Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thoughts on the Atlas Shrugged movie

The first novel of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is "set in a universe like ours, but different in many ways." That is, there are plenty of familiar landmarks -- there's a city of London, an Oxford University, and also some Scandinavian countries and a Texas. Yet it's not the same. In some ways, the clothes and mannerisms of the characters seem a throwback to the Victorian era in our own world, but that's not quite right either. The technology is off -- e.g. there are airships and electric (what Pullman calls anbaric) lights, but no silent films or streetcars.

I bring this up because I think it's helpful to think of the novels of Ayn Rand as set in a universe that's like ours, but different in many ways. As in Pullman's imaginary world, there are geographic landmarks common to both worlds -- New York City; Colorado; Washington, D.C. Yet again, the technology presented doesn't seem to fit neatly into any particular historical era; it's in some ways too modern to fit in the world of the 1940s or 50s, when Rand was writing, yet it doesn't seem quite right as futurist dystopia either. And, once you accept the "universe that's like ours, but different in many ways" starting premise, it gets easier to live with some of the goofiness that Rand's critics have long lamented. You can just sit back and enjoy her stylized universe for what it is.

Given all this, I share Tyler Cowen's misgivings about the aesthetics of the new Atlas Shrugged movie. It is probably not good that I imagined this thing as film in my head about a dozen times as teenager. But you can watch the trailer below and judge for yourself. Finally, but see the reactions of Barbara Branden.

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