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Friday, October 12, 2012

Return to Asshole's Paradise: A Review of Atlas Shrugged, Part II

Posted by on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 at 5:00 PM

Counting me, there were about twenty people at the Seattle debut of Atlas Shrugged Part II at the Regal Meridian theater downtown. That's a pretty good turnout for a 1:30 pm show on a Friday, but still: I found myself wanting to ask everyone in the theater why they were moochers. If you're at a movie theater during the day on a Friday, you're clearly not a captain of industry. You're either a dirty socialist movie reviewer, or you're unemployed. Or on retirement: Most of the people in the theater were older, in their fifties, sixties and seventies. Most of us were men sitting alone. One man at the front of the theater shouted "LEFTIST COMMIES" at the screen when the trailer for a Matt Damon environmental drama called Promised Land, hilariously, played before the movie.

I went to the first Atlas Shrugged movie a year and a half ago, and it was an embarrassing cinematic experience. The sets were cheesy, the acting was awful, and the script was totally hambone. Because the first Atlas Shrugged movie did so poorly at the box office, the sequel bears almost no relation to the earlier film. It has a different director, a totally different cast, and, presumably, a different crew working behind the scenes. And the impossible happened as I watched Part II: I was nostalgic for part 1. As awful as the first Atlas Shrugged movie was—and make no mistake, it was incredibly boring—it had a kind of ratty soap operatic charm to it. It at least felt, with its romantic entanglements and fancy parties, like an off-brand episode of Dynasty.

This movie is completely joyless. And the chintz levels go through the roof: The special effects are, bar none, the worst I've ever seen on a movie screen, with see-through fire effects layered over still shots and bad computer models of derailed train cars rubbing against each other with all the heft and weight of a bouquet of balloons at a kid's birthday party. The set design is even cheaper than the first outing, too. Most notably, a seatback television screen in a limousine is played by a cheap Android tablet glued sideways to the back of a car seat. The actor hits the tablet's back button to turn the "volume" up.

Before, the acting was at least passionate, in a sort of hilarious way. Now it's grim, and the new actors don't seem to understand what they're saying half the time. The problem is that the middle part of the book that this film is adapting—yes, this is the second part of a proposed trilogy—is just about everything getting worse.

All of America's greatest minds are disappearing while Dagny Taggart (Samantha Mathis), a railroad tycoon, tries to hold the nation together singlehandedly. Trash covers the city streets (presumably because the greatest garbage men in the nation have disappeared, too) and Occupy protests demand the fair share that the "99.98%" deserves. Taggart runs around trying to fight the evil government with her allies, and all her allies disappear, one by one. Finally, in the end, she finds out where everyone has gone. Something has finally happened! Then the credits start.

But we've already seen just about everything in Atlas Shrugged, Part II in the first Atlas Shrugged. Both movies feature train wrecks, the destruction of important American industries, the passage of a tyrannical piece of legislation by evil straw men government agents, and Dagny running around looking stressed the whole time. The only (unintentional) comedy comes in the dialogue that the "government creeps" have to say. One government panel nods as the president's "recovery czar" announces, "I think everyone agrees that capitalism doesn't work." It's a totally partisan movie, in a way that the first movie wasn't. The first Atlas Shrugged hewed closer to the Rand novel, but Part II veered off into contemporary Republican talking points on multiple occasions, and those detours into modernity—including an awkward appearance by Sean Hannity and several Fox News commentators which got one of the only rounds of applause in my theater—made the film feel even less substantial and less meaningful than the first. Which is, in its own way, an achievement.

There was no standing ovation at the end of Part II. And how could there be? Even the most ardent fan has to admit that it's a boring, aimless movie. But I bet the people in the theater will recommend the movie to friends and promote it online. They're not doing this because it's a good movie, or because it's especially well-made. They're contributing their time and effort and money to a pursuit that is not strong enough to support itself financially, which is to say that they're supporting this movie out of charity. Which is exactly the opposite of Objectivism. Even Ayn Rand would admit that this thing is a piece of shit, and she'd be disgusted at anyone who tried to convince her otherwise.


Comments (37) RSS

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Well, I am about to see "Atlas Shrugged--part 3" in a movie theater downtown Seattle. Inspired by your glowing review, I anticipate a climactic conclusion to the perplexing problems in the first two episodes.

You speak of "Dynasty"; I am not familiar with that (we all have set our standards and apparently yours is low enough to watch such a soap opera) but I admit I did like Dallas (a truly uninhibited ululation, a paean in praise of the limitless licentiousness of uncorrupted capitalism.

