Audiences across the planet shrugged last year’s “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” off so profusely that producer John Aglialoro threatened not to complete his proposed trilogy based on Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel about Objectivism. If you are one of the five or six people who actually saw “Atlas 1,” the decision wasn’t so much a letdown as it was music to your ears.
The original “Atlas Shrugged” was a bland, talky soap opera, characterized by its tedious board room conversations, indifferent acting and overwrought dialogue. The movie was a mess, but not for a lack of trying. However bad “Atlas 1” turned out, it still had that cliffhanger ending to answer for, so Aglialoro was wise to suck it up and bang out a sequel on his own dime.
None of the original players from “Atlas 1” showed up for “Atlas Shrugged: Part II,” which creates a little confusion for those who failed to remember character names and allegiances in the 19 months since the original’s release. The heroine, Dagny Taggert, was played by Taylor Schilling in “Atlas 1” but is now played by Samantha Mathis; Jason Beghe, Esai Morales and Patrick Fabian pick up the slack left by Grant Bowler, Jsy Garcia and Matthew Marsden for “Atlas 2.”
The movie has no interest in catching up those who didn’t catch “Atlas 1”; the sequel picks up exactly where the first one left off, set in a “near future” where things are so bad that gasoline has topped $40 a gallon and travel is restricted primarily to trains. Taggert heads a railroad company that does business with steel magnate Hank Reardon (gravelly-voiced Beghe). Together, the two heads run afoul of repressive government officials who believe heads of industry need to be tamed, not profiteers, though it should be noted the 1%-ers are the good guys in this particular tale of woe.
“Atlas 2” is a little more involving than the first part of the trilogy, but a movie of this caliber needs bigger stars, a bigger budget and a better understanding of how movies entertain the masses. As was the case with the original, “Atlas 2” has the look and feel of a primetime ABC legal drama, handsome but so timid and low-key that even two weirdly out-of-place action scenes toward the end can’t elevate the movie above ground level.
If you caught the original “Atlas” and were pleased with the result, “Atlas Shrugged: Part 2” is more of the same. Utterly lacking in wit, energy, humor and style, the only real surprise is a couple of blase cameos from various disappearing acts as Michael Gross, Tom Wilson and Raymond Teller. No word on if they’ll be appearing in the inevitable (and inevitably underwhelming) “Atlas 3.”
★★ (out of ★★★★)
Rated PG-13 for a couple of violent images.
Director: John Putch. Starring: Samantha Mathis, Jason Beghe.
Read more of Jesse Hoheisel’s reviews at thesuperawesomemovieblog.com.