My first question came to mind before the film began to roll. Why, I asked, weren’t at least some if not all the actors from the first installment brought back to their roles for round two? The answer, or a portion of it, seems to have already been presented. Still, the business behind the making of a film certainly does not make the big screen’s overall continuity– or clearly lack thereof– any easier to swallow.
As always, my watching of the movie and the subsequent composing of my thoughts on it came before I endeavored to read any reviews. Now that the time has come to explore what others have to say, I myself have to say I’ve reached some points of agreement with the critics on Atlas Shrugged Part II.
It took me a while to get past the new cast, as I spent a good half of the movie comparing the current actors to those who played the same roles in Part I. My conclusion, alongside one unflattering review I’ve now read: Some were stronger this time around, most notably in my opinion Hank Rearden. Others plainly were not, foremost Hank’s wife Lillian, to borrow the words, “beamed in from a third-rate soap opera.” Francisco: Better. James: A draw. Dagny: Worse, amid more words written for me, even within a positive preview: “She certainly acts well… but she lacks the glamor and beauty of her predecessor in the role.” And it goes on.
Atlas Shrugged Part I, released 18 months ago, took place in 2016 and 2017, as indicated with date stamps throughout. Why then, I next asked myself, is no year attached to the days and months of Part II? For continuity’s sake, why not stay on the same stated time path? Continuity– again– does not carry Part I into Part II, disappointingly enough, drastic crew changes and production enhancements notwithstanding.
The storyline is reasonably clear; I followed the plot even more closely this time, if not for production value because I now feel I have an even deeper understanding of Ayn Rand’s complex and multi-layered story than I had upon seeing Part I. Still, not all moments are easily believable; in fact many remain a downright overstretch of the imagination. While a few intense and mind-triggering scenes boost the overall flow, too much of the acting comes off as shallow, rushed and unconvincing. The energy and cadence of the film remain high, as various punch lines either affirm or rattle our personal philosophies. And of course there’s Hank, powerful to a far yet unfortunate point. And it goes on.
Too many questions might force you to simply suspend belief in order to enjoy the story while processing its content. Why is most of the population of our country inexplicably absent? In this not-far-off doomsday fantasy-tempt-reality, is the majority simply at home and out of sight? How could the executive and legislative branches of government actually work together enough to pass such drastic and objectionable new laws? Have all the brilliant minds really disappeared, leaving but one to try to crack the code of what could be “the engine of the world?” Perhaps this is not the fault of any director, but rather that of the author herself. And it goes on.
For the viewpoints that surely spark controversy and incite argument, and despite the range of appreciation, shall we say, for the philosophy of Ayn Rand, this movie clearly invites you to think for yourself, amid alternating doses of reality and fantasy. Altogether, Atlas Shrugged Part II is securely worth the watch, even if– as proclaimed by the director himself– not for everyone. Read some more reviews first if you feel you must; there are plenty out there. Just take the good with the bad as I have, as you reach your own points of agreement and disagreement, ideally without prejudice, but with– dare I say it– a shrug or two of your own.
And it goes on. We’ve just begun to finally see who he is. Part III is yet to come.