There are millions of ways to divide the population into two groups. Some people have read ATLAS SHRUGGED and some people haven't. Fortunately for both groups, this epic tome is being made into a trilogy of movies, part one of which has recently been released.
FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK:
The fundamental lesson (or moral to the story, if you prefer) is that your thoughts have consequences with exactly the same cause and effect exhibited by the laws of physics. The way you think directly affects your life, and therefore it is important to understand what you think and why you think it. In order to teach this valuable lesson, the primary characters in Ayn Rand's novel are easily identified as either heroes or villains. Rand divides her imaginary population into people who work hard and produce wealth, and people who spend their time trying to justify the theft of wealth created by others. The fantasy of this story contemplates what would happen to society if all the people who create the wealth simply disappeared and stopped producing.
FOR THOSE WHO HAVE READ THE BOOK
Theaters nationwide were filled on opening night with those who have waited for years for their favoite book to reach the silver screen. Many of them giddy with anticipation, while others were nervous that the filmmakers would not do justice to such an important literary work. I managed to balance my emotions between these two extremes, at once thrilled that I wouldn't have to read 1,100 pages again, and resigned to the fact that the film would probably fall short of my expectations. I am pleased to report that the movie didn't suck. In fact, I'm impressed that the movie exceeded my expectations in many ways.
I was very surprised to find the timeline begins in the future of 2016. I never expected the scenario that expensive fuel costs would effectively eliminate air travel, and resurrect the entire train industry. This clever twist convinced me not to rush to judgement until I viewed the entire movie. I also applaud the casting department for their choice of actors and actresses to fill the shoes of characters most of us have held in our imaginations for decades. While some complain that the lead roles are filled by people we've never heard of, I consider this a stroke of genius. Every actor carries the "baggage" of past performances. No matter what movie John Wayne appears in, the audience recognizes him immediately, and has very definite expectations of the character he portrays. Attempting to cast Dagney Taggert and Hank Rearden with the likes of Angelina Jolie and George Clooney would "contaminate" characters that need to remain pure and devoid of any preconcieved expectations.
I have often considered the causal relationship between the greatness of the hero and the treachery of the criminal. John Wayne would not be very impressive if he rescues the city by shooing away a Girl Scout charging too much for her cookies. "Keep walkin' little lady! You think I'm MADE of money?!" The larger and more treacherous the bad guy, the more we can glorify the person who restores "truth, justice, and the American way". For that reason, I'm thankful for the gut-wrenching, visceral hatred I felt for the bureaucrats in the movie who are scheming behind closed doors to justify the theft and destruction of others. It is precisely that reason that I was able to feel a teary-eyed sense of exhilerated joy when the good guys are wildly successful completing their project in spite of any attempts to see them fail.
I have read ATLAS SHRUGGED many times, and I know the philosophy extremely well, even if I have forgotten specific details about the story. I think the movie retains enough of the relevant dialog to allow everyone to follow the plot. Make no mistake, this is a movie and story about and for intellectuals. If you're expecting gratuitious sex and violence, you're going to be extremely disappointed. If you want to learn more about the way the world works, and the way people think, then I highly recommend this movie. In fact, if you're buying the popcorn, I'll watch this movie again.