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: