Atlas Shrugged: Part II

Movie Information

The Story: The second of a purportedly three-part adaptation of Ayn Rand's massive libertarian sci-fi soap opera. The Lowdown: Plodding, seemingly interminable, cheaply made and not likely to persuade anyone except the niche audience for whom it was made.
Genre: Political Sci-Fi Fantasy Soaper
Director: John Putch
Starring: Samantha Mathis, Jason Beghe, Esai Morales, Patrick Fabian, Kim Rhodes
Rated: PG-13

OK, let’s get it out of the way, shall we? I am a member of the supposedly liberal media and as such Atlas Shrugged: Part II (or as the onscreen credit has it, Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike) was made for an altogether different audience. I am not in sympathy with its source novel, its author or its author’s message. I detested Part I and feel similarly about this second installment — only perhaps more so because it’s longer, cheesier and more obnoxious in delivering its ham-fisted message. Part II continues the insult to Rand’s beached whale of a soap opera, diluting its over-heated nonsense so that it’s safe for mass consumption by the easily offended. But this goes further into the realm of insult, since the free market already turned up its nose at Part I, making this film an act of self-sacrifice on the part of its producers, who rather than call it a day, poured more money into this one. That is very un-Randian indeed. (Someone will undoubtedly come along to tell me why that assessment is wrong.) Now, Part II (given a bizarrely wide release) appears to be an even bigger flop than Part I. Will they now pour even more money into the theoretical Part III? Talk about an “orgy of self-sacrifice.”

The new film more or less picks up where the first one left off — at least once it gets past its TV-style grabber opening and goes into flashback mode for most of the movie. The world is still teetering on the brink, but it’s been tarted up with references to the 1 percent and Occupy Wall Street. Plus, the cast has magically changed. The new cast isn’t really any better or any worse. The new ones are just as stiff and charisma-challenged as the last ones, though Samantha Mathis’ Dagny Taggart looks more like a downtrodden 40-something than a glamorous leader of industry. (This is very much the fault of the filmmakers who invariably light and photograph her in the most unflattering ways possible.) And Jason Beghe’s Henry Reardon is so gravel-voiced and brusque that you’ll have to look hard to find anything more butch in this year’s movies. It’s easy to blast the actors, but the truth is they’re stuck in a movie where every scene is ultimately less drama than it is a right-wing rant. (And, no, it wouldn’t work any better if it was a left-wing rant.)

It’s all about the evil liberal government bringing the world to ruin, so the only real thinkers, shakers, movers and artists (huh?) are being spirited away to some kind of 1 percenter utopia by the shady, almost mythical figure of John Galt (the messianically back-lit D.B. Sweeney talking like Clint Eastwood). The idea is that this will bring “the motor of the world” to a grinding halt since we all know that only those at the very top have any abilities, right? OK, even if you buy into this — down to the absurd notion that a popular composer can destroy his entire catalogue of works — you might rightly wonder about all the fancy dress extras who are populating the film’s big party scenes and why they haven’t been recruited. There are clearly more of them than there are of the laughably miniscule “crowds” of protesters. (The world is going to hell, unemployment is rampant, gas is $42 a gallon, and yet there are never more than a handful of ragtag protestors while the rich keep on being monuments to conspicuous consumption right in front of them. Really?)

The whole thing is pretty absurd and badly dated. Are we honestly supposed to believe that Reardon would cave in to the evil government because it would “ruin” Dagny’s reputation (horrifyingly referred to as a “role model for young girls”) if it became known she was mousing around with a married man? That would be debatable even in 1957 when the book came out, but it’s ludicrous now. It doesn’t help that the production values wouldn’t cut the mustard on the SyFy Channel. (Hell, some of the shots of planes in flight would have been right at home in an episode of Thunderbirds.) But at bottom, this is a niche movie on a par with any cheapjack faith-based picture, which is why it resembles one — and only the most ardently faithful need apply. Rated PG-13 for brief language.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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28 thoughts on “Atlas Shrugged: Part II

  1. Sean R. Moorhead

    I assumed the film was just as terrible as its predecessor. What I’m really curious about — if you’ll forgive my schadenfreude — is whether the comment section will be as entertaining this time around.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Shhhh. So far the main usual suspect has limited himself to posting one link in the “Reeler.” I’m hoping it stays that way. I figure you know it’s failed when you can’t even impress uber-right Kyle Smith of the NY Post (he liked the first one) with this.

