TRANSCRIPT: “Atlas Shrugged, Part II,” a review

Find the video on YouTube here.

Greetings Rebels-to-King-George, and curious others.

Well, I’ve put this off for a week and so I’d better get it finished before I forget any more of the points I wanted to make about this particular movie.

I’ll admit it, I had the proverbial bad attitude long before taking my seat October 12th, 2012 for an opening day showing of Atlas Shrugged, Part II. And yes…it was for the very same, very superficial reason I’d had my guard up as I’d sat down on opening day, April 15th, 2011 to watch Part I:  who-was cast-to-portray-whom. I contend The Cast is vitally important and admit the all-brand-new cast in this film-sequel was a definite turn-off for me.

I’ll also admit that I went only out of a sense of loyalty to the spirit of the novel, as silly as that sounds. I hoped it wouldn’t be all bad – and it wasn’t, but too much of it was. To put it simply, Atlas Shrugged, Part II was big fat, unattractive disappointment.

First, Part II’s pluses:

The filmmakers did an admirable job with some especially Challenging scenes given their $20 million-dollar budget. Three particular instances stand out: first, the opening air chase sequence; second, the massive train crash in the Colorado tunnel; and third the foundry disaster.

The air chase not only opens the film – before the story then flashes back several months – but it also concludes this Part’s portion of the planned “Atlas Shrugged” trilogy. At the film’s closing the chase is naturally in a more complete version with a set-up and a grand conclusion. There we learn who the Heroine is chasing (and therefore why such a risk seems so imperative to her). The CGI-heavy scene illustrates Dagny Taggart’s pursuit of the unknown someone (unless the viewer remembers the novel at that point – which I did not). She follows very closely at very high speed, as they wined back and forth through steep-walled, tightly curving canyons…reminiscent of a Star Wars or similar air-chase [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AerialCanyonChase]. The scene concludes near Atlas Shrugged’s Shangrila-equivalent, Galt’s Gulch, which even readers like me (with poor memories) will recognize she’s reached when the lead plane QUOTE-UnQUOTE “magically goes, Poof!” and out of Dagny’s field of view.

The train crash was apparently a mix of new work and previous film footage, as the credits make note of 2010’s Unstoppable, [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0477080/] starring Denzel Washington. The integration looked seamless to me but then I wasn’t looking for anything along those lines – perhaps others with that sort of technical expertise spotted problems. I give the producers and directors two thumbs’ up for such a time- and cost-saving solution to that extraordinarily challenging scene.

The disaster at Rearden Metal was likely a daunting task as well and as I know nothing about the steel industry, in my opinion the filmmaker’s did an admirable job of illustrating its intensity and the magnitude of its dangers.

Though the cast of Part II was entirely new there were two individuals who I consider its “saving graces.” First was Esai Morales in the role of wealthy playboy, Franciso D’Anconia. He added a masculine “Wow-factor” totally lacking in the remainder of Part II’s cast and I believe he did the role more justice than Part I’s “original” Franciso. He came across as more mature, although admittedly this may have been due simply to the touches of grey hair they used as a foil for his oh-so-handsome face.

The second and last “grace” was Kim Rhodes in the role of co-Hero Hank Rearden’s middle-aged nag-of-a-wife, Lilian Rearden. Though we are intended to despise her character and admittedly her makeup and black hair color were harsh, she was still easier on the eyes than Atlas’ intended female-Hero, Dagny Taggert, the un-sophisticatedly costumed and oh-so-haggard looking Samantha Mathis.

Now, Part II’s minuses:

Again, The Cast… Not to harp on this apparently 100% re-Casting of Part II, but, if the notion of the right actor in the right role wasn’t important, why is there such an uproar over Tom Cruise playing a 6’ 5” scarfaced 250 pound ex-Army cop?

[http://www.jackreachermovie.com/?gclid=CJjO0ozolrMCFWGnPAod_UUA_Q]

One last mention on this must include Jason Beghe as “Hank Rearden.” In my estimation he was a big letdown after Grant Bowler’s sleek, sophisticated, quietly-brainy “Hank” in Part I. But I have to ask: why-oh-why wasn’t Jason B. …who radiated no-nonsense, quiet confidence, all wrapped in a sturdy-yet-trim, tough-guy exterior cast as “Jack Reacher?” Oh, yeah, because he’s not a top box-office draw like Tom Cruise…SIGH.

Lastly, the most shocking cast-makeover that I can’t let go without mentioning is Dagny’s sidekick, “Eddie Willers.” The filmmakers took Part I’s mini-afro’d, 98-pound weakling and gave him such a Steroids-on-Steroids workover that the little-guy ended up in actor Richard T. Jones’ 7’/300 pounds of solid-muscle-ly body.

Whew! I think the filmakers could make up all their losses if they could just sell that formula!

The overall Mood changes from Part I to Part II and it’s painfully evident this is due to a near-complete turn-over in the production crew – from Production Designer to Art Direction, from Costumer to Set Decoration.

Aside from scenes of the decaying city-streets and distressed populace…Part I’s Ambience was sophisticated and glamorous: from the cold/post-modern/hardedge settings in Rearden Steel’s offices or Dagny Taggart’s highrise apartment to the more old-school hushed hardwood and rich carpeting of Taggart Transcontinental’s offices or railway stations and in pivotal City-restaurant scenes.

Part II should have set us up to believe the co-Heroes moved their companies to lower-rent districts. Everything went yellowed in tone, ambered-with-age in my recollection, like an old oil-painting. Additionally both Rearden’s and the Taggarts’ QUOTE-UnQUOTE “new” offices were full of clutter and busy, busy, busy with non-remarkable furnishings and furniture (except for one instance of a room sporting some of the now ubiquitous chrome and leather favorites of mine: “Barcelona chairs” [http://www.barcelonachair.com/]).

Oh, and the costuming for the lead…Dagny Taggart? Completely lacking in the under-stated elegance and sophistication from Part I. Sure, Taylor Schilling certainly had the figure of a fashion model, but she was also dressed in a stratospherically higher-class wardrobe. Part II’s Dagny needed only 1 or 2 really classic sheath-dresses along with one sleek business suit and a couple of changes of shoes and jewelry to move-on-up to the elite-business class we are supposed to believe she belonged to.

Lastly, the soundtrack of Atlas Shrugged, Part II…Let’s just say this one was NOT done by Elia Smear-al (spelled: Cmiral) whose work on Part I was amazing (I bought his soundtrack [http://www.amazon.com/Atlas-Shrugged-Movie-Soundtrack/dp/B004ZKLNXY] as soon as I could and still have it in my car today.) In fact not only will I not rush to buy the music from Part II, I probably won’t buy it at all.

Sadly, I predict it’s all over for Atlas Shrugged, the movies. And seeing how Part II failed so miserably – visually and musically – to come even close to reaching the level of enjoyment I’ve gotten from the several times I’ve seen Part I, dare I say it? I actually wish now they hadn’t made this second part…

So, Until next time, why not read “Atlas Shrugged”…again…and Keep Rebelling!

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