Early Reviews of Atlas Shrugged Part II

Last night, I attended the world premiere of Atlas Shrugged Part II (you can see our Reason.tv video of the event at this link, and embedded below the fold).

So how was the movie? At the screening, the universal reaction (one I share) was that it was much better than the original. Snappier dialogue, better actors, more believable villains, none of those odd, breathless cable-news reports about the laying of train track. Feels more relatable to our current moment (even winkingly so, with some of the protest signage, Fox News commentary, and famous-for-D.C. cameos). With the caveat that I've never finished the source material, I found both The Money Speech and Rearden's Defense to be well-edited highlights instead of buzz-killing cinematic soliloquies. And Esai Morales can sabotage my mines any day of the week!

Unscientific prediction: If you liked the first, you'll love the second. If you winced empathetically through I, you will be able to relax much more for II. If you loved or hated the deadline-beating original, you'll be feeling extra doses of the same.

Two other early reactions, beginning with David Weigel at Slate:

[The] casting change definitely works. Rearden has to deliver the big speech of Part II, when he's called in to a star chamber for selling his metal to a friend and violating the government's new "Fair Share" law. (In the novel, it's the "Equalization of Opportunity" law.) [...] Onscreen, Rearden/Beghe boils this down into a short defense of "job creators." And it works! The Rand-curious audience wants to stand up and cheer for this hard-working, word-chewing businessman who's just trying to pour some damn metal.

But that really is the high point. We get two action scenes—a plane chase and two trains colliding in the "Taggart Tunnel"—but the fullness of Rand's message can only be delivered through boardroom scenes and phone calls and meetings in Washington. Most of these scenes are deadly. Your fun, as a viewer, may come from an impromptu game of "hey, it's that guy!" The chairman of the Taggart board—Biff from Back to the Future. The "head of state" (not president)—Ray Wise, the evil dad from Twin Peaks. The talkative security guard—funny enough, that's Teller of Penn & Teller, protecting her from people waving "We Are the 99%!" signs.

And Jordan Bloom, at The American Conservative:

It's not like the filmmakers do anything interesting in terms of storytelling or visual style—the aesthetic is a weird mash-up of steampunk and retrofuturism, I guess because both go well with trains, and its epic pretensions remove any responsibility to surprise the viewer. 

Ultimately "Atlas Shrugged Part II" is a didactic film [...]

Bottom line: If you're preaching to the flock, this choirboy expects a better sermon.

Here's our report from last night:

 

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  • sarcasmic||

    And Esai Morales can sabotage my mines any day of the week!

    Do I detect a man-crush? NTTAWWT

  • Nephi||

    "You were making out during Schindler's List?!!"

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Esai Morales was great in Jericho's second season.

  • ||

    Well that's exciting. I haven't seen the first film yet, but listened to the novel on audiobook about two years ago (I'd previously read it a few times in my teens and 20s). What I didn't notice so much in my youth (passionate idealism I suppose) is that while the novel's story is great, the writing is pretty damn bad. I think making a movie makes sense, as it gets away from the latter and focuses on the former.

  • ||

    That's my same opinion, joe. When I first read it in high school, I thought Atlas would have made a great movie because of all the exploding and crashing and high-speed shit. It makes sense, because Rand was a screenwriter and a movie treatment writer. Her blunt and ham-handed writing style often demonstrates that.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Her earlier works such as Anthem, We The Living, and Night of January 16th are all actually really good.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I like her earlier, funnier movies.

  • ||

    For those of you who offered to dispense some reasony professional advice in the A.m. links, I done tol' my story over there.

    I wonder if my Ron Swanson bobblehead is quality enough fro me to punch repeatedly? Not that I want to punch Ron, but I'd like to think he would offer himself as a punching bag if asked.

  • Randian||

    Kristen, if you properly frame the request, ask to be 'developer co-lead'. Point out to your boss that you love working with Jim*, but he lacks things that you have, and you bring different strengths to the relationship and blah blah synergy or whatever.

    Then take over the development from the co-lead spot.

