Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Atlas Shrugged Part III

God alone knows how, but the producers managed to waste enough money to make three of these dumb movies. It took a small fortune to create these disasters, but it took them only an hour to drain my brain of any, even halfhearted, enthusiasm for watching this last film! As before, please check out the reviews of this film alongside my friend Andrew over at I Choose to Stand where he looks at all three like me!

After Part II bombed even more spectacularly than the first film, making less than a quarter of its stated budget back, the series seemed to be in some limbo for a while. There was even talk of optioning it for a musical (God wouldn't that have been annoying?) way back when. However, this fortunately (sadly?) did not come to pass and instead they did what they had done for the last two installments, scrapped the old cast and hired all new actors making things even more confusing for people.

In a now hilariously familiar story, the budget for this film was only half of its predecessors, with some 440,000$ of that being raised on Kickstarter. Really, this film should have been called Atlas Shrugged Part III: The Search For More Money. In should come as no surprise that from a budget of 5 million, the film made only 800,000$ back at the box office. Considering what this was, even in comparison to Part III of the book, there isn't any question of why it bombed even worse than it's predecessors.

Now as someone who had read the book I will admit full disclosure to being interested to seeing Part III of this film series. It was, in themes, set pieces and story, very different from the first two parts which can be very well described as "business people talking business" with some bland mystery coloring the background.

Part III of the novel however, had one large section of ideological screed, followed by some rather entertaining pulpy action bits and the close up examination of society collapsing. Trains stop running, harvests are left to rot, and sections of the country break into open civil war. It's actually rather gripping stuff as we see the United States collapse into anarchy as part of the plan by the megalomaniacs heroes of the story.

To sum up (since I'm sure you were in such suspense) the disappearance of the most talented people in the United States is being caused by John Galt. Originally a young man who worked for The 20th Century Motor Company. However, the old owner has died and so his children come in and begin spouting vague Marxist platitudes and declare that they will reward their workers according to their need. Galt declares he won't stand for it and will stop it, when melodramatically asked 'how?' he declares he will stop the motor of the world.

The plan to do this? He will remove all the innovators and movers from society! Yes, the economy has been collapsing because Galt has been taking the CEO's, bankers, philosophers, ect who truly move the world and secreting them away so they cannot use their genius to keep society going. So of course society is falling apart and the plebes are tearing at each others throats because, according to Objectivist philosophy, they refuse to take responsibility for their actions and thus cannot make society function.

Weirdly, neither the book, nor the movie, ever seems to answer this reasonable objection. The villains throw it out (James Taggart famously asking Dagny, you didn't lay all that track, you didn't build those engines, or some such, and we're just supposed to ignore it because the villains say it) but no proper response is ever delivered. To its credit, the book and movie try and figure Galt's Gulch (Atlantis) into the picture, showing an 'ideal' society. However, the myriad of objections and contradictions inherent in it (everyone looks up to John Galt implicitly, who makes legal decisions, what do you do with bad apples, people who rig the system, what prevents corruption, ect) that there is really no way I could cover it in a review like this. Suffice to say, the film tries to inspire you with stirring music throughout. It doesn't fit, and it doesn't wash away the weirdness of the situation.

Obviously, this plan/community would not work in the real world. CEO's, individual philosophers and inventors do not, in fact, keep the world running. If you were to remove Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos right now, their companies would run just fine (Apple, for instance, has nicely survived the death of Steve Jobs), even taking out the arguably highest managers and tech specialists would probably only see these companies lose a small amount of profit as, unlike in Objectivist philosophy, the men and women waiting in the wings, or even second best workers, would be able to step in and take their places.

In the world of Objectivist fantasy however, this is something which could never happen. Only the best, the greatest, the 1% can keep society functioning. Everyone below them should know their place and strive only to serve and validate these ubermensch! The most troubling thing about this is people actually believe this and it has very much had real world consequences from the small to the large scale.

Thankfully, you really wouldn't know it from the movie it is so terrible.

However, before we go on to what this movie has to offer, allow me to enlighten you to what it doesn't have:

- Hank Rearden
- The secret weapon government Project X
- Riot at Rearden's steel mill
- Dagny defiantly declaring she had an affair with Hank
- Galt embarrassing the tyrants on television
- The destruction of Taggart Bridge by Project X
- James Taggart's mental breakdown

These are all extremely important plot elements in the book. And many of them made Part III mildly enjoyable to read as it became a weird blend of technothriller and soapbox for the authors beliefs. What does this movie have to offer? Well...

The movie starts with some overarching narration, which continues throughout the movie. It talks about how government regulation is bad. In case you don't pick up on that the narrator will be back to drive that point home over, and over, and over and over again. Then this weird narration instead lists off plot points which would probably have been better told by the characters themselves, its incredibly distracting.

It opens in Galt's Gulch, picking up where it left off from the last film. Here, we get some boring hours of the supposed 'heroes' ranting against government regulation. They say they've had to 'quit' from the world, and will not be offering their wondrous inventions and minds to the outside so long as the government tries to 'enslave' them. There she meets with all the others and they expound on their philosophical ideas and why they left and why they won't be giving their benefits to other people.

In this Dagny (now played by Laura Regan) is almost completely passive, dumb, and needs things explained to her. This is a departure from the saucy, driven, and even overwhelmed character from the first two films. I mean no disrespect but Laura Regan really doesn't land this role, she's frustrating to watch, uninspiring, and utterly boring. I didn't feel compelled to care about her one iota.

