‘I’ ON CULTURE
The basic trouble with the new film Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt? is that it is like a cheap hammer. You want to build a major project, and the basic tool fails. Fans of Ayn Rand, the objectivist philosopher who believed that big government merely exists to hold back progress, will be disappointed by the poor quality of the work.
The film, which cost less than the catering services for a movie like The Avengers, is heavy on, well, heavy-handed narration that avoids having to film any expensive scenes. This is a movie of idea, one basic idea that is hammered home so unrelentingly that entertainment seems out of the question.
This movie, the third in a series, continues the story of Dagny Taggart (Laura Regan), a railroad executive trying to hold the country’s system together. The book was written so long ago that railroads were an absolutely necessary service at the time, and that has worked against the modern tapestry. She has been frustrated by the disappearance of many of the top people she works with. They leave, seemingly willingly, often leaving behind the cryptic note, “Who is John Galt?” She finds out (in the second film) that there is an incredible motor built that needs almost no fuel, which would make it impossibly efficient, but that the inventor has disappeared. She chases after a minion who takes the plans. That is where this film starts.
Dagny’s plane crashes, and she is rescued by… guess who? John Galt (Kristoffer Polaha). He just happens to be the very good-looking man who also invented that great power source, and believes that the only way the country can grow to free the people is if all the talented folk disappear and let the system collapse on itself. Dagny meets the other people (amazingly, just about all men), and each one repeats the same thing, over and over and over, that the government, the very corrupt government, has taken away their freedom, and they have responded by not giving anything at all to the government.
Dagny rejects the notion and is told that people who run the system will break her heart. And, of course, they do. As the system collapses, Galt comes on the air and, in a speech far too long for the movie, promises a new world. And the film ends with the promise that it is coming. I might add that the far-too-long speech is shortened enormously. Had they run the whole thing, that one section would have run longer than most of our blockbusters.
The acting is adequate. For those who have seen the first two films, it is a bit confusing to see different actors playing the roles in each of the films. But, wisely, there are a lot of good character actors, most recognizable from television, who play the supporting cast. They might have been better, however, if most of what they were doing was not a basic complaint about big, bad government. Yes, those of us who followed the introduction of Obamacare on the news are aware that big government can screw up royally; however, long-winded complaints about how bad things are without really useful alternatives simply are boring.
Even worse, the movie simply does not entertain. It is far too heavy-handed to carry itself. The producers, who clearly did the project as a labor of love, are too focused on convincing people of the rightness of their political views to think much of entertainment values.
Films are often used to convince people for political purposes. War movies during World War II (also World War I but, since they are silent, they are seldom seen) were pumped full of patriotism. Since then, many of our war films have not been as patriotic. But those that were entertaining got audiences, and those that were basically propaganda were ignored, even when critics praised them. In this case, almost no critics have even bothered to review the movie, many of them clearly hoping that the ideas involved will disappear.
I wish I could recommend the film; movies that directly push ideas can be important, even if the ideas are flawed. But the least the producers can do is entertain, and in this area, entertainment values have disappeared as effectively as John Galt.