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Shrug it off

The last movie was a total flop, but part two will be a hit, right?

I’m Not Angry
Kyle Leitch

A&C Writer

Aha! You thought you could sneak by, didn’t you, you putrescent piece of trash? You thought you could give me a couple of Kevin James movies to occupy my time with, and you could just waltz in the back door, completely immune to my overly critical gaze. Well, luckily for me, Kevin James movies have absolutely zero substance at all. And now, the swift hammer of justice is coming for you, Atlas Shrugged, Part II!

For those of you who aren’t big up on reading books outside of your English classes, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is basically the bible for extremist objectivists, and preaches laissez-faire economics about as forcefully. For decades, people said that Atlas Shrugged could and would never be filmed because of its grand science fiction images and rather controversial approach to the economy and government.

Jump from 1957, when the novel was first published, to the year 2007. That was the year that the illegitimate lovechild of Atlas Shrugged and the PC game System Shock 2 came out on the Xbox. Its name? Bioshock. Its aim?  To show the world that grandiose storytelling and unique visual design in Triple-A game releases wasn’t already a thing of the past. The story of Bioshock borrows heavily – read: extensively – from the story of Atlas Shrugged. An extreme objectivist by name of Andrew Ryan builds a vast utopia under the sea. In the land of Rapture, men and women are entitled to the fruits of their own labour, free from government coercion. Of course, the utopia falls when human greed gets in the way, and the dystopian Rapture where the events of Bioshock take place is born.

Unlike Atlas Shrugged, which received almost entirely negative critical reviews upon its release, Bioshock was met with overwhelming critical acclaim. Shortly after the game’s release, it was ported over to the Playstation 3, and, before a sequel to the award-winning game was announced, talks of a film version were already underway. The Bioshock film quickly gained more and more momentum while the very idea of an Atlas Shrugged film seemed laughable, at best.

The first signs of trouble came when the project lost three directors in as many months. Ordinarily, this isn’t unusual for a project that far in development. But for a project that would be seemingly as big as a Bioshock movie adaptation, this only spelled trouble. But finally, a ray of hope shone through. Guillermo del Toro, the genius director behind Pan’s Labyrinth was rumoured to be interested. Here was a guy who could capture the dark atmosphere of Rapture on the brink of collapse.

Things went shockingly quiet for a while. Other projects were announced, and only then would the Bioshock movie go into production. Finally, del Toro went on the record as saying that the project would be on indefinite hiatus. No studio was willing to bankroll such an effects-heavy film that was guaranteed to be rated R, so the story went. The idea of a Bioshock movie was barely in the ground before Atlas Shrugged: Part I was released in theatres.

Studio backing from Lion’s Gate had fallen through, and so the specially formed Atlas Productions had to fund the film on a shoestring budget. This confined much of the shooting indoors, and many of the name-actors that were previously attached did not appear in the film. Critically, the film was a nightmare. It raised just over $1,000,000 in the 300 combined theatres that it was shown in, for an average of $3,500 per theatre. Atlas Shrugged was a box office joke. The franchise was dead, and so was Bioshock. We may not have been happy, but we could take solace in the fact that if Bioshock wasn’t being made, then neither was Atlas Shrugged.

Atlas Shrugged: Part II was released to a rousing chorus of “What the Hell?!” on Oct. 12, 2012. None of the original cast returned for this sequel, and most of the crew had been replaced. Atlas Shrugged: Part II did even worse at the box office than its predecessor, earning just shy of $700 per theatre it was shown in. What’s worse is that the remaining producers are gearing up for the third part of this floundering trilogy to be released next year.

It’s been purported that, since 1957, over $40,000,000 has been spent trying to adapt Atlas Shrugged for the big screen. And my question is simply this: why in the shitting blue hell would you continue to bathe a joke of a novel in vast amounts of money when there’s a perfectly good and righteously popular video game with almost the same story just begging to be turned into a movie? Bioshock is Atlas Shrugged underwater! If you had such a raging hard-on to turn Atlas Shrugged into a movie, wouldn’t it have made sense to at the very least use source material that was relevant in the 21st century?

No, instead, we’re subjected to two terrible films in a three-part shitstorm. A Bioshock movie is unlikely to happen in our lifetime, and we have these cock-eyed, mouth-breathing objectivist yahoos with more money than sense to thank for it. In short, fuck you Dagny Taggart, you train-riding whore. You, unlike so many of Rapture’s splicers, managed to bring the Big Daddy down. And if you didn’t get those references, you’re as much to blame as aforementioned objectivist yahoos. But I’m not angry. Honest.

Photo courtesy Kyle Leitch

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