part I was immensely helped by the fact that the Times opted to ignore it at the time of its debut ten days ago. Seems to me it was an act of mercy, not malice.
Could anyone have guessed, way back when it was published in 1957, that Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's grandiloquent doorstop of a masterwork, would one day reach the big screen as high-camp comedy? Because stilted prose and silly plotting notwithstanding, Rand's unrelentingly popular book has exerted a powerful ideological hold on the culture, an influence that has only intensified in recent years with the emergence of the Tea Party. Still, for unintentional yet somehow boring hilarity, the novel can't touch the cinematic adaptation, which shifts the action to 2016 and presents Rand's ham-fisted fable of laissez-faire capitalism as something C-Span might make if it ever set out to create a futuristic, proto-libertarian nighttime soap. In the 1980s.
And here's Roger Ebert's tweet following the announcement that Atlas Shrugged: Part I would become Atlas Shrugged: Period.
Atlas Shrugged producer cancels Parts 2 and 3, blames critics, not his own lousy film.
Photo: Atlas Shrugged (Rocky Mountain Pictures)