Atlas Shrugged Part II ★½

It's virtually impossible to approach something this dogmatically-charged and give it a fair hearing as a film. I will try my best, though.

Every actor from part 1 has been recast in this sequel. For the most part, those decisions worked out for the best. Most interesting is Esai Morales, in full blown Erik Estrada mode as Frisco D'Anconia. He delivers Rand's clumsy dialogue as smoothly as anyone in the film, and he's believably charming. Not so successful, to my surprise, was the casting of Samantha Mathis as Dagny Taggart. Taylor Schilling may have lacked Dagny's strength of personality, but she was at least gorgeous. Mathis lacks Dagny's strength, too, and she looks awful. (Seriously, what happened to her? Go back and watch The Thing Called Love - what a cutie.) Diedrich Bader and Robert Picardo were certainly welcome additions, though.

Just as the cast were generally upgraded, the film has also been improved visually. It opens with an exciting jetplane chase, for instance, that beats anything in the first picture. Plus, there are actually people in the offices, the streets, etc. The lack of extras filling out the "busy" offices in the first film is a massive flaw.

Still, we're never going to get past the story. Rand is as subtle as a sledgehammer, down to the names of her bad guys (Mouch, Smalls). Her heroes have big, epic names like Dagny Taggert and Hank Reardon. Hers is a world of no middle ground. Everything is perfectly black and white, and her characters are always making Big Speeches and Profound Observations. Apart from Dagny and Reardon, every single other character is a 2-dimensional representation of their position in the war of ideas. The point is, if you're looking for depth or nuance. . .well, you've come to the wrong film.

In the end, the best compliment I can give Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike is that it's an improvement over the previous film in almost every way. But that's not saying much, is it?