Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Long Tail for the Silver Screen - Atlas Shrugged Part II

We went to see the second part (of three) of Atlas Shrugged tonight.   It is an odd sequel.   None of the original players are in the second part of the trilogy.  I think for the most part it continues to hold relatively closely to the original story.

When the first part was released (2011), it was given lousy reviews, although I actually liked it because it stuck very closely to the book.   Rotten Tomatoes gave it an 11.  But the audience gave it a 73.   I think part of it is the problem of bringing Rand to the screen.   Any writer who lets her main characters preach on in perorations of 70 or 80 pages is hard to translate.  But the producers were able to capture Rand without as much of the pedantry.

The professional reviewers uniformly panned the movie but it is clear that few, if any, had actually read the novel.  Those that had I think were intent on stomping Rand's ideas into the ground.   For example Brian Miller of some rag called LA Review said - "Apart from its deficiencies as fiction, whatever its philosophical limitations (the rich and able should only help themselves in Rand's "Objectivism"), the book proves proudly indigestible on film."   Surprisingly the reviewer for Sacramento News and Review liked the version.

Part II, as mentioned above, has a different cast.  The new Dagne is a bit less stylish.   The second part comes up to the point in the novel when Dagne lands in John Galt land.   The second part cost about $10 million to make and so far has brought in under $2 million.

The reviewers were no less fierce on the second part - for example Steve Persall of the Tampa Bay Times complained "New viewers aren't expected to jump into the dense story now, and anyone coming back for seconds is predisposed to believing this is the most important movie of the year. Sean Hannity or another right-wing mouthpiece told them so."   Again the Sacramento News and Review writer said the second part remained true to the book.   The professionals gave it a Rotten Tomatoes 6 and the people gave it an 83.

Rand's novels have been on the screen before.  The Fountainhead was done in 1949 with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal.  When I first watched the movie I thought it was a good adaptation of the novel but not great entertainment.

Chris Anderson's book the Long Tail may offer some insights for the reviewer community.  The "professional" reviewers, as they ofter do, seem to have missed the mark.  Mike Masnick of TechDirt seems to have had the most astute review of the movie (I think for both parts) "it's not a movie for the reviewers. It's a movie for a specific audience, and it seems to have hit that audience head on."   Masknick recognized that a project like this is for a target audience and that box office is only part of the deal.  The producers also bought the merchandising rights.   And according to Masnick those sales went quite well for Part I.   If you do not want to wade through the 1200 pages of the novel - sitting through six hours of celluloid (which is what the entire project will become) may be a good compromise.   Rand was an odd person and not a very gifted writer - but the body of her writing on liberty could not be more current.  The producers did a mashup of current events with trailers from Part 1 - it helped to drive sales of merchandise.

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