Movie Review: Atlas Shrugged Part 2 – A Big Middle Finger to Hollywood
What if you were staring at Jesus as he is lifted onto his cross? Suffering and bleeding as the spikes go in, but he doesn’t turn the other cheek, he doesn’t ask God to forgive you because you know not what you’re doing. Instead Jesus spits blood in your face, gives you the finger, and smiles. Here’s the blood you wanted, now go fuck yourself and die you ignorant fools.
Unfortunately none of our ancestors ever wrote the Bible sequel “Jesus Strikes Back!”. Fortunately we have Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged.
Hollywood has come out with some worthy revenge flicks, like The Crow and Payback and some others that focus on retribution for a few violent thugs. It takes a lot of balls to create a revenge film that delivers retribution to pretty much all of society. You know, there’s a lot of shock jocks and non conformists out there trying to get a rise out of people. Silly amateurs. It is rare to see to see a movie that culminates into such an aggressive and cleverly well orchestrated middle finger. Atlas Shrugged Part 2 is that middle finger. Those greedy businessmen, how many times are they villains in Hollywood films? Well, in Atlas Shrugged Part 2 it’s the back room business deals that flagrantly violate the law that generate the fondest moments of empathy. It is the affair with a married man that is exalted, and the unloved wife who is the bitch.
Can this movie leave us anything holy without disgracing it? No.
The virtue in the concept of the public good? Fucking smashed!
Money is the root of all evil, right? I don’t think so!
Love your brother, I mean your actual biological brother? Pffft
Government must do something to help us in a time of crisis? HAHAHAHAHA
When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of other men. – Francisco d’Anconia in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
So yeah, I enjoy the attitude of this film. It holds true to Ayn Rand and her vision for the novel. It’s refreshing to see something so bold and intelligent. These are times of extreme political correctness, honesty is very offensive. This movie shows little concern for that. That’s cool :)
About the quality of the movie… Part 2 is a HUGE improvement over Part 1 in many ways. First off, this doesn’t feel like a TV movie anymore, Part 2 is FAR more cinematic and feels more like a studio film. The cinematography, the sets, the action sequences, much better. Being the middle finger in the face of Hollywood that this film is… financing can be a challenge. And so this is still a low budget film, but I believe the budget was doubled for Part 2 over Part 1, and it shows. Perfect? No, the CGI isn’t top notch, but fuck it man, it’s fine. Overall the movie challenges you to think, keeps you engaged, and it’s exciting to watch.
There is absolutely NO WAY an Atlas Shrugged movie can capture the raw power of the book. Not even close, it’s completely out of reach for any film adaptation to truly embody the intellectual force of the novel. Think of the films more like a short teaser preview to the best selling 1200 pages that have become one of the most influential novels of all time. My concern is that while the film will appeal to fans who want to see this story visualized and played out, will it appeal to people who are not currently familiar with Ayn Rand and the libertarian universe? I honestly don’t know. We all want these Atlas Shrugged films to be a great introduction to these ideas, but I’m just not sure if they are or not. To those unfamiliar this might be confusing and awkward. Sometimes everything was spot on and reflected the book well, but I did feel at times like characters and situations were caricature cartoonish, and didn’t really introduce the ideas well. Truth is that the beginning scene with the mysterious energy device made me brace myself for 2 hours of overacted melodrama. What a relief it was to see the movie get a lot more intelligent, edgy and exciting.
There is an ENTIRELY new cast, new crew, and new director. It feels like a completely different team made Part 2, because yeah that’s what happened here. Before I saw the movie, I was really disappointed about the casting change for Hank Rearden, the legendary steel industrialist. I loved Grant Bowler who played Rearden in Part 1, and I wasn’t warm at all to Jason Beghe who plays Rearden in Part 2. After seeing the movie, I’m totally cool with the new Rearden, he did a great job, even if I still like the first Rearden a little better.
As for the new Dagny Taggart, the main character, the inspiring female industry leader; well I’ve got some mixed feelings about Samantha Mathis in that role. She’s not better or worse than the last Dagny. I think she’s adequate. She presents the character well as a strong competent woman who is emotionally hurt by the world falling apart around her. But seriously, they should have cast someone just a little bit younger for the part. Clearly Samantha Mathis used to be fucking hot, but age happens, and it’s not ok to have a scene where the lead female is taken to bed and she isn’t really that attractive. If you find that offensive, so do I. It’s offensive that I have to mention this in a review of a finished movie, instead of it being discussed behind closed doors when making the initial casting decisions.
One of the pleasant surprises in Part 1 was the casting for the role of Lillian Rearden, Hank Rearden’s wife who happens to be a major bitch. Rebecca Wisocky was just fantastic as Lillian in Part 1, and while excellent, I don’t know if I can say that Kim Rhodes is quite at that level in Part 2; but I can say that she also manages to do a truly phenomenal job of convincing any man to never ever consider marriage as an option.
Probably my favorite cast member is Esai Morales playing the role of Francisco d’Anconia, the latin playboy who’s willfully destroying his own massive copper mines. I might be a little biased after hanging out with Esai when I visited the set, because he is in fact one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met. One of the best things about visiting the Atlas Shrugged Part 2 set was the hilarious shit Esai would say between takes. For instance: The director was pointing out something to Samantha Mathis (Dagny) and she’d say “Ok, I can see it”, and then Esai would just bust into singing “I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW, THE RAIN IS GONE“. Or at one point I think he screwed up a line because he needed to blow his nose and he then says pleadingly “I just don’t know what’s wrong with me. I used to be able to do at least 3 lines of coke, and now I can only do one!”. I fucking love that guy, and he pulled his character off well on screen.