  • BakedPenguin||

    If you follow this advice, you may want to discuss it with Jim first. Even if he's not into project management, it could be bad if it's a surprise

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think Atlas Shrugged could succeed as a movie if it were entirely reworked. Say, as a science fiction movie set significantly in the future. Call it something else, dispense with the speeches, show rather than tell. People are more receptive to new ideas when packaged that way, I think. This way, too, the source material's weaknesses could be overcome by just ignoring them.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    They already made that in the 70s. It was called "Dune".

  • Pro Libertate||

    Okay, I'm not seeing that at all.

  • Srynerson||

    Paul Atreides was the man who said he'd stop the motor of the galaxy?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Well, the Harkkonen did put a lot of regulation on spice mining.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Maybe the Fremen were the capitalist good guys?

  • ||

    Call it something else, dispense with the speeches, show rather than tell.

    Failing to do that was Rand's primary problem in the novel. And not just in terms of the speeches. The number of times she said a look conveyed something "unsaid yet known" is uncountable.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I wouldn't say she so much failed to show as she felt it necessary to do that and tell--a lot. There's also a little too much caricature, and she has the bad guys a little too self-aware. I think in real life they don't really understand the consequences of their actions, even when they're acting just to advance their own personal corruption.

  • ||

    and she has the bad guys a little too self-aware

    Agreeance. And their names were very caricature-like, too. Bertram Scudder sounds like a fat, smelly loser. Cuffy Meigs. Wesley Mouch. I like a little more subtlety.

  • T||

    Atlas Shrugged is a sermon with a cast. Sermons aren't known for subtlety.

  • ant1sthenes||

    True, George Moonbat Monbiot, Bernie Madoff (with your money), and Sandra Fluke (literally named after a parasite) are much more subtle.

  • robc||

    In real life, you need a Certificate of Need to build a new hospital.

    What caricature? How much more self-aware could the real life bad guys be?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    There's a reason she switched to non-fiction after Atlas Shrugged.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Because Atlas Shrugged was so unsuccessful?

    She stopped because she was *done* - she had written the novel she had wanted to write.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    I'm no Rand fan, but that's not really a problem in a book. Tolkien and Lovecraft wrote exactly the same way and are the kings of their respective genres.

    What made the LOTR films (mostly) great was that PJ was allowed to throw out gigantic and unnecessary sideplots of the original book, and find more visual means of communicating some of the expository stuff Tolkien wrote. You knew that the Randians were NEVER going to allow that to be done to AS, and the first movie's mediocrity is the result of that.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's not the same at all. Tolkien was providing necessary background, which added great complexity and epic sweep to the stories. Dune did the same thing. Rand was unnecessarily explaining things as they were happening.

    Anything good about the LOTR movies came strictly from the fact that the source material was excellent. Jackson most assuredly did not improve upon the original story.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    So are they gonna redo part I with the new cast and crew?

  • Whiterun Guard||

    It Stinks!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    two trains colliding in the "Taggart Tunnel"

    Paging john Stagliano...

  • Christina||

    I'm glad to hear that II is a big improvement over I. I saw the first movie on opening weekend in a packed theatre (at Fairfax Corner, for you NoVa residents). I mildly enjoyed it at the time, but when I tried to re-watch it on Netflix Instant, I fell alseep almost immediately.

    I only just read the book in 2009, and at the time my sister, husband, and I decided that the book really should be made into a miniseries or tv series with a fixed arc.

  • SweatingGin||

    The first one on Netflix has become a guilt pleasure for me. I wind up getting drunk and watching it. Only vague recollections of the later parts of it.

    It's like a new movie every time.

  • Brandybuck||

    Ultimately "Atlas Shrugged" is a didactic novel.

