I Watched All Three Atlas Shrugged Movies: A Confession

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Dear readers,

I feel compelled to confess something.  I watched all three Atlas Shrugged movies: Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Perhaps you will feel slightly less shocked when I tell you that I also watched almost the entire run of Chevy Chase’s short-lived late night television show, which flopped spectacularly and caused not the slightest ripple in the Letterman/Leno wars.  There is a certain stubbornness in me when it comes to these things.

It is also known that I am one of those notorious Christians who will occasionally step forth and defend Ayn Rand.  It is so fashionable to bash her as an awful thinker and a terrible novelist my contrarian instincts force me to object.  I will say again that while I disagree with the atheistic and materialistic Rand, I liked the book (other than John Galt’s 60 some-odd pages of small print speech) and think that the author makes some valid points about human freedom and achievement.

However, I have now paid my money to see Atlas Shrugged Part III.  I have a hard time understanding myself.  Why would I stick with a trilogy that has had three complete cast changes in its three iterations?  Three Dagnys.  Three Hanks.  Three Franciscos.  Three Eddies.  Apparently the individualism runs so strong in Objectivist world that we can’t keep a cast together AT ALL.  In any case, I was determined to gut it out.  And now I have.  What is the verdict on Part III?

It was so mind-bendingly terrible that I am sure I will be part of some infamous and small minority who will have seen it.  We open with Dagny Taggart’s jet crashing near the new individualist/materialist/capitalist heaven hidden in the mountains.  The next half hour seems to mostly feature John Galt (tall, handsome, gregarious, lotta hair) carrying Dagny around in his arms.  Though she improbably has basically no injuries, she (previously a fiercely independent person) tolerates being hauled about.  The interactions she has with those who have escaped to Galt’s Gulch suffer from the same problems that many depictions of heaven do.  It’s just kind of silly perfect. I almost felt as though Dorothy had awakened into some supernatural capitalist paradise (and listen, I love me some capitalism, but there are limits).  There is even a box that contains Galt’s engine, but seems to hold the glory of the Lord.  You speak an oath to open it.

There is something else I found utterly bizarre in the film.  Throughout the story, things have been going downhill fast.  And all the time, the state’s power is growing.  We seem to have dispensed with the president and instead have a bunch of non-elected men running the country like some kind of collectivist mafia.  They have all the power the law can give.  Despite that, after John Galt seizes control of a major national broadcast (and gives a speech that would rally few, I suspect), we see Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck opining about how this epic statement from Galt is moving the masses.  I’m thinking to myself, “Okay, we have an all-powerful and semi-dictatorial state, but guys like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck are still hosting big television programs.  Huh.”

I have already spent too many words, but I need to add that Rob Morrow (of Northern Exposure) plays Hank Rearden this time around.  He has about three lines.  Worth noting, nonetheless.  Oh, and the bad guy from Clear and Present Danger (Joaquim de Almeida) plays Francisco d’Anconia.

I kind of want my money back, but free people accept caveat emptor (buyer beware) and so do I.

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