I hit the theater today and saw Atlas Shrugged Part II!
We pick up where we left off in Atlas part I. Great minds and businessmen are disappearing right and left; Dagny recognizes it for what it is — an organized strike. Gas costs over $40 a gallon, making air travel nearly impossible so the biggest mode of transportation is still railway. In Part II, we pick up on how the government has trampled business, the free market and has effectively taken control of most of the means of production. Dagny is still struggling to make the motor run, the same motor which she and Rearden discovered at the abandoned 20th Century motors plant. Everything that is done by the government is done in the name of ‘fairness’ and ‘common good’. That ‘common good’ can be seen on the streets lined with unpicked up garbage, sidewalks lined with protesters and absence of cars on the road. The government deals a death-blow to business and to liberty in this latest installment of Atlas Shrugged, in the form of directive 10-289. This directive is as follows and made me physically ill when it played out in the film:
In the name of the general welfare, to protect the people’s security, to achieve full equality and total stability, it is decreed for the duration of the national emergency that:
Point One. All workers, wage earners and employees of any kind whatsoever shall henceforth be attached to their jobs and shall not leave nor be dismissed nor change employment, under penalty of a term in jail. The penalty shall be determined by the Unification Board, such Board to be appointed by the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources. All persons reaching the age of twenty-one shall report to the Unification Board, which shall assign them to where, in its opinion, their services will best serve the interests of the nation.
Point Two. All industrial, commercial, manufacturing and business establishments of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth remain in operation, and the owners of such establishments shall not quit nor leave nor retire, nor close, sell or transfer their business, under penalty of the nationalization of their establishment and of any and all of their property.
Point Three. All patents and copyrights, pertaining to any devices, inventions, formulas, processes and works of any nature whatsoever, shall be turned over to the nation as a patriotic emergency gift by means of Gift Certificates to be signed voluntarily by the owners of all such patents and copyrights. The Unification Board shall then license the use of such patents and copyrights to all applicants, equally and without discrimination, for the purpose of eliminating monopolistic practices, discarding obsolete products and making the best available to the whole nation. No trademarks, brand names or copyrighted titles shall be used. Every formerly patented product shall be known by a new name and sold by all manufacturers under the same name, such name to be selected by the Unification Board. All private trademarks and brand names are hereby abolished.
Point Four. No new devices, inventions, products, or goods of any nature whatsoever, not now on the market, shall be produced, invented, manufactured or sold after the date of this directive. The Office of Patents and Copyrights is hereby suspended.
Point Five. Every establishment, concern, corporation or person engaged in production of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth produce the same amount of goods per year as it, they or he produced during the Basic Year, no more and no less. The year to be known as the Basic or Yardstick Year is to be the year ending on the date of this directive. Over or under production shall be fined, such fines to be determined by the Unification Board.
Point Six. Every person of any age, sex, class or income, shall henceforth spend the same amount of money on the purchase of goods per year as he or she spent during the Basic Year, no more and no less. Over or under purchasing shall be fined, such fines to be determined by the Unification Board.
Point Seven. All wages, prices, salaries, dividends, profits, interest rates and forms of income of any nature whatsoever, shall be frozen at their present figures, as of the date of this directive.
Point Eight. All cases arising from and rules not specifically provided for in this directive, shall be settled and determined by the Unification Board, whose decisions will be final.
Cast, crew etc:
This was my main gripe and stumbling block. The film did not disappoint in message and by the end I had overcome some of my initial bias going in on the change of actors playing the lead roles. Having said that, the casting changes, dialogue and the look and feel of the film did not produce the same impact the first film had. There was a feeling of gravity being super heavy in the first that was not quite captured in this one.
The original cast was far slicker in their delivery than this cast. Dialogue was also a factor. The second film had some ham-handed lines in it which I wrote off to the plot requiring heavier explanation than in the first film. The original Hank (Grant Bowler) and Dagny (Taylor Schilling) really nailed it in the first film. Schilling and Bowler WERE Dagny and Hank. The replacement Dagny (Samantha Mathis) left a bit to be desired; she lacked the passion, drive and sex appeal Schilling had. The replacement Hank (Jason Beghe) was a decent choice, however I admit bias to Bowler whom I’ve dug since LOST. I’m not ashamed to say it – the man is sexy as Hell and he makes one helluva werewolf in HBO’s series True Blood. But enough about me and my Fifty Shades obsession with Mr. Bowler.
The mood and cinematography were also very different. This one felt more TV mini-series like while the first one was of a richer movie visual palette. There was a regal feel to the world of the producers in the first film that was lacking in this one; the transformation of Rearden’s wife from the first film to the second is a good example of that. In the first film she was a snooty, albeit elegant woman. In the second, she was fairly trampy. I was not impressed with that nor with the replacement of Matthew Marsden as James Taggart. Marsden made an excellent calculating villain, Patrick Fabian played Taggart as more of a buffoon.
The best scene of the film was when Hank Rearden gives his speech before the court. It was well delivered and could have been a speech given in the present day. The clip and some back story is here, the film clip begins at the 2:35 mark:
I’m biased and liked the first cast in part I, however the film’s message was the real main character and that is the individual.
Government cannot be allowed to grow out of control and unchecked. Atlas Part II makes clear that a government big enough to give you everything is big enough to take it all away — only John Galt has beaten them to the punch with his strike and ‘stopping the motor of the world’. Part II emphasizes that nothing but collapse can come from a society where creators are not free to create and where those who work hard are stripped of the fruits of their labor in order to be redistributed as the government sees fit. It’s slavery of the few to serve the needs of an ever-increasing many; it’s shared sacrifice, where no one is recognized for success, but instead demonized for it. The warning of big government take overs and statism is clear. Individual achievement and independence must be preserved.
This film is definitely worth seeing and I look forward to the third installment.