Friday, October 4, 2013

Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike (Steelbook Special Edition) (2012)

Atlas Shrugged II: The StrikeThis is Part 2 of the Atlas Shrugged series; and it's a powerful continuation of Atlas Shrugged Part 1. I viewed this when it was released into theatres.

This part depicts the United States' further decline into the depths of economic despair. And it shows how increasing government oppression causes the decline to accelerate, even as more and more producers and innovators disappear from industry.

The acting is good to very good. Samantha Mathis brings a more dynamic range of acting skills to Dagny Taggert. Jason Beghe is first rate in his role as Hank Rearden, and Esai Morales is exceptional in his role as Francisco d'Anconia. In fact, I must say that these three are much better suited to their roles, especially at this point in the story. For example, Hank Readen's speech before the court was much more forceful, I think, than if it were rendered by Grant Bowler.

The camera work, computer graphics, scripting, and cinematography are all first rate.

There's nothing that comes close to this story. It is an in-your-face depiction of liberty vs. tyranny, and how an overbearing government impoverishes, and then destroys everyone. I guarantee you'll either love it or hate it, but you won't be neutral.

True to form, the critics bestowed even more hate than they did on Part 1. And yet, the audience seemed to enjoy this even more for at the film's ending, they stood and applauded! And cheered!

This is a great film and a great story. I highly recommend it.

Ayn Rand must be rolling over in her grave. As readers of Atlas Shrugged know, one of Ayn Rand's sacred words is "competence": she accords it the reverence that a Jesuit reserves for the word "chastity". Her villains aren't merely evil: they're morons who'd have trouble running an elevator. So it's a cruel irony that Atlas Shrugged is being so thoroughly botched.

The origins of this disaster go back some 20 years. In 1992, producer John Aglialoro paid $1 million for an 18-year option on the film rights to Atlas Shrugged. The outlook seemed promising, with big names like Charlize Theron and Anne Hathaway being considered for the lead role. But first a contract with Turner Network Television fell through; then another with Lions Gate Entertainment. Meanwhile the years were ticking by.

Suddenly, it was 2010 with rights on Atlas due to expire on June 15 of that year. Aglialoro made the fateful decision to press on. The screenplay was still being written in May; Director Stephen Polk was dropped at the start of June, with Paul Johansson picked as a replacement. Shooting of Atlas Shrugged Part I began June 13 two days before the option was to expire with a Director who had been on the job for two weeks. The whole project has never recovered from that initial panic-stricken rush to beat the expiry deadline.

Predictably, Atlas Shrugged Part I was a pretty shambolic effort: what else could you expect with zero time for planning or reconsideration? But most fatally, none of the actors had been contractually bound to perform in the next two installments. So when the first part bombed, all the actors took their leave. And it turned out that Atlas Shrugged II would need a new Director, as well as a new script writer.

Inevitably, the result has been two parts clumsily stitched together: having someone write or say "Who is John Galt?" every ten minutes is no assurance of dramatic continuity. Neither are announcements by newscasters in place of action by the characters. Atlas Shrugged, in spite of its great length, is a real page-turner and millions of people have been turning those pages for 50 years. By contrast, the films consist of one vignette after another, with no sense of drama or pacing. If you think these movies have a coherent narrative, I suspect you've read the book and are unconsciously filling in a lot of blanks.

Apparently, many admirers of Ayn Rand's novel are content to see their favorite scenes on the big screen, and disregard the ineptness of these movies taken as a whole. Such viewers may be thrilled to watch Francisco d'Anconia's defense of money; and they may enjoy Henry Rearden's trial with his ringing defense of the profit motive even if the courtroom looks bizarrely like a university lecture theatre. But stuff like that is not enough to sustain a movie.

Atlas Shrugged the novel presents Rearden as a man who is deeply in love with Dagny Taggart but morally conflicted about his adulterous relationship with her. He is both fascinated and repelled by Francisco d'Anconia and doesn't know that d'Anconia had had a passionate affair with Dagny Taggart many years earlier. If the script writer and Director were doing their jobs, the air would be crackling with sexual tension. It isn't. The key emotional drivers of the novel go straight into the waste basket in these movies. You hear political argument without remit; but nothing helps you understand why Dagny, d'Anconia and Rearden are who they are. It is supposed to be enough to be told that they are moral giants and that they are very angry.

The totally new cast is of course the main disaster, especially since there seems to have been no attempt to find actors resembling those who were in Atlas I. Dagny is no longer the young stainless steel executrix of part I; she is now in her 40's and presents like a harried soccer mom. Dr. Robert Stadler has lost the strong foreign accent he had in the first installment; and Eddie Willers is 10 years older, more heavily built and balding. At least the part goes again to an African-American: thank heaven for that much continuity. Jason Beghe, the new Rearden, does a pretty good job although he doesn't look much like his predecessor either. On the positive side, the new Francisco d'Anconia is clean-shaven: his scruffy predecessor in Atlas Shrugged I would have outraged Ayn Rand, who was famously prejudiced against men with facial hair.

