Movie Review: Atlas Shrugged Part II

Atlas Shrugged Part II

As I am likely the school’s only Objectivist (follower of the philosophies of Ayn Rand), I felt inspired to write a review of Atlas Shrugged Part II, which was released in theaters on Friday.
Let me first state that, as with most movie reviews, the book is much better. Subtle details are sprinkled throughout the book to support the main theme, and the reader must work to piece together the big picture. In the movie, the viewer is beat over the head with the important concepts. Having stated that, I recommend this movie to anyone who is familiar with Atlas Shrugged or the works of Ayn Rand.
In terms of acting, the viewer might be confused by the changes in actors from Atlas Shrugged Part I. Many of the original actors were not in the second movie, though the producers did a very good job of picking new actors that were similar in appearance. Also, the dialog included names frequently at the beginning of the movie so that within a few minutes, the viewer had forgotten that there were new actors.
One strong acting upgrade from Atlas Shrugged Part I was Hank Reardon was played by Grant Bowler, who was a bit too clean cut to work at a foundry. He appeared out of place. In Part II, Hank Reardon was played by Jason Beghe, with a deeper, raspier voice, likely a firm handshake, and a no-nonsense attitude. He could wear a suit during a business meeting, but throw on a hard hat and fire retardant clothing at a minutes’ notice and assist on the melt deck.
Another strong acting upgrade was Francisco D’Antonia. Francisco’s part calls for him to be a genius, but intentionally sleezy as part of a scheme to hide his virtues. He also was a teenage lover with Dagny Taggart, the heroine of the story. In Atlas Shrugged Part I, this part is played by Jsu Garcia, who has the sleezy part perfectly executed. He appears drunk and downright dirty in every scene. Rather than being the classy playboy, heir to a giant copper company as depicted in the book, he is portrayed as being the town drunk. In Part I, the viewer would never believe that Dagny, at any point, under the influence of any substance, had anything to do with this louse. In Part II, Francisco was played by Esai Morales. He appears much older, but has a certain classiness.
The worst acting decision has consistently been James Taggart. In Part I, he was played by Matthew Marsden, and in Part II by Patrick Fabian, and neither of them fit the part at all. In the book, James is the slimy, scared president of a railroad who, unable to make any decisions on his own, leaves the decision making to Dagny or nobody at all. If the decision was good, he takes credit; if it was bad, he blames anyone else. He is one of the more evil villains in the book. However, these two actors come across as being nothing more evil than a slightly dishonest used car salesmen.
The plot was mostly consistent with the book, though there was, in my opinion, a major ‘miss’ when it came to the trial of Hank Reardon. In the book, Hank Reardon is on trial for selling his product (Reardon Metal) to another person (Ken Dannager), which is a violation of a law stating that each customer Is to receive an equal amount of his product. This law interferes with free, voluntary trade, and Hank Reardon willingly violates it on principle. At his trial, Hank gives a speech where he states that is right for him to sell to whomever he wants, that it is right for him to make as much money as he can with his abilities. He gives a nod to trickle-down economics, by saying that if he does make money, he can hire more people, and the world is a better place with his product. However, in his speech, he clearly states that this is NOT the reason he makes money, and the “good of humanity” is not a driving force in his productivity.
In the movie, Hank Reardon instead resorts to the utilitarian philosophy of business, which states that he exists and is productive for the good of the community, rather than for his own enjoyment. He goes on about jobs created, tax revenue created, etc, all of which are not the underlying principle of the book (since when would a hero in an Ayn Rand book justify existing because of tax revenue generated?), and I considered this to be a major flaw.
Overall, I do recommend this movie in spite of that major miss. I believe that a writer used some artistic license to say what he or she thought was an equivalent statement; but did not realize that utilitarianism and Objectivism are incompatible philosophies.

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