  3. sharpleycladd

    I beseech the Almighty every day – please let the “achievers” and their disciples “Go Galt” so we can finally accomplish something around here.

  4. Xanadon't

    Got stuck with both of these, huh? I can’t wait to see what card you’re still holding. Justin must be sweatin’.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I think this is a case of the card he holds, since, fool that I am, I’ve actually read the goddamn book and he hasn’t.

  6. Xanadon't



    Well maybe he’s read all of whatever Nicholas Sparks novels haven’t been released as movies yet… Eh? Eh?!?

    Fine. I tried. Clapton help you.

  7. Sean R. Moorhead

    I beseech the Almighty every day – please let the УachieversФ and their disciples УGo GaltФ so we can finally accomplish something around here.

    It might interest you to know that Ayn Rand was (1.) anti-Christian and (2.) anti-Christian for the worst, most unsympathetic imaginable reasons.

    There’s little question that Rand would not have appreciated your prayers. I’ll refrain from speculating about whether God appreciates them.

  8. Ken Hanke

    It might interest you to know that Ayn Rand was (1.) anti-Christian and (2.) anti-Christian for the worst, most unsympathetic imaginable reasons.

    I don’t know that that enters into Mr. Cladd’s desires, which seem concerned merely with wishing the world of Ms. Rand’s philosophy and that of her adherents elsewhere. Of course, one will search the filmizations in vain for any hint of her atheism — or her rape fantasies.

  9. sharpleycladd

    I was, in fact, hoping the Selfish Achievers Club, embodied by Paul Ryan and other similarly-impaired individuals, would remove themselves from our society so we could get something done. I believe Ayn Rand represents the lowest common denominator of humanity, pure savagery and selfishness. I am fully aware of Ms. Rand’s atheism, and am campaigning for Randism’s inclusion in the DSM.

  10. Sean R. Moorhead

    Ah, I understand now: by “Go Galt” you meant remove themselves from mainstream society.

    I apologize for jumping on you; I had braced myself against the kind of troll onslaught that overwhelmed the comment section of last year’s review.

  11. Big Al

    “I had braced myself against the kind of troll onslaught that overwhelmed the comment section of last year’s review.”

    I am still awaiting protests from the Hubbardites that should predictably accompany “The Master”. I guess Hubbard has not spawned the kind of crossover hero-worship that Rand has from conservatives (who should know better).

    Either that or no one has yet figured out that “The Master” is really about L-Ron.

  12. Ken Hanke

    You boys keep this up and you’re probably going to rouse a certain party — whose name I dare any of you to say three times while looking in the mirror. (Just don’t cite it here.)

  13. DrSerizawa

    You boys keep this up and you’re probably going to rouse a certain party —

    Really. I’m a right leaning libertarian and even I can’t stand those Ayn Rand freaks. Leave it be.

  14. Ken Hanke

    I’m a right leaning libertarian

    Shhh. I expend considerable energy not thinking about that because I like you.

  15. sharpleycladd

    A right-leaning libertarian is somebody who wants to get locked in a cage match with Dow Chemical and no Uncle Sam to referee.

    • DrSerizawa

      I’m pretty sure that you don’f know what that is. In any case I’ m not going to dance. Life’s too s.hort to waste time arguing politics on Ken’s movie site.

  16. Ken Hanke

    Ken, that’s a bunch of malarkey!

    First, you don’t bring me a wallaby. Then, you say I’m not as funny as a one-joke movie. Now, you try to cast me as Paul Ryan. I’m thinking of a word…

  17. Ken Hanke

    I hate to be the bearer of these tidings, but at least one theater has already shaken this thing off like a bad case of fleas.

  18. Ken Hanke

    Apparently, he spoke to the other theaters, too, since I see no sign of this on any local screens come Friday.

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