And it isn't just the plot line that has no continuity. Incredibly, the production company didn't save the sets from the first movie. Dagny Taggart's office and apartment; the Taggart Building and concourse; Rearden's office: all of them are clearly different from those in Atlas I. I was prepared to look past the amateurish CGI that everyone has complained about. But set continuity? This is a level of incompetence reminiscent of sci-fi cheapies from the '50's. It would get you a failing grade in Cinema 1100.

To be fair, it would be difficult and perhaps impossible to do a 21st century adaptation of Atlas Shrugged. Although the novel is allegedly set in the future, the technological background is locked firmly in the mid-1940's, with steam locomotives just beginning to be phased out, steel production still key to American industry, and no sign of Chinese outsourcing. Furthermore, the social and sexual attitudes that background the action come right out of a 1940's Bette Davis flick. Finally, Ayn Rand had a tin ear. Dialogue so stilted is tolerable in a novel, especially if you like the message; if you try to use it unmodified in a film, it's simply laughable.

Given plenty of time, an enormously talented and determined script writer might have had a shot at resolving these problems but if such a writer was out there, Aglialoro didn't find him. And time was something he'd run out of.

I'm giving this film a two-star rating. It deserves to be rated lower, but I want to put some distance between this review and the one-star efforts, some of which seem to me to be as mindless as most of the five-star ratings.

Not surprisingly, Atlas Shrugged I garnered hundreds of glowing notices on Amazon and this may very well happen to Atlas Shrugged II: when it comes to book and film reviews, campaign voting is one variety of collective action that worshippers of Ayn Rand are expert at. But the box office and DVD sales numbers tell the real story. Between $20 and $35 million was spent on the two movies; both together have so far barely managed $11.5 million in box office and DVD revenue. The blu-ray numbers aren't available, but they can't be big enough to close a deficit like this. These movies have been serious money losers. This is a fact.

Atlas Shrugged II opened at more than a thousand theatres, so admirers of Ayn Rand had plenty of chances of tell their friends about it. One reviewer at this site said that the viewers at his theatre stood up and applauded at the end: if they did, they represent a tiny minority. Most seem to have crept away in embarrassed silence: the film's second-week drop in attendance was one of the worst in the last 30 years. This is a fact.

Many, many reviewers are claiming that the failure of these two movies is due to the evil and omnipotent "liberal elite." My answer: stop kidding yourselves. Dinesh D'Souza's "2016: Obama's America" was panned by liberals too: but it's made a $40 million return on an initial investment of $2,500,000. Ayn Rand's novels still sell well in spite of decades of negative reviews.

Millions of people are enthusiastic readers of Atlas Shrugged. If Mr. Aglialoro had produced a halfway decent adaptation, right now he and his backers would be rolling in dough. Instead they are drowning in debt. That's because Atlas Shrugged I and Atlas Shrugged II are bad movies.

Atlas Shrugged II would never have seen the light of day if it weren't for investors more interested in ideology than in making money. In Atlas Shrugged we are told that man should not be "a sacrificial animal"; but when it comes to movies, it's apparently okay to be a cash cow.

Buy Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike (Steelbook Special Edition) (2012) Now

I went to see Atlas Shrugged, Part 2, at one of my local theaters the day of its first showing. The film is a pretty accurate reflection of the direction our Nation is taking. Little wonder that the movie makes Hollywood critics and D.C. politicians uncomfortable. The film reveals what they really are and what they are about. The characters are believable, the acting is supurb, and the plot ties into current events very well. I'm looking forward to Part 3.

Read Best Reviews of Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike (Steelbook Special Edition) (2012) Here

Liked the first part of Atlas Shrugged better. Acting was so-so. The actors in this movie are different than the ones in the first movie. Liked the actors in the first movie better as well. Also felt like not much happened in this was a lot of activity without much of a point. They also did not do a good job of explaining why certain things happened in this movie. Unless you had read the book, many things would not have made sense. Not much connectivity between the first and second movie. The book is much, much better than either of the films that have come out so far. Not too interested in watching the 3rd installment.

Want Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike (Steelbook Special Edition) (2012) Discount?

I consider myself to be an Atlas Shrugged/Ayn Rand fan, but I found myself rather disappointed with AS: Part 2. I thought Part 1 was quite promising, decent cast and presentation. Part 2, however, felt very amateurish in comparison. Oddly enough, I enjoyed the actors for Rearden and Francisco much better in Part 2, but I think they were hampered by a poorly adapted script.

The special effects were atrocious and reminded me of 10-15 year old sci-fi original pictures. So many shots could have been practical effects, stock footage, or just plain absent and would have been better than the very poor CG that they decided to go with.

Even the parts that should have had great impact, like Francisco's money speech or Rearden's defense at his trial, seemed flat and a bit forced in the film.

If you are also an Atlas Shrugged/Ayn Rand fan, I'm sure you'll want to see this movie. If you are not familiar with the book, skip the movie and go buy the book. I think you'll get a lot more out of it.

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