How I think Atlas Shrugged should’ve been written for the screen

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Right so a while ago the first installment of the Atlas Shrugged trilogy was released. Now to be clear i haven’t watched it yet, but from what I could see, some of the things I was scared would happen already have.

Atlas Shrugged is such an incredibly dense book with multiple plot lines all weaving together to create one epic tale. Unfortunately unless you’re willing to create a 10 part episode series it really is a mammoth task to extract only the key scenes and compress them together in 3 feature films. So from what I can see the movie already seems quite confusing to someone who is not familiar with the book. Having multiple characters compete for center stage have led them to only focus on Hank and Dagny. Fair enough they are two of the biggest, but in typical hollywood fashion there is already an implication of an overly romantic tinge to the movie. The other thing I noticed is that I always imagined characters such as Hank’s mother, brother and wife as very realistic. I know people like this. I imagined them as subtly but pointedly manipulative, in a wheedling but condescending way. The brother just ended up being self assuredly arrogant in an almost comical manner.

So all I’ve seen was the trailer and a few cut scenes. But one thing has become clear. Even the trailer couldn’t condense itself suitably to draw people in. They tried to stuff as much information as possible into as little time as possible with as much romance, drama and action. Typically Hollywood. Sounds a bit like a recipe for disaster if you know the book, or remember the feeling of reading it.

The best possible alternative I could see for it being adapted to big screen would’ve been to break up the movie in 3 parts (as has been done), but then center each film on a different main character. Originally I thought it should start with Dagny’s side, but this would then cause a bit of disruption in the flow that i have in mind. So rather start with Hank and the trials he has to overcome. In the mean time little bit of background about Dagny can be slipped in up to the point that they meet, decide to tackle the rail way line together. Second movie would then center on Dagny. Getting to know her back story, her trials at the railway company and picking up around her brother. By no means should this movie start at the beginning again. It should continue where the first left off with Hank’s story, but with subtle backstory cues to help the viewer along. This one should then continue to the point where Dagny’s plane goes missing.

And then for the third movie; and this is why it was so important that Dagny should form the bridge in the second movie; should center around John Galt. Starting with where he welcomes her to the hidden retreat and shows her the way of life there. Once again with back story cues to fill you in on John’s history, but these clues could’ve been inserted in the first two movies already as a thread throughout. (“Who is John Galt?) As sad as it would be, for cinematic reasons and story flow, it would probably be better to leave the storyline on the static engine out as this would just require unnecessary time and dialogue to explain.

In between these 3 movies the character of Francisco can act as a prophet/jester style character weaving in and out preparing Hank and Dagny respectively for what’s to come with the disappearance of the other industrialists as omens.

It might seem like a strange way to approach such a dense book, but it’s a line of thought that’s appealed to me and that I thought would help to endear each character more strongly to the viewer. Currently it seems they’re losing focussing by trying to tell all at the same time as it happens in the book.

So far I’m not saying the movie is bad, as I have yet to see it and I am still holding thumbs that it surprises me. This is just how I would’ve broken it up if the task had been up to me.

PS – I am not a film student and have no background in drama. I’m just a very big fan of the book and the characters.

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