I liked the Hannity episode in part two, particularly the daughter of Eric Holder (Et Tu, have you no gratitude for our illustrious incubator of medical cannabis?
Posted by Kevin Bjornson on September 20, 2014 at 9:31 PM · Report this
@4 at least in Bioshock you had electrified buckshot and the ability to shoot bees at people.
Posted by msanonymous on October 15, 2012 at 2:24 AM · Report this
Knat 40
@4: I played that game before having had any introduction to Ayn Rand. Everything Andrew Ryan spouts over the speakers turns out to be lifted from one of her books (in spirit if not in direct quote), but I went through the whole game thinking 2K was aiming for satire.
Posted by Knat on October 14, 2012 at 12:20 AM · Report this
GhostDog 39

Maybe we can hook Rand's grave up to a generator. By the time the finale comes out we'll have enough power to run the entire west coast for at least 20 years.
Posted by GhostDog on October 13, 2012 at 4:14 PM · Report this
Posted by sirkowski on October 13, 2012 at 3:23 PM · Report this
Okay, but just in case you've actually read Atlas Shrugged, and are looking for something--anything--to justify all that wasted time and energy, you'll like this:…

Posted by Mr. Wonderful on October 13, 2012 at 11:03 AM · Report this
originalcinner 35
@14 John Tammy again. Last time I saw his name come up, he was saying how Ryan totally slaughtered Biden on Thursday night. He lives in an alternate reality, but somehow manages to blog in ours.
Posted by originalcinner on October 13, 2012 at 10:35 AM · Report this
MacCrocodile 34
What, no credit for the first all-straw-man cast? Nobody in shameful strawface like Ray Bolger.
Posted by MacCrocodile on October 13, 2012 at 9:28 AM · Report this
@27 Also, I don't think Rand's dystopian vision of western civilization destroyed by big government was entirely wrong. Great Britain in the 1970s with it's powerful labor unions and crumbling infrastructure looked a lot like the world of Atlas Shrugged.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on October 13, 2012 at 9:11 AM · Report this
The lead actor played a gay love interest of a character on the old Melrose Place show. He was in about 4 episodes and in one opening scene he was shown playing basketball in a pair of sweatpants wearing no underwear. He had a huge cock just bouncing all around, it was glorious. I'll never forget that scene.
Posted by Jersey on October 13, 2012 at 9:06 AM · Report this
@9 wrote: "Wow, that's a cast list of has-beens, never weres, and who the fucks."

I didn't see any has-beens or never-weres; so far as I could tell, the entire cast consisted of "who-the-fucks."
Posted by Clayton on October 13, 2012 at 8:58 AM · Report this
Big Sven 30
More importantly: fuck, could they have shot Samantha Mathis in any less flattering of a light?!? She looks like Nurse Ratched.
Posted by Big Sven on October 13, 2012 at 8:41 AM · Report this
Big Sven 29
@27: Republicans still spooge all over this book. I've had people tell me that if you look at, say, IBM, 90+% of its value was created by the CEOs. Not the tens of thousands of workers who devoted their entire professional lives to the company. If one believes that, then everything that Ryan & Co says makes sense. That's why people still fight over this book.
Posted by Big Sven on October 13, 2012 at 8:38 AM · Report this
@27 Paul Ryan's political career was inspired by this story. I think it's still relevant.

Here's the Fox News perspective on the new movie:…
Posted by Ken Mehlman on October 13, 2012 at 8:16 AM · Report this
Rotten666 27
I really don't get the continuing vitriol for a story that was barely relevant when it was published over half a century ago. This might be my least favorite Slog meme.

Get the fuck over it.
Posted by Rotten666 on October 13, 2012 at 7:50 AM · Report this
Karla Canadian 26
I see Rand's books all the time at charity book sales... I almost want to buy one just for the irony. Then I remember I'll own a Rand book and I buy something better.

I also always laugh when I see them in a library :).
Posted by Karla Canadian on October 13, 2012 at 6:39 AM · Report this
jay tea 25
unlike most people in the GOP Rand was an Atheist.
Posted by jay tea on October 13, 2012 at 4:31 AM · Report this
jay tea 24
how about being independently wealthy as a reason why your at a movie at that time?
Posted by jay tea on October 13, 2012 at 4:28 AM · Report this
I imagine Ayn Rand would be spinning in her grave to know the movie based on her magnum opus was only attracting brain dead pensioners, Christianists, and bemused liberal bloggers.

And that makes me happy.
Posted by madcap on October 12, 2012 at 9:37 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 22
The reason you didn't like it Paul, is because you need to study it out. Just study it out. You'll see.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on October 12, 2012 at 9:30 PM · Report this
There's going to have to be an "Atlas Shrugged: Part IV", not because it's going to be that good, but because John Galt's speech is going to take up pretty much the entirety of Part III.
Posted by COMTE on October 12, 2012 at 8:56 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 20
It isn't a problem that the middle part consists of everything getting worse. The middle part always consists of everything getting worse. It's Plot 101.

