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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Atlas Shrugged, Part II

February 17th, 2013

Atlas Shrugged, Part II - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Atlas Shrugged, Part I cost $20 million to make and earned back less than one quarter of that in theaters. In my review, I speculated that Atlas Shrugged, Part II would never be made, because the first part lost money. It was made. It only cost $10 million this time, and they managed to open in more than 1000 theaters, but it still bombed. In fact, it bombed even harder this time around. Even so, according to Wikipedia, Part III already has a release date. ... For a group of people so dedicated to capitalism, they sure don't know how it works.

The Movie

The film begins with what I think it supposed to be a plane chase. I say think, because it lacks any real tension. It also looks really, really cheap. After a bit of a chase, Dagny Taggart, who was flying the second plane, crashes. But before she does, she says, "Who is John Galt."

We then flashback to nine months earlier with Dagny Taggart escorting Dr. Robert Stadler to her underground bunker. In the last movie, she found a prototype machine that can convert static electricity to usable energy, without the use of fossil fuels, but it does require a lot of pixie dust.

If I can go on a bit of a tangent here. Atlas Shrugged, Part II is agitprop. It is here to push a message. This isn't a bad thing; in fact, having a message can be a real asset to a movie, if the message is solid. However, if the message is either flawed, either due to the nature of the message or how it is delivered, it can kill a movie. This movie is killed right away. The free energy device is pure fantasy. Not only that, but the idea of a lone scientist / inventor creating something like this by themselves is also pure fantasy. That doesn't happen in the real world, because as Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." One of the most famous scientific discoveries of the 20th century was the relationship between mass and energy. E=mc2 is arguably the most famous equation in all of science. Einstein didn't come up with that theory. He built upon previous theories by scientists like Friedrich Hasenöhrl.

This device, if they can get it to work, would mean they would have limitless energy from a decentralized source... kind of like putting solar panels on everyone's house. However, the inventor of this device is one of the people who disappeared last movie, so Dagny Taggart asks Dr. Robert Stadler if he can figure out how to make it work. They need to make it work, in order to get the economy back on track. It's gotten so bad that Dagny has to close the 93 line, the one that her great-grandfather built. It had a lot of sentimental value, but it was losing money. She talks to Henry Rearden to commiserate, and the pair make plans to get together.

At the same time, Henry Rearden gets into a conflict with the government, which wants to buy lots of his new magical steel, but he refuses to sell. This is against the new Fair Share Law, which dictates companies can't refuse orders from anyone. (Given the time frame in which the original novel was written, I think this was a reference to anti-discrimination laws that were being passed at the time.) Eventually he will be charged under this law and he will go to trial.

It's not all business. James Taggart meets Cherryl Brooks and the pair fall in love and get married. However, even their wedding is turned into an Objectivist sermon.

As the film progresses, Dagny Taggart comes closer to understanding why people are disappearing, but will she figure it out in time?

Normally reviewing a sequel is a lot easier, because I can use the previous review as a template and copy all of the links for the cast. This time around, that's not possible, because the filmmakers decided to get a whole new cast and crew. They needed to save money somehow. The direction was even weaker this time around and there's no tension to the dramatic scenes or the few action shots. It's below the level of a TV movie in this regard. On the other hand, the acting it an improvement in a few instances, at least in the supporting roles. Robert Picardo and Ray Wise are both good in their roles and I do like Larisa Oleynik. There were also quite a few cameos in the movie. However, the film has the same wooden dialogue and stilted direction, which really hurts the performances. There are very few moments where we see real human interaction, as opposed to people giving sermons, but the few times they try, it doesn't really work. The two leads again have no chemistry together and Henry Rearden comes across as an ass, not an inspirational hero.

At least the first film has some nice shots of scenery and felt more epic. This film feels small and cheap by comparison.

The Extras

There is a nine-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, there is a three-minute extended scene with Sean Hannity, and finally 15 minutes of deleted scenes.

The technical presentation is adequate. In fact, the high definition video is clear enough that the cheap special effects and low production values are emphasized even more. The audio is good, but uncomplicated.

The Blu-ray cost $3 or 20% more than the DVD, which is good for this type of release.

The Verdict

If you are not an Objectivist, then you will likely hate Atlas Shrugged, Part II. If you are an Objectivist, but one that is being objective, you will also hate this movie. Outside of a few good performances in smaller roles, there's nothing to recommend in this movie. There are also not enough extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray to make it worth picking up, even if you do like Ayn Rand.

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Filed under: Video Review, Atlas Shrugged: Part II, Samantha Mathis, Larisa Oleynik, Robert Picardo, Ray Wise, Patrick Fabian, Jason Beghe