The biggest casting improvement came from Patrick Fabian who plays James Taggart, Dagny’s brother who also owns the railroad, but relies on political connections and favors to get ahead. Far better than James Taggart in Part 1, Patrick totally reinvents the character into a fun show-off sleaze ball who only cares about his impression and making sure others see that he looks good. 100% concern on image, zero concern for substance. It’s entertaining to see him constantly squirm out of the situations he puts himself in. Like a more enjoyable Mitt Romney.
Speaking of presidential matters, I kind of felt like the scenes of the US President announcements were a bit cartoonish. But perhaps that’s appropriate as our real presidents have been a joke for a very long time. And the truth is that if you actually film Romney giving a real announcement as president, it would probably appear as even more cartoonish, too unbelievable for fiction.
Man exists for the achievement of his desires. – Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
One detail that bothered me is the music. There were times when it was great and really nailed the emotion of the moment, like this piano piece I remembered playing while Hank and Dagny were coming to grips with some of the burden being increased on them. But much of the time I found the music to be over dramatic and even distracting, like someone needs to tell the music director to chill out a little bit.
There were some details I loved, like the references to the Occupy movement and the Tea Party, which really brought home how much this story applies to our current state of affairs. Especially since the Tea Party protest rallies keep mentioning this book. As things get worse, we have a lot more angry protests to look forward to. OH! And it was cool to see a cameo from Teller of Penn & Teller! I didn’t even know that guy ever actually speaks!!
There’s going to be plenty for fans and critics to nitpick about, but overall this a thoughtful, engaging and enjoyable movie worth watching. Despite it’s good qualities, there’s no way it will survive the blow from film critics, who will embarrass themselves by giving Mall Cop better reviews. The ideology is too offensive to most of Hollywood for a reviewer to even genuinely follow this film.
There can be no justification for a society in which a man is expected to manufacture the weapons for his own murderers. – Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
One thing I’d like to address right here and now is the constant never ending attack on the ideas of Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged as “sociopathic”. For a word that is thrown around so often, it is surprisingly hard to find a definition online. Sociopathic is commonly simply associated with psychopathic and anti-social behavior. People don’t feel comfortable calling Ayn Rand a psychopath, so she’s called a sociopath. As if not moving along with the crowd is damnable by itself. By that definition, anyone who doesn’t go along with the masses is a sociopath, including those who refused to salute Hitler in the Nazi era, and those who defied the church when it was believed that the Sun revolved around the Earth. They must have suffered from some sort of psychological disorder to exhibit such anti-social behavior when they defied the ethos of their society.
But if by “sociopath” they mean “lacks empathy for others”, then that is where the Atlas Shrugged critics place themselves squarely into the category of EXACTLY what this whole novel warned against. Through Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand advocated for a society of people that treat each other with respect, which means you respect the rights of people to make their own choices, which means you don’t use force to get your way with peaceful people, you cooperate voluntarily. It is precisely that respect and empathy for individuals that is lacking from all the well intentioned social programs of our age that continually lead to horror and disastrous results. No one cares where the resources come from, or what happens to those it’s taken from. Sociopath! Sociopath! They scream sociopath at every opportunity, and yet when Ayn Rand opened her eyes and looked around, she saw nothing but a lack of empathy from those demanding higher tax rates and tougher regulations and harsher penalties on anyone that dares to achieve some modicum of success. Those who are taking show no empathy towards those who they’re taking from. And yet, a lack of empathy would be a huge improvement over the current vicious hostility.
Ayn Rand told Atlas, the Greek God straining and bleeding and giving everything to hold up the weight of the world, to shrug and drop the world and let everyone crash, they don’t deserve him. She was the first to offer him some kindness from a world that hated him and abused him. She gave him the support to realize that he can again contribute when his life and energy are appreciated and treated with respect. Until then, they’ll just have to miss him while he’s gone.
This novel is nothing but a story of empathy for those forgotten by the sociopaths that dominate our society. It is a defense of all individuals and their right to live their lives as they see fit. More specifically it is a defense of those among us who wish to achieve great accomplishments and enjoy great rewards, only to look forward to a barrage of hysterical vicious attacks and violent force used against us to preserve the illusion of equality and economic justice, vitally important concepts that are necessary for many to mask their naked envy.
There’s billions of people on this planet. No one in history has done a better job of defending the right of each and every one of them to live their life as they see fit as well as Ayn Rand. That is her glory. Perfect or not, Atlas Shrugged Part 2 does a fantastic job of staying true to presenting that message.
Thank you John Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow for making this film. I know it was hard to pull this off. I’m grateful you guys haven’t disappeared. Prepare for the worst.
When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed. – Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Some of the photos above appeared in my Facebook albums:
On Set in Atlas Shrugged Part 2 – April 2012
Nathaniel Branden’s 1930s Cocktail Birthday Party at Judd’s House
The Atlas Summit Conference – Washington DC – June 2012
And here’s a few shots I took at the Atlas Shrugged Part 2 Premier in Los Angeles
And for the hell of it I’ll share here the full album of shots I snapped when I visited the Atlas Shrugged set: