Audiences applaud as the movie ends – with Ellis Wyatt having set his own oilfield on fire and gone off with the rebel messiah John Galt. His signboard of defiance to big government, “Take it. It’s yours,” brings railroader Dagny Taggart to her knees. Washington central planner Wesley Mouch has either killed Colorado’s ascendancy or delayed it. We’ll find out in Part II, next April 15.
The book is not great literature, and this isn't great cinema. But as an indictment of false collectivist compassion, it works. Let’s hope millions see it and wake up. In a March 2009 column entitled “When Will Atlas Shrug?”, I took note of the already stiff resistance to Obama’s redistributionist guilt trip. With the John Galt message in theaters, Americans’ defense of our liberties may stiffen more.
So far so good. Yet after emerging into the spring night and reassuring myself there was no smoke on the Rocky Mountain skyline from the torching of Wyatt Oil, I wondered how much real difference there is between the “Atlas Shrugged” movie and the sensationalistic sci-fi stuff like “X-Men” and “Priest” that we had just seen trailers for.
Fantasy is fantasy, after all: diverting at best, narcotic at worst. The energy time warp that could make Taggart’s trains dominant over trucks and planes by 2016, and the magic technology that could power Galt’s miracle motor, both of which “Atlas” asks us to believe in, only provide a stage backdrop for the superhuman intelligence, virtue, and charisma of John Galt himself.
It all requires the myth-spinner’s precondition, suspension of disbelief – and someone will have to tell me how that is helpful. The only basis for getting anywhere politically, economically, culturally, or morally, is practical realism about the limitations of the human condition and the imperfections of us all, not hero-worship and panacea dreams. Thirty disillusioning months of Barack the Great have surely taught us that.