Thursday, November 1, 2012

Atlas Shrugged 2: The Shruggening

Is one obliged to see films that reinforce and promote their political and moral beliefs, no matter the quality of those films? I've seen that argument made a lot on conservative blogs. "Go see this, if you don't like what Hollywood puts out." I say "Nay."

"Nay," says I.

Though some of the best and most interesting movies of recent years have been conservative, Atlas Shrugged, Part I, was not really one of them. Though it was "interesting", I wouldn't really recommend it. But the Boy and I did go see Part 2.

Kind of interestingly in itself, we could both recommend it—even if you haven't seen the first one. Maybe especially if you haven't. The first interesting thing about it is: They replaced every single actor from the first movie. No one is back.

An older, warmer Dagny Taggert here, as Samantha Mathis (Princess Daisy from Super Mario Bros, also American Psycho) takes over for Taylor Schilling. An older, gravelier Jason Beghe replaces Grant Bowler as Henry Rearden. Esai Morales ("NYPD Blue") replaces Jsu Garcia (Along Came Polly). And on and on. These changes are largely fine. I missed Michael Lerner as the evil Wesley Mouch, but it's hard to complain too much about Paul McCrane (whom they had to drop a helicopter on to kill in "E.R.").

But if the acting is improved, the actors are greatly aided by the screenplay, which lacks most of the awkward speechifying of the first. If I had to guess, I'd say that Brian Patrick O'Toole's screenplay served as a starting point for this movie but producer John Agialoro is not credited on part 2, and two other writers (Duncan Scott and verteran TV writer Duke Sandefur) did some cutting out and punching up, as it were.

The awkward dialog is mostly gone, with only one kinda weird speech given at a party by Esai Morales. And tt's primarily weird because of the context (a party). The whole thing is generally less stilted, which gives rise to a few more intended laughs than the last.

Chris Bacon's music works better than Elia Cmiral's did.

The story still sits uncomfortably between current day and its 60+ year old roots. The whole ore/steel/train thing is more than a little dated, and the central dramatic plot point revolves around the shame brought on by a woman who has an adulterous affair (even though she's not married, and the guy, who is, is not really going to be affected by it).

I'm pretty sure today that sort of thing is empowering or something. (For women, anyway. You could even argue it would be reversed today.)

Overall, though, the whole thing works better. The Boy, who liked the first one, commented that this was a lot better. And, honestly, it's not like you can't figure it out without seeing the first one.

I can recommend this, if somewhat reservedly, but without reservation admit that I'll feel a whole lot better about seeing part three—if they make it, which they might not, because I think this movie has flopped even more than the first one.

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