The supporting cast is all largely middle aged white men going around expounding why rich middle aged white men should run the world. The philosophy they spout is as repugnant as ever, but it isn't even good exposition. Francisco is now even older than when he first appeared, looking like someone in his late sixties. It seems the strike has aged him horribly.

The worst of this is John Galt (played by Kristoffer Polaha) the man who is supposed to have brought the world down, looks like some surfer dude or hippie. He is supposed to be this dynamic force of industry who keeps people on their feet with his power of oration and sheer presence. I found myself falling asleep every time he was talking. He goes around with this almost bemused or mildly surprised attitude as though "my God people actually fell for this" is going through his mind. At best, he looks and acts like some cult guru, at worst, he comes off as a mediocre con man.

Like, communism is bad dudes

Now these lame characters and their exposition take up the first FORTY MINUTES of this movie. I was honestly so bored it was an effort to keep watching. Eventually, she hears her brother is running the railroad into the ground and leaves with John Galt giving her some melodramatic goodbye saying she can find him when she wants to leave.

Next we're cutting around as Dagny tries to keep things from falling apart, the government is working towards nationalizing the economy so it can be brought together with central planning and some vague "Project F" which is supposed to keep people in line is going to be unveiled. Meanwhile, the economy is collapsing and the all important Minnesota wheat harvest is being practically ignored, and so as things begin to blow up in everyone's faces Mr. Thompson, the 'Head of State' declares he will give a speech to reassure the nation.

"But wait!" you say "What about that other important character? Hank Rearden? Surely he must have some part to play in all this!" Well I'm glad you asked! Because the movie disagrees! Other than a brief cameo via phone conversation, and mention of 'union thugs' fighting at his mill, Hank completely disappears from this picture! What about his shrewish wife? Who knows! What about his work with Dagny? Who cares! This movie doesn't, and you really won't either as you'll have so many other things to be mad about. Just like Cheyrl Taggart (Don't remember her? Don't worry, she dies off screen).

With everything collapsing, we have this almost hilarious scene where the villains are sitting around talking about how they're willing to let millions die to stay in power. They just have the courage to do so. Dagny loses faith in the system. Mr. Thompson goes to give his big speech to reassure the nation.

Then, in a moment so terrible that it boggles the mind, John Galt hacks the speech. This is, in the books, a speech which is supposed to be the penultimate moment of moral truth, as John Galt rants speaks about the inherent contradictions in the system and gives the basis for all of Objectivism. However, its a really lame speech given by a man half in shadow which is delivered...shall we say, tepidly? Compare this 4 minute speech to a rendition of the speech from the novel which lasts for THREE HOURS. Yup, John Galt's true speech is supposed to go on longer than the movie itself. And this speech has never been read in anything less than a three hour window as far as I'm aware.

After that the plot briefly picks up again as Galt is captured and tortured by the government with their nefarious Project F, a car battery hooked up to some electrodes... Never fear though, Dagny and a group of geriatric supporters from Galt's Gulch breaks in and rescues him. In one of the most anti-climactic action scenes ever. Dagny, in a confusing scene where she monologues at a guard who opines that he isn't supposed to make decisions, shoots him and rescues Galt. As they fly away the lights in New York go out as they have stopped the motor of the world, and all the consequences that entails.

From Patheos - man they were undeservedly optimistic.

Quite honestly, I have nothing good to say about this movie. It is cheap, so cheap a secret government weapon is a car battery. The sets are shoddy, the acting is the worst of the whole trilogy, and there isn't even an attempt at doing anything beyond the bad preaching at the audience.

What is worse is that this movie didn't even have to suck! Part III of the book had some amazing set piece sections. The dumb 'Project F' (which honestly would be the grade it was given considering it apparently cost tax payers millions) is actually Project X, a huge sonic weapon that can destroy things. When a would be dictator uses it it goes haywire and knocks out Taggart's bridge which is a central plot point in destroying the regime. There's a whole action scene where Rearden and Francisco are fighting off government thugs sent to take over his factory. The rescue is even more compelling in the novel! Heck, the background has a civil war raging in California and Eddie Willers takes on a suicide mission to go get the trains from there running again!

Speaking of Eddie, we come to the film's cardinal sin. In the books, Eddie undergoes this heroic mission only for his train to break down in the desert. We last see him sitting under the glaring headlight of the train, alone and without a chance. Now, some Objectivists cop out and say we simply "don't know" what happened to him. No, he's dead guys, he's bloody dead! At the climax of the film Dagny says they must go back and rescue him. In the book, she forgets all about him. The man who has served her faithfully for years, was loyal to her all the way, and even loyal to the company up to his very last? Forgotten without any mention by the woman he served so faithfully, cast aside like a broken tool.

This, this right here is the crowning evil of Atlas Shrugged. Unless you are a member of these ubermensch, you are not worth saving. At the end of the film, the lights are going out all over America. That is by design. John Galt's ultimate plan is to destroy the world to remake it in his image, and by the book's logic, that is a good thing.

Like with the train disaster from Part II, the film tries to shy away from this inherent evil by overlooking it. Just like they make Dagny remember poor Eddie. However, the true ideology says he deserves to die. He just isn't good enough for the Objectivist rapture. Amusingly, neither are Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, or Ron Paul, who all make little cameos in this film.

In the end, this film is as bankrupt as the ideology it was trying to portray. It failed spectacularly at the box office and in the cultural sphere, but its insidious influence continues onwards. Ultimately though, the films are a deservedly forgotten about piece of culture, a last gasp at being relevant by a man who believes himself a member of that elite society in the 1%, and who wasted lots of cash just to prove he wasn't. Ayn Rand is hopefully rolling in her grave.

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