Atlas Shrugged Part One appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This wasn’t a flawless presentation, but it usually looked good.
Overall sharpness satisfied. A few wide shots could be a bit soft, but those weren’t an isse. Instead, most of the flick was accurate and concise. I noticed no shimmering or jaggies, and print flaws remained absent.
Colors worked fine. The film opted for an amber tint, and the hues looked rich and appealing within those stylistic choices. Blacks looked deep and dense, but shadows tended to be lackluster; low-light shots – occasionally exacerbated by day-for-night filters – seemed somewhat thick. Those weren’t a big issue, though, as the shadows were decent most of the time. This was a good but not great image.
Although I discerned no serious flaws with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Shrugged, it failed to merit a grade above a “B“. Part of that stemmed from the mix’s general lack of involvement. Some of the train sequences added punch, but the majority of the movie concentrated on atmosphere. Given the story’s dialogue-heavy orientation, that was fine; the flick didn’t really need a lot of sonic pyrotechnics.
Audio quality was fine. Speech was consistently natural and distinctive, and I noticed no edginess or other concerns. Music demonstrated good range and clarity, as the score was bright and acceptably bold. Effects also came across well. They seemed clean and accurate, and they kicked in decent low-end material when necessary. Ultimately, the soundtrack was good enough to earn a “B“.
A few extras fill out the set. We launch with an audio commentary from producer Harmon Kaslow, producer/co-screenwriter John Aglialoro and co-screenwriter Brian Patrick O’Toole. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of the project's long, slow path to the screen, adaptation and script/story/character issues, sets and locations, cast and crew, music, and some other areas.
For the most part, the commentary offers a fairly good overview of the production. We get a decent feel for the various topics and learn a reasonable amount the film’s creation. I especially like the aspects that address the adaptation of the novel and changes made along the way.
But – and you knew a “but” was coming – some problems arise along the way. At times, Aglialoro tends to simply narrate the movie, and that trend becomes more dominant as the movie progresses; the first half of the commentary works significantly better than the second half.
In addition, I think the track suffers from too much editorial content. Granted, one could argue that it’s unreasonable to expect a Shrugged discussion that leaves out its social and political ramifications, but I kinda sorta hoped that’d be the case here, especially since we go well past the end of the first act before this side of the chat becomes a factor.
But become a factor it does, as the participants – mainly Aglialoro – make their opinions more than clear. Of course, one would expect folks who adapted Shrugged to share its beliefs, but I think these come out in a rather abrasive and arrogant manner. Aglialoro nears “spittle-inflected” territory as he eschews his worldview, as he comes across as a pretty angry guy, especially when he slams the critics who panned his movie.
Curiously, Aglialoro and the others seem to believe the film flopped for reasons other than its quality, as they believe critics attacked it for political reasons and nothing else. I can’t speak for others, but I came down hard on Shrugged due to my belief that it’s an incompetently made flick; even if I agreed with its politics, that wouldn’t make it a good film.
Clearly the commentary participants think they made a great flick, so I guess they have to come up with conspiracy theories to explain its critical and commercial failure. But if they’re true Rand disciples, shouldn’t they just accept that the free market spoke and no one wanted to see their movie? And that maybe it just wasn’t good and failed to find an audience because of that? Methinks some hypocrisy appears here.
Two featurettes follow. Road to Atlas Shrugged goes for five minutes, 13 seconds and includes notes from Aglialoro. He discusses Ayn Rand, the philosophy of Objectivism, and the movie’s path to the screen. Aglialoro tells us some minor production basics but mostly talks about the greatness of the story, Rand, Objectivism and the flick. This ends up as little more than promotion.
With the 35-minute, 11-second I Am John Galt, we start with an opening from the movie’s online marketing director. We see his online appeal to the flick’s Facebook fans to shoot clips of themselves saying “I am John Galt” – and that’s what we get here. This is more than half an hour of people saying the same line over and over and over again. I’m sure the people who participated enjoyed the chance to get their Blu-ray/DVD moment of fame, but viewing doesn’t get duller than this.
”The John Galt Theme” Slideshow fills three minutes, 39 seconds. It features the “Galt Theme” to accompany shots from the film. It’s not a great collection of stills but it’s decent.
The disc opens with ads for Fox World Cinema, Another Earth, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and The Whistleblower. No trailer for Shrugged shows up here.
Fans of Atlas Shrugged Part One defend its weaknesses as products of its low budget. I didn’t realize that lack of money causes crummy editing, clunky dialogue and a total lack of narrative flow. The Blu-ray provides pretty good picture and audio along with mediocre supplements. Shrugged isn’t a movie – it’s a political rant packaged in amateurish cinematic clothing.