With the global economy on the brink of collapse, Dagny Taggart discovers what might be the answer to a mounting energy crisis and races against the clock to prevent the motor of the World from being stopped for good.
As I said when I reviewed 2016: When it comes to political movies of the Right, you can generally tell if they hit their mark by the critics’ reaction. The “independent” critics show their true colors by panning the movie for making points with which they disagree, not the quality of the film itself. So it is with the Atlas Shrugged trilogy; both installments released so far have been panned by the film critics, most of whom out themselves by criticizing the “message” rather than the movie. Both installments have rated highly among the audience, however, perhaps also more for the message than the movie.
On that front, Part II does a much better job with the message. It is a cleaner, smoother, more entertaining movie. Though in some ways it suffers by comparison.
Before I bore you with my nit-picks over casting, I should share what is good here.
- The story is better, and could stand on it’s own even without Part I to set the stage.
- The higher budget is definitely in evidence (though some effects are still…iffy).
- The flow is smoother, allowing Rand’s speeches to seem a part of the narrative, rather than a narrative of their own.
- The cliffhanger is more intriguing, leaving me wanting to see what happens next
- The message is tailored more to our current world; whereas Part I gave us a mysterious distant-future-sometime* with cities in ruin, Part II could be happening next year. (Yes, that makes for a continuity issue)
Because it was a better movie, and I will recommend it to the same people in my circle, Atlas Shrugged: Part II gets 4 1/2 on the WOM Scale.
And now, casting. My impression leaving the theater: Stronger movie, weaker cast
I was disappointed when I initially heard they had reworked the entire cast. I tried to brush it off, hoping that with the increased budget they were bringing in more seasoned actors. Unfortunately, in almost every case, the replacement actor makes a diminished impression. This is most apparent when it comes to Dagny Taggart, our heroine, and Lillian Rearden, the conniving wife of our hero.
Taylor Schilling may have been simply a passable Dagny, but she was at least passably likeable – and relatable. Samantha Mathis is … not. Her Dagny is drawn and rough, conveying every emotion as some odd variation of a pouting grimace. I realize Dagny has the weight of the world on her shoulders, but portraying her as unflinchingly sullen denies us glimpsing the fire & light inside her. I found I was less invested in her and the fight she was waging.
I’m guessing they may have been unable to bring Rebecca Wisocky back as Lillian Rearden; I can think of no other reason to forgo one of the brightest spots from Part I. Wisocky brought a gleeful edge to Mrs Reardon that Kim Rhodes lacks (and let’s face it, a little humor is welcome in a Rand tale).
Grant Bowler was a much better Hank Rearden if only because he was less of a caricature version than his replacement. Our new Hank, Jason Beghe, would have been fine if cast originally. However, as a new edition, his delivery seems just a bit like a gravelly voiced impersonation – and the chemistry between Dagny & Hank is just not there.
The new Eddie Willers, Richard T. Jones, was a positive move. As much as I enjoyed Edi Gathegi in Part I, this Eddie is much more commanding – and more convincingly protective.
The other casting changes mostly created issues with continuity, making it even more difficult to keep track of the plethora of characters.
Please, producers, if you plan on presenting a story in “III” parts, do your best to secure the same talent each time. It makes it so much easier on your audience
* The DVD says “The year is 2016”, but it felt much more distant
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 0%; Audience 84%