Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 710, March 3, 2013

"The bottom line is that Western Individualism
is under attack from all sides philosophically,
and that this is likely a precursor to an
effort to defeat it by force."

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Atlas Shrugged Part II: A Movie Review
by Sean Gangol

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

Not too long ago the second installment of the adaptation of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged was released into theaters. This time it had a new cast and a slightly bigger budget. When the first installment came out it gathered little attention at the box office, due to the limited screenings around the country and advertisement that was almost nonexistent.

The most disappointing aspect of the last movie was not its performance at the box office, but the way that it seemed to get panned, by critics, libertarians and Ayn Rand fans alike. One of the most common complaints about the movie was that it was rushed. Others complained about the acting.

Last year I did a review of the first installment of Atlas Shrugged and for the most part I thought it was done quite well. Not to say that it wasn't without its flaws. To be honest Taylor Schilling wasn't my first choice for the role of Dagny, though I thought she did a fair job. I also thought the man that they got to play Fancisco acted more like a lump on the log then the suave and charismatic character from the book. I didn't mention him in my first review because he only had a minor role in the first part. There were also certain scenes that could have been done better, but since it was a movie that was done under a limited budget and a limited amount of time, I wasn't as critical of the flaws.

While I thought Part I was done quite well, despite its flaws, I was actually more impressed with what was done with Part II. It's amazing what an extra ten million can do for a movie. At first I had mixed feelings about the movie being completely recast. With the exception of the man who played Francisco, the cast of the previous film didn't do nearly as bad as the critics claimed. I had actually gotten used to the original cast and I thought it would be difficult for me to adjust to the new one. Once I saw the cast in action, my skepticism quickly faded.

In many ways the new cast was actually better. Samantha Mathis showed much more passion and delivered lines with a little more wit and passion. One of my favorite lines came when Dagny was confronted by Cherryl Brooks, her new sister in law, at her brother's wedding. She told Dagny that since she was now a woman in this family, she wasn't going to allow her to hurt her husband by sponging off his success. In which Dagny replied "Good because I am now the man of the family" (paraphrasing).

As for Jason Beghe as Hank Reardon, he was the part of the new casting that I was the most skeptical about. Beghe didn't seem as diviner as Grant Bowler, but he did come off much wittier. Beghe managed to hit it out of the park during the scene where Hank had to tell the Fairness Board that if they wanted to take what was his, then they would have to use force. "If you think that you have the right to use force against me, then bring guns." This was a moment that made me want to get out of my seat and cheer.

The most improved aspect of the cast was Esai Morales as Francisco d' Anconia. He was practically the embodiment of the Francisco of the book. Morales almost made me want to abandon my business and go on strike while not having to worry about the insignificant little detail of not actually owning a business. I wouldn't be surprised if he could convince the people of the Sahara to buy their own sand.

The pacing of the movie was another aspect that was improved. Even though I didn't think the pacing of first one was that bad, the second part of the movie had an opening that was much more intense. It begins with a cat and mouse chase between two airplanes, with the pursuer being piloted by Dagny. When the plane that she is pursuing, disappears behind a portal, it looks as if Dagny's plane is about collide with a mountain. She then utters the most iconic expression "Who is John Galt?" They then take us back to what led up to the pursuit.

The last part left off with Ellias Wyatt, the oil tycoon abandoning his oil fields and disappearing off the face of the earth. Dagny now has to struggle to keep the John Galt line relevant, since she no longer has Wyatt's oil to transport. As it was in the novel, the government gains more control over what is left of the private sector, while more of the captains of industry are going on strike and disappearing. This time we even see a musician going on strike to protest a government that is arrogant enough to believe that it has the right to reap the rewards of other people's accomplishments.

The government's power over private industries has become so great that it makes everything so inefficient and in some cases down right dangerous. This is where part II successfully brings to life one of my favorite scenes of the book. When the government takes over the lines of Taggart Transcontinental, the incompetence and inefficiency of the once great lines causes a horrific disaster that kills hundreds of people. The government then blames the company instead of taking responsibility for its own short comings. This was one of my favorite scenes because it reflects how the government operates in real life. If the government screw ups, they blame somebody else. If somebody else does something right, they take credit.

The movie ends with Dagny crash landing in Atlantis, a secret place where the industry titans have chosen to hide from the rest of society. This is where Dagny finally gets an answer to the question that has annoyed her from day one. She finally has the opportunity to find out who John Galt is once and for all. Even though we see Dagny being greeted by John Galt, we still see him only in silhouette. I can definitely say that I am looking forward to the last installment, which will come out around 2014. This raises two questions in my mind. The first one being, who will play John Galt? In this installment, the John Galt that was seen only in silhouette was played by D.B. Sweeny. Does that mean that he will be playing John Galt in part III? Don't get me wrong, I think Sweeny is a decent actor, but I don't know if he has the charisma that is needed to play John Galt. At one point I had the same amount of skepticism for the casting choices of Dagny in the first two installments, only to be pleasantly surprised each time. So, I am willing to give Sweeny the same chance. The other question that has plagued my mind is whether they will film John Galt's famously long speech in its entirety. We'll just have to wait until 2014 to see.

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