As usual, it’s summed up perfectly by Kathy Shaidle, who points out:
It’s about a railroad. In the future.
And that was a future based on the times Rand wrote in. Well, she turned out to be no more prescient about the actual future than anyone else, not really seeming to have realized that one day train transportation would fade away in favor of cars and planes. (She seemed to have thought, at least when she was writing the novel, that cars and planes would be reserved for only the rich and heroic, and that the masses would continue to rely on trains, and that the culture would always think of train travel as romantic and desirable. Well they do — when they are thinking of places like Europe. When Americans think of traveling in the borders of the US, they think of cars and planes.) Keeping the plot chained to the railroad thing makes the whole story irrelevant in this day and age. Setting is just as important as character and ideas in the movies.
But don’t expect the Ayn Rand fanboys to care. All they care about is reliving their adolescence, when they got affirmation from reading the money speech and the looter speech in Atlas Shrugged and dreaming of one day meeting their very own Dagny Taggart (who in real life would not have any interest in them). They react to any change to their beloved book the way Muslims react when anyone pronounces Mohammed “incorrectly.” (Think an hour of being made to pronounce a glottal stop and back-of-the-throat “h” sound over and over.)
One more thing: I wouldn’t call P.J. O’Rourke’s critique “blistering” as Libertas does.* Rather I’d call it “rather glum and disappointed.” I mean, O’Rourke is a Rand fan, and wanted the film to succeed. I’m no longer a Rand fan, though reading her came at a time when I really needed the comfort of knowing someone else in the world didn’t think I should completely subsume my wants, needs, and personality to the wants, needs, and personalities of others. But having used her books as the hammer to break me out of the bell jar, I don’t need it anymore. Note to Randians everywhere: put the hammer down. It’s okay to leave your unhappy, suffocating relationships and circumstances. You don’t have to keep smashing things once you’re out.
*I’ve noticed some rightwing sites tend to do this with people and articles they agree with — apply overenthusiastic, bombastic terms like “blistering!” and “devastating!” and “slams (insert liberal piety)!” or “tears (liberal person) a new one!” Then you go read the linked article and it’s meditative and thoughtful. We need to stop doing that. It makes us look like hysterical ninnies.