  • FD||

    And not to magnify the hyperbole of Rand's turgid keystrokes with hyperbole of my own, I dare say that _Atlas Shrugged_ iconic worship is, ironically, a net negative on the liberty movement.
    Its unsophisticated style, repetitive recitation, and didacticism practically eliminate it from the "novel" genre.
    It is so silly that it has paved the way for leftist locusts to descend with fair criticism (of the book, that is). Problem is, they use the book to criticise not only the Nietzschean metaphors but also liberty minded free thinkers, equating them to simplistic kids who've never known suffering.
    Libertarians could do better with Heinlein, although he's got plenty of baggage too.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    the source material's weaknesses could be overcome by just ignoring them.

    "Those other 850 pages you wrote- we don't need them."

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'd be okay with the length if she had just shown hundreds of examples of statism ultimately leading to failure, but the constant talking to the reader got old. I like the book and re-read it, but I generally skip the speeches. It's kind of like the four hundred pages on the whaling industry in Moby-Dick.

  • FD||

    Oh, no! I can only meet you halfway on that one, PL.
    _Moby Dick_ rules!

  • Pro Libertate||

    I like Moby-Dick. I read the unabridged version. I could start my own whaling business.

  • FD||

    Except for the sex scenes.
    To stay true to the book, keep with the three parts, and Dagny doing a different guy in each.
    And nothing says love more than being banged in a cold and filthy railway tunnel....

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Beats getting raped by the fireplace repairman.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I tried to read it a couple of times, but I found it to be so stylistically awful I never got more than a few pages into it.

    Is Tom Stoppard available to translate?

  • Pro Libertate||

    À la Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead? Told from the perspective of minor characters, wandering from scene to scene?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    That would suggest the minor characters have valid judgements of the actions of the Randian supermen, totally undermining the entire philosophical basis of the novel. Who is Eddie Willers to comment on Dagny Taggart? Let him get his own narrative to star in, the second-handing mooch!

  • Pro Libertate||

    There are secondary characters who are philosophically pure.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    I know, I was being facetious.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Wouldn't that just make it more awesome of a deconstruction?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This post is full of spoilers. Leland Palmer did it?

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    The chick's a dude.

  • Jordan Zimmerman||

    "I've never finished the source material" - and thus you've exposed what's wrong with Demo-tarians and the group that's run Reason for a long long time. Objectivists and those sympathetic to objectivism started and ran Reason in its heyday.

    Oh well...

  • ant1sthenes||

    and thus you've exposed what's wrong with Demo-tarians and the group that's run Reason for a long long time

    Competent aesthetic judgments? Rand's ideas are worth exploring, but Atlas Shrugged is stylistically atrocious. It would have been a better book if she had just made a movie, and then had some up-and-coming scifi hack write the book of the movie version.

  • James Henderson||

    My first reaction to the movie as the credits rolled, like yours, was how much better it was than Part 1. And I generally liked the first movie. The acting, direction, and dialogue all contributed to this. The performances of the three leads, Samantha, Jason, and Esai were exceptional.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Unscientific prediction: If you liked the first, you'll love the second."

    Your science has failed you.

    Loved the book. Liked the first movie, although I thought the last 20 minutes lost the plot.

    For the most part, Part II left me cold. Worse than the first. Wasn't that fond of Dagny 1, but Dagny 2 was awful. Really didn't like the futuristic James Bond feel of the first 10 minutes in particular, though that bled into most of the movie. The first still managed to give you a forties feel in the future.

    The highlites were the Wet Nurse, Cheryl Brooks, and Rearden. Rearden was great, and more true to the book, though I thought the Part 1's Rearden was good.

    All the rest of the characters felt false to me, as did much of the dialogue. I was particularly disappointed with Esai Morales, who I loved in Caprica. He in particular sounded false, and that's unfortunate, because he had the big money shot speeches. The previous Francisco was much better.

    And I did mention that Dagny 2 was awful, right? She just looked nauseated for most of the movie. And I really didn't need that look in close up, expanded to fill the screen. Ugh.

    Lilian was horrible. Completely off. Rather trashy and vulgar. The first Lillian was much better.

    My impression - the bigger budget brought in a bunch of people who just didn't get it, and it showed. On the other hand, the preaching that got it halfway right was still through a Republican lens, instead of an Objectivist lens.

    I was disappointed.

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