For the product of a creator as humorless as Ayn Rand, that “Atlas Shrugged—Part I” movie has certainly provided us with plenty of chuckles this year. First there is the film itself, which was greeted with reviews only slightly warmer than the ones for “Jack and Jill” (“Not all books should be made into movies, and this is one of them,” Boston Phoenix; “The tinhorn film version of ‘Atlas Shrugged: Part 1’ fails to rise even to the level of ‘eh’ suggested by Ayn Rand’s title,” Chicago Tribune). Then came its theatrical release on April 15 (GET IT?), when – in spite of the tireless efforts of such renowned cinematic publicists as FreedomWorks and John Stossel – it tanked, failing to earn back even a quarter of its $20 million budget. The perils of the free market, am I right?
But like many a previous would-be cinematic impresario, the producers of “Atlas Shrugged—Part I” could always put their trust in the home video market, where perhaps the film could finally find an audience, folks looking for a bit of light, pro-business entertainment to toss in the DVD player after “Hannity.” Why, popular and financial success on home video might even create sufficient demand for the planned sequels. (It worked for Austin Powers!) From here on out, it’s cake – press the DVDs, work up the packaging, easy peasy.
Except, ha ha, whoops.
“Atlas Shrugged—Part I“ ‘s DVD and Blu-ray release was handled by the folks at 20th Century Fox, whom you’d think would know a thing or two about Randian philosophy. But here’s what they worked up for the back jacket copy:
“Ayn Rand’s timeless novel of courage and self-sacrifice comes to life…”
I also write for a DVD review site, so I’ve spent a lot of time reading DVD jackets, and I can assure you that “timeless novel of courage and self-sacrifice” is the kind of phrase you come across constantly; it’s the sort of vaguely positive description that film marketing spin is made of. The trouble, of course, is that Rand’s “timeless” novel is about, um, the exact opposite of self-sacrifice.
As anyone who’s suffered through its 1,200 or so pages can tell you, Rand’s literary landscape is (to borrow a phrase from Michael Phillips’ Tribune review) “me-time, all the time.” Describing it as a tale of “self-sacrifice” is something akin to describing Sicko as a clarion call about the dangers of the social safety net.
The film’s producer, Harmon Kaslow, has sprung into action, releasing this statement: “As we all well know, the ideas brought to life in ‘Atlas Shrugged’ are entirely antithetical to the idea of ‘self-sacrifice’ as a virtue. ‘Atlas’ is quite literally a story about the dangers of self-sacrifice. The error was an unfortunate one and fans of Ayn Rand and ‘Atlas’ have every right to be upset… and we have every intention of making it right.”
They’re “making it right,” in this case, by replacing the jacket sleeves with a revised version, this time summarizing Rand’s work as a “timeless novel of rational self-interest.” And in the spirit of rational self-interest, Kaslow also noted, “To those that purchased the flawed cover, congratulations are in order. You’ve inadvertently got yourself a real collector’s item there.” The free market lives on!