Thursday, March 21, 2013

Atlas Shrugged Part 2: The Strike - A ranty review. (SPOILERS!)

If you intend on subjecting yourself to this movie for some masochistic self-flagellatory reason and don’t wish to know what happens and haven’t read the eponymous book then go no further. This rambling, ranty review turned out a little lenghty too. Sorry about that. Read at own risk. There is no structure, terrible grammar and probably lots of misspelling!
The movie begins with our heroine Dagny doing her best Luke Skywalker/Maverick impression by chasing a tie fighter through a series of mountain passes. I’ll assume she has some reason for not simply flying above the mountains where she could have easily tracked the Galt mobile but I, not being a millionaire business magnate, would not understand such things. The indomitable Dagny Taggart – played by Samantha Mathis hurtles at some unseen barrier and asks herself the most retarded rhetorical question ever conceived – “who is John Galt?”. At this point we are rewound a few moons and return to much the point where our dynamic duo, Dagny, the indispensible COO of Taggart Transcontinental railroad - who actually keeps the company going, and Henry Rearden (he’s a billionaire so know he’s great –played by Jason Beghe), left off in Part 1.

Dagny is attempting to get the miracle power generation technology working. A very difficult task as the clandestine Galt is disappearing everyone with a brain. There is almost a perfect coincidence of “great mind” and “company owner”. A nod is directed at “artists” at one point but it is difficult to image anyone without wealth being approached by Galt. There is a sense in the movie that wealth will come to the worthy. The “state science institute”, a component in the hyper-Marxist government’s conspiracy to bring about the economic collapse of the whole country is the very last place that the miracle generator should be brought. The institute is a bastion of government-shilling, second-rate minds. Dr. Robert Stadler (Robert Picardo) who seems to be a big-wig in the science institute forgoes an attempt at getting the wish-granter working because he is sure he isn’t the man for the job. How does he know this? He hasn’t been disappeared. Clearly then he is far too dim a bulb to accomplish anything worthwhile. He should, no doubt, be working some minor job for a demi-god capitalist to whom he should be eternally grateful for his job. He wouldn’t be able to survive without these world-pillars. This is evidenced by the continually degrading conditions of the country and its economy as the handful of geniuses who make the world go are abandoning it. As the movers and shakers, thinkers and doers disappear, there is simply no-one to replace them.

Atlas Shrugged Part 2 feels a lot like the world’s most boring disaster movie. It tried to create a sense of time running out and world coming apart at the seams but it came across as simply not that urgent and the government seemed manically intent on its own destruction and the destruction of the economy. The urgency and the actual threat didn’t really jibe. It felt as if one of the characters might suddenly scream “Look out behind you, it’s a foreclosure!” or “Duck! High interest rates!”.

The movie is completely farcical. I did get quite a few laughs but these where laughs at the movie, not with it. When the government enacts it final solution directive 10-289, it is a belly laugh moment for anyone who isn’t a dyed in the wool Rand sycophant. The provisions of the directive are so farcical it is impossible to take it seriously. The government, in an attempt to stabilise the failing economy, freezes absolutely everything in place. You are no longer even allowed to quit your job. Innovation is prohibited. You are even required to spend exactly what you spent last year. Better hope you weren’t busy racking up debt! All this is done to a chant of “public good”, oft repeated. The government is like something out of 1984. Everything the government does is wrong.

Anything state owned is a den of “pull” seeking cronies. In one scene, a man delighting in his ability to make things happen with his “pull” is killed along with hundreds of other people as a result of his meddling. Rearden’s evil wife Lillian - played by Kim Rhodes - (she’d have to be evil as he is busy getting jiggy with Dagny) is convinced to help in undermining Henry with the prospect of gaining “pull”. One of the most ridiculous characters in the tale is Dagny’s brother James – played by Patrick Fabian. He is the President of the Railroad and entirely incompetent. Obsessed with status and his public image, he embraces every insanity foisted on him by government bureaucrats. He spends the movie as a panicking crony perpetually stressed as he plays the “pull” game. He can’t seem to decide if he wants to be a sly, scheming powerbroker or an altruistic pillar of the community. He is portrayed as an idiot trying to play politics. I’m not convinced this was the intent of the character but this is the impression I got from Fabian’s portrayal. While Rand undoubtedly wants to lay the boot in to any altruistic urge, James’ altruism makes for a poor target. It is impossible to shake the feeling that James is only acting this way because he thinks he will be better liked for it. He has no true altruistic urge, he is just moronically following the party line.

Dagny on the other hand has no interest in pull. She is trying to save the world. She is hyper competent, reflective and driven. The railroad falls apart almost entirely when she takes a day off. There is a major disaster because she wasn’t around to stop it. Cronies, who bow to bureaucratic pressure take ridiculous risks when they should be saying no. That requires a mover and a shaker. Those few who actually take on responsibility.

The movie is an ideological sledgehammer which repetitively, and with all the subtlety of kicking someone in the crotch and then screaming at them through a megaphone, reiterates its central theme. We’d be doomed if not for the genius innovators who drive the economy and government interference with our benevolent overlords is economically tantamount to playing Russian roulette alone. These entrepreneurs are simply superior to the “workers” they employ. These workers are much like Victorian servants; they are invisible unless they causing trouble through unions and generally being ungrateful moochers. They are inferior. A genetically less capable underclass. It is their place to serve. Every time one of these super rich innovators went off with Galt, I couldn’t help but wonder about a few things. In Galt’s paradise, populated by only the best and brightest, who cleans the toilets, cooks the food, does the laundry, builds the houses, sweeps the floors, etc. There are, in the regular old world, “workers” to do these things. The worker bees; drones who take care of that sort of menial thing. They are not really people. There was to me a striking sense of the wealthy people in the movie being much like the aristocracy of the middle ages. They ruled not by divine right but by simple superiority. They are better than the serfs and the serfs should be grateful that their betters provide them with livelihoods.

This movie is very, very bad. A complete farce.


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