Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 8, 2015)
With 2014’s Atlas Shrugged: Part Three, we come to the conclusion of one of the oddest cinematic trilogies ever made. The series started with 2011’s Atlas Shrugged: Part One, a flick that flopped financially and got terrible reviews.
Undaunted, producer John Aglialoro went ahead with 2012’s Atlas Shrugged: Part Two – The Strike, a flick that featured a new director, new screenwriters and a new cast. Amazingly, it got worse reviews than Part I and made even less money.
Not one to give up easily, Aglialoro recruited another new director, another new group of actors and more new writers for 2014’s Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt?, the final chapter in this nutty trilogy. Somehow Galt managed to outdo its predecessors: with a US gross of less than $1 million, it managed weaker earnings than either of the first two flicks, and it got a rare zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes, so apparently no one liked the movie. At least one guy offered a semi-positive appraisal of Strike - and a whopping five people gave the thumb’s up to Part One!
I thought the first two movies were thoroughly terrible, but that wasn’t going to stop me from checking out the finale. To paraphrase Kane from Alien: I’ve come this far – I can’t turn back now!
In a prologue, John Galt (Kristoffer Polaha) stands up against a move to make 20th Century Motors a factory run as a Communist shop. Galt defies the plan and swears to “stop the motor of the world”.
From there, society declines into economic collapse, and America’s leading intellectual and technological minds vanish ala Galt. After pursuing Galt for quite some time, industrialist Dagny Taggart (Laura Regan) finds him when her jet crash-lands in his secret valley.
As they get to know each other, Taggart and Galt fall in love, a romance that causes potential issues. With society going farther downhill everyday, will Dagny try to save the nation or the man she adores?
To coin a phrase: gag me with a Libertarian. As I noted when I reviewed the first movie, I never read Ayn Rand’s book, so I don’t know how many of the three films’ issues come from the source.
I have to imagine most of the problems stem from filmmaker incompetence rather than Rand’s work. Whatever issues one may take with Rand’s ideology, her novel can’t be as stiff, clumsy and ridiculous as these movies, can it?
Maybe. I’ve always heard Rand’s text was more about her social theories than characters/story, and that’s clearly the case with the three Shrugged flicks.
I’m darned tempted to cut and paste my comments from the prior reviews, as Galt suffers from exactly the same massive problems that marred the first two efforts. Both Part I and Strike came with significant filmmaking weaknesses, and those persist with the third chapter.
Honestly, Galt might be even less interesting than its predecessors due to its mushy romantic elements. During the first two flicks, my response to “who is John Galt?” was “I don’t give a rat’s ass”, but at least that “mystery” offered a sliver of intrigue.
Now we finally get to meet the enigmatic leader, and it turns out he’s just a somber, self-important dolt. As I mentioned earlier, each of the three films came with completely different casts, and DB Sweeney played Galt during his brief moments in Strike. I don’t know if all three movies feature unique actors by design or because the performers were smart enough to avoid “fool me twice” territory, but the change from Sweeney to Polaha creates a notable decline in charisma.
Look, I realize that Clark Gable in his prime couldn’t have turned Galt into an interesting character, but a good actor could’ve at least made the part mildly interesting. Sweeney is no Gable, but he boasts much greater talent than the bland, anonymous Polaha. The latter robs the role of even the most minor spark or energy. He’s a cinematic black hole, as he sucks the life out of every shot in which he appears.
Not that the others do better. Regan shows an equivalent lack of charisma, and the movie’s semi-“name” actors – like Stephen Tobolowsky, Joaquim de Almeida and Rob Morrow – find themselves stuck with such thin characters and absurd dialogue that they can’t emerge from the wreckage.
Oh Lord – that dialogue! As with the first two films, Galt often grinds to a halt to deliver some good old-fashion speechifyin’, so we find scene after scene in which the movie’s political goals override its dramatic development.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as it’s clear the “trilogy” exists to promote Rand’s social theories. Clearly Aglialoro is a “true believer”; one doesn’t work so hard to adapt Shrugged in the face of scathing reviews and audience indifference if one doesn’t firmly believe in the book’s messages.
Expected or not, the heavy emphasis on political commentary leaves Galt as stiff and clunky. We find one heavy-handed line after another. I feel bad for actors forced to deliver dialogue such as “It’s amazing what can be accomplished without red tape!” or “I’m home-schooling them – I joined the strike because I wouldn’t put them in an educational system that doesn’t teach them to think!” or “No one provides unearned sustenance for another person!”
All of these elements mean that Galt doesn’t give us a movie – it just offers 99 minutes of propaganda. And bad propaganda at that, as it lacks any form of style or flair. Even if one supports the notions promoted here, the film suffers from such dull exposition and bumbling development that it becomes tough to watch.
Could Galt have worked better with a bit of ideological balance? Maybe. It buys into its own worldview so hook, line and sinker that it offers no room for debate.
This seems ironic given the story’s ostensible embrace of freethinkers. Sure, the Rand group is all for independent thought – as long as you agree with their philosophies.
In an amusing twist, Galt boasts the line “the public can’t think for themselves – they have to be controlled” to criticize the “governmental oppressors”, whereas that bit actually describes the story’s protagonists instead. They’re the ones who spoonfeed ideas with no depth or dimensionality – or willingness to entertain alternate beliefs.
Ugh. After three reviews, why do I bother? When I launched into Galt, I probably should’ve just offered a plot synopsis and said “see prior reviews”.
If nothing else, the “Shrugged Trilogy” offers stunning consistency, as each entry provides miserable filmmaking. Instead of waterboarding, the authorities should use this “trilogy” as a torture device – interrogation subjects would give up the goods before we even meet John Galt in the second film.