Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Atlas Fragged

Still on the subject of the Atlas Shrugged movie, RandZapper discovered a delightfully clueless report on the film, filed by longtime Objectivist Bob Bidinotto in July of 2006. The report shows up in the archives of the Laissez Faire Books website, but for some reason the page can be accessed only in Google's cache.

Posted on 7/13/06, the LFB entry breathlessly announces that Atlas will soon be a Super Duper Major Motion Picture. According to Bidinotto, who has all kinds of ultra-exclusive Grade A inside dope:

The plan is for the film to be shot and shown in three parts, as a trilogy, like "Lord of the Rings." Only that length, they said, would give sufficient scope to tell Ayn Rand's long, complex story. (The initial $40 million would go mainly to Part I.)...
Oops. Well, that part of the master plan seems to have fallen by the wayside, as there is now no hint of a three-part Atlas, but only a single two-and-a-half-hour snoozefest. Which is obviously just as well, since Lord of the Rings was a colorful, fast-paced story of heartwarming characters and fabulous monsters, while Atlas is a tedious ideological screed stocked with cardboard heroes spouting Randian cliches as they sit around their offices watching their profits shrink. Nobody but the most brain-dead Randroid is gonna pay to sit through nine hours of that.

But ... if "only that length" would do justice to Atlas, then can we assume that the producers now concede that the new slimmed-down movie will not do justice to the book?

LFB continues with its scoop:

The first draft of the script for Part I has been completed by James V. Hart, a veteran screenwriter among whose major credits are "Contact," "Hook," and "Tuck Everlasting."
Hart's script was promptly filed in the shredder, and a new screenwriter, Randall Wallace of Braveheart fame, was hired. It seems a natural choice. He has the word Rand in his name, just like Nathaniel Branden. And having worked with Mel Gibson, he's used to dealing with crazy people.

Philosopher David Kelley -- founder, past executive director, and now Senior Fellow of The Atlas Society (formerly The Objectivist Center) -- has worked closely with Hart to insure the screenplay's philosophical fidelity to the novel.... [Kelley] rates the screenplay about an "8" out of a possible "10."
That's the screenplay they trashed, remember.

The [producers] revealed that they have been deluged with major stars who want to play in the film.
Deluged with major stars, are they? Well, more than a year later no other "major stars" have been attached to the project, so can we assume that the deluge has slowed to a trickle?

While they were eager to hear our suggestions for various characters, the only name they emphasized, repeatedly, was Angelina Jolie for the Dagny role. They made it very clear that Jolie wants to play Dagny very, very much -- and that other actresses (e.g., Ashley Judd), while possibly excellent for the part, might not have the stellar box-office appeal that would allow the film to be a huge success, especially abroad....
RandZapper pauses for the laughter to subside. Jolie has "stellar box-office appeal"? In what star system, Alpha Centauri? In our solar system, the only profitable live-action flick Jolie has made in the last six years was Mr. and Mrs. Smith, co-starring Brad Pitt. It reaped a very healthy $186,336,279. Other than that, here is the dishonor roll of Angelina's big-screen flops since 2001:

Her most recent film, the star vehicle A Mighty Heart, grossed a pathetic $9,176,787.

The Good Shepherd managed to rake in $59,908,565, probably still not enough to cover production and advertising costs.

The laughable Oliver Stone epic Alexander amassed only $34,297,191.

Jolie did manage to make a profitable movie in Shark Tale - $160,861,908 - but since this animated kiddie film only relied on her vocal talents and was aimed at tiny tots, we're not sure it counts.

How about the retro sci-fi flick Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow? $37,762,677.

The serial killer chiller-thriller Taking Lives, another star turn for Angelina? $32,682,342.

Something called Beyond Borders, which we have never heard of: $4,430,101.

The sequel to Tomb Raider, called Lara Croft and the Cradle of Life - a disappointing and unprofitable $65,660,196. The sequel's poor performance killed the once-promising franchise stone cold dead.

Another nobody-has-ever-heard-of-it movie, Life, or Something Like It: $14,448,589.

And yet another exercise in instant obscurity, Original Sin: $16,534,221.

We're now back to 2001, and the glory days of the first Tomb Raider and the car-heist movie Gone in Sixty Seconds, both of which scored north of a hundred million bucks. Jolie had box office appeal in 2001, no doubt. But since then? Slim pickings indeed.

This is the "major star" who's going to shoulder the burden of making a stupefying yawner like Atlas Shrugged into a money-making venture? Good luck with that.

But really, none of this matters - since, as LFB informs us:

Relative star status is probably being overstressed in the minds of the moviemakers. If the movie is done well, it's going to be a box-office juggernaut no matter, world-wide.
Hell, yeah! A box-office juggernaut, just like the political juggernaut of the Ron Paul campaign!

These sad, clueless bastards really do believe there's a vast audience of Randinistas out there just waiting to see the greatest novel in history, written by the greatest thinker in history, turned into the greatest movie in history.

Here is RandZapper's prognostication. The movie will open big because of the book's notoriety and the long lines of Rand fanatics who will sally forth from their parents' basements to show up on opening night. It will quickly fizzle, killed by murderous reviews, toxic word of mouth, and general public indifference to all things Randian. Within a month it will be a punchline, not unlike the Bennifer bomb Gigli (domestic gross: $6,087,542). Comparisons to Plan 9 from Outer Space will proliferate. And Rand will be even more of a joke than she already is (if such a thing is possible).

For all these reasons, RandZapper wishes the producers success in getting this turkey off the ground. It could be the final embarrassment for Objectivism, the massive self-detonating bomb that will end the Randist movement for good.


Update (11/20/07): Jolie's string of box office misfires continues with the overhyped Beowulf, which underperformed expectations on its opening weekend and seems primed to tank, big-time.