The middle movie of a trilogy can be dark and wonderful, like The Empire Strikes Back. Or it can be dark and boring, like The Two Towers.

Got nothing to do with in part 2 of yr trilogy being a downer. Of course it's a downer but that doesn't mean it can't be a great movie. Devil is in the details.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on October 12, 2012 at 8:12 PM · Report this
watchout5 19
The new actors aren't Libertarians. I saw an interview with the cast on Reason's youtube channel, seemed like from the expression on her face that the movie isn't going to appeal to people under the age of 50. Ha. Cheers good post.
Posted by watchout5 on October 12, 2012 at 8:06 PM · Report this

If you are a Randian, get over it.
You wouldn't survive a month without the infrastructure that the "moocher" government provides.
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on October 12, 2012 at 7:34 PM · Report this
Tacoma Traveler 16
The irony is that this movie is exactly what it claims to parody.

The socialist realist school of art was awful because it attempted to politicize everything. By insisting that everything had to have a message, and all art had to have some deeper meaning, it lost all sense of nuance and subtlety- in other words, all sense of art.

This story is exactly that. Heavy handed in its message delivery, it presumes the audience so stupid as to be incapable of making up their own minds. It would be more entertaining if the author simply stood in front of a camera and ranted at the audience.

The books of Ayn Rand appeal to people who need to be ranted at. People who have to be told what to think, who to hate, and what it all means. The uncertainty that the rest of us have all grown used to scares them. While the rest of us find a lack of all the answers to be liberating-as it allows for multiple points of view-that sort of wildness scares the crap out of libertarians. To them, the natural order must be so simple, so easy to understand that there can be no diversity of opinion as to what that might be.

In this sense, they are the very totalists they claim to hate
Posted by Tacoma Traveler on October 12, 2012 at 7:27 PM · Report this
For counterbalance to Paul's review, there is a review by a Forbes blogger that is either unintentionally hilarious or the product of a great satirist. Sh!t needs to be seen to be believed. Or, not to be believed, whichever.
Posted by Warren Terra on October 12, 2012 at 6:59 PM · Report this
So glad these movies are being made. Now douchebags can soak up Ayn Rand's terrible philosophy even if they're too lazy to read a fucking book.
Posted by Sebasti├ín LeBang on October 12, 2012 at 6:51 PM · Report this
therealtrueauthenticrobmckenna 12
Personally, I found it even more riveting than part one. Now the scene has been set for the final chapter, which will hopefully hit theaters about half way through my first term. Leftist lay-abouts can't possibly understand the vitality and bravado of this fine, fine movie. Three thumbs up!
Posted by therealtrueauthenticrobmckenna on October 12, 2012 at 6:50 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 10
@3- I haven't been to a movie people clapped at the end of ever, and I've never been to a movie outside of America.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on October 12, 2012 at 5:56 PM · Report this
Wow, that's a cast list of has-beens, never weres, and who the fucks.
Posted by judybrowni on October 12, 2012 at 5:53 PM · Report this
Last of the Time Lords 8
I'd rather watch K-9 masturbate
Posted by Last of the Time Lords on October 12, 2012 at 5:42 PM · Report this
LEE. 7

you really like talking about taxes when no one else is even bothering, don't you? I'm just gonna assume from now on you're a pro-state income tax satire troll.
Posted by LEE. on October 12, 2012 at 5:39 PM · Report this
LEE. 6
hold on a second, Paul...wasn't DB Sweeney in this monstrosity? how did that fair?
Posted by LEE. on October 12, 2012 at 5:38 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 4
I think I'll play Bioshock instead.
Posted by keshmeshi on October 12, 2012 at 5:31 PM · Report this
sirkowski 3
If Americans don't clap at the end of a movie, it must be pretty bad.
Posted by sirkowski on October 12, 2012 at 5:20 PM · Report this
ScienceNerd 2
I have a "friend" who is a walking Republican talking point. I'm excited to see if he liked the movie.
Posted by ScienceNerd on October 12, 2012 at 5:17 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 1
Yes, but Ayn Rand took both Medicare and Social Security.

If you actually read some real stuff about Capitalism, say the unexpurgated works of Adam Smith, the Father of Capitalism, you'll hear him rail about the Mercantilists and their ilk who depend on Corporate Welfare and Collusion instead of the sweat of their limbs and their brows.

I hear the Zombie march in DC by one of the corporations forgot to file for their permits. Dang that Government! Zombies want to maximize their Brains intake! Get rid of the Safety Net that keeps people functional - Brains must be harvested!
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 12, 2012 at 5:06 PM · Report this

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