I must thank Ann Becker President of the Cincinnati Tea Party and the producers of Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike for putting on a wonderful show at the very nice permanent facility dedicated to freedom in West Chester, Ohio where the WCTP meets regularly every third Tuesday of every month. Ann is also President of the West Chester Tea Party and has been doing movie nights on Fridays—about two a month featuring films that are intended for conservative and libertarian audiences. This gives members of the West Chester community and Cincinnati at large a chance to escape the noisy children at the local multiplex in favor of intelligent correspondence among like-minded patrons. There have been good crowds for the movie nights, and this was true of the film that I have so actively supported, the second Atlas Shrugged film based on Ayn Rand’s great 1957 classic novel which is second only to the Bible in the most popular books checked out at the Library of Congress.
I have seen the second film many times now. You can see my review of the film by CLICKING HERE: It was slammed by the entertainment industry well before it hit theaters. The producers attempted to avoid the negative press by not releasing review copies, and opening the film to more than 1000 screens respectably, but reviewers shunned the film as soon as they had a chance to see it. The big entertainment complex, including media subsidiaries like Entertainment Weekly, ETV, Entertainment Tonight and many others treated Atlas Shrugged Part II with the same disdain as they did the Romney Presidential run. The media slant was extremely obvious. The producers of Atlas Shrugged showed they would not be stopped in making the second film of an intended three-part series, even though the first film was equally treated with hatred by the general press. The press and entertainment establishment had determined to circle the wagons against the effort. They didn’t want the film to succeed whether it was good or not, because the message of the film is dangerous to the collective causes of many establishments—not only in the entertainment industry. The movie is a bold attempt, and it delivers. It’s easily as good as most of the films that can be seen in any movie theater for the price of admission. The special effects were well done—many times they remind me of the effects from The Right Stuff. And the train crash was better than a similar crash from the Steven Spielberg/J.J. Abrams film Super 8. Atlas Shrugged Part II oozes with passion from the producers, and it’s easy to see. It is hard to put a novel that is as philosophically heavy as Atlas is into a film version. Fans of the book will always be hungry for more. The effort here reminds me of the film version of John Grisham’s A Time to Kill. The essence of the novel was achieved, but if fans want more, they’ll need to read the book.
For the uninitiated, many who saw the film for the first time in the West Chester Tea Party War Room on March 8th 2013, Atlas Shrugged Part II was their introduction to the book. Upon the film’s release in October of 2012 the producers advertised heavily, and Harmon Kaslow went on just about every talk show from New York to Los Angeles leading up to the opening. Many of the people who might find the Atlas story attractive have long ago given up on the official Hollywood product, and simply do not go to movies any longer. So they skipped the movie when it hit theaters expecting another big Hollywood production that didn’t reflect their values. Most of these types of viewers wait for a DVD release these days or for a big presentation like the one that Ann gave to her members. This became obvious about halfway through the showing when I noticed the audience of just around 100 become emotionally involved in the film laughing at the jokes, booing at the resemblance to some of the contemporary problems America is currently facing, and finding themselves wrapped up tightly in anticipation of the climax. At the end of the film—which is a cliffhanger—people were visibly upset wanting more movie. They’ll have to wait for the third film which will really go down the philosophic rabbit hole as the lead character meets “The Perfect Man,” in John Galt. It was fun for me to watch the reaction of the audience at the end as I know the story extremely well. Seeing more people introduced to such a fantastic tale is enjoyable—like uncovering a treasure that has always been at their feet, and the light just comes on when they notice it for the first time. If not for the West Chester Tea Party and the producers giving the green light to allow a public viewing free of charge—those 100 people may not have taken a chance on it any other way—because the print media was not kind at all to the film.
The reason for the hatred of the film is that two of the main villains in Atlas Shrugged Part II are Lillian Reardon and Jim Taggert, who resemble metaphorically most of the people in society. The two conspire in the film to destroy the life of Hank Reardon—the creator of a new alloy of steel that is extremely light, very strong, cheap, and highly sought after by the government who wants to confiscate his technology for the “greater good.” Lillian is the socialite wife who is a parasite to her husband Hank. She only cares that he is a billionaire that can give her social status. She does not earn that status on her own, and when she gets the opportunity to free herself from her husband once she discovers that Hank is sleeping with Dagny Taggert, Jim’s sister—(the main character), Lillian takes it. Lillian makes a deal with Jim, who has the same parasitic relationship with his sister who runs the railroad company they inherited. Jim is clueless about the ways of the world and can only achieve success in life through his political connections—which is referred to as “pull” in the film. If I had to put my finger on a problem with the Atlas Shrugged film franchise, it is due to most people in society will see themselves as either Lillian or Jim—and they aren’t going to spend $10 per ticket to feel more guilty about their lives than they do already. They go into a darkened theater to escape from such realizations, not to be hit over the head with them.
All people could learn something from the story of Atlas Shrugged. For many, they might find that they are like Jim’s wife, the innocent convenient store clerk who fell in love with the image of what she thought Jim Taggert was in the newspapers and television shows. She married Jim and once she lived with him every day, discovered that he was simply a looter. Jim Taggert was rich and powerful because he stole from others, while people like Hank were rich and powerful because they actually made things. Not to give anything away but Jim’s wife kills herself in the next film once her disillusionment becomes too great. She simply loses her faith in mankind and can see no way out but to take her own life—which is not light subject matter. If I had to guess, I would think that a majority of a movie going audience feels some connection to Lillian, Jim or Jim’s wife—and none of those characters are the heroes of Atlas Shrugged.
Atlas Shrugged is not for the 99% as the Occupy Walls Street mantra defined. Ayn Rand did not write her books for the masses, but aimed instead at the 1%. Her target was not the very elite rich and famous 1% however, but those in the 1% who philosophically understood her message. In the community of West Chester, Ohio which has 100,000 people minus all the children, the 100 present at the showing of Atlas Shrugged Part II represented accurately the 1% who are free thinkers and can wrap their minds around the hard subject matter of a very intense story. For them Ann presented a wonderful evening free of the kind of mindless drivel that could be seen down the road at the various multiplexes. Ann’s children and husband were present making popcorn that were free to the public which allowed viewers of the movie to sit down as the sun set out the west windows and enjoy watching a movie with surround sound and a screen that actually rivaled small movie theaters.
That is not to say that the other 99% of the population can’t enjoy Atlas Shrugged. Chances are, they will watch the DVD which is currently released by 20th Century Fox, or catch it on Netflix out of curiosity, and the first time they see it, they might be devastated to learn how poorly they have conducted their lives and discover what parasites they are on society. The movie will make them think which most people don’t enjoy doing. But that is the function of art, and Atlas Shrugged Part II is an artistic rendition of the great novel—and it’s damn good. It has the visual elements of a typical movie, but it’s not about visuals, it’s about philosophy—and that is not appealing to the masses.
The producers of Atlas Shrugged Part II can feel pride that big traditional films like The Hobbit and Dark Knight Rises were also blacklisted by Hollywood in 2012 for similar reasons. Dark Knight Rises was almost as obvious in its anti collectivist message as Atlas Shrugged Part II. In fact, I watched Dark Knight Rises right before seeing Atlas Shrugged Part II at the WCTP War Room and while the production value for the former is much higher than the later, the themes were just as powerful. Atlas was just blunter about it, which was Ayn Rand’s writing style. In Dark Knight Rises director Christopher Nolan had the ability to subtly bring the audience into the fray of the story through Catwoman played by Anne Hathaway who begins the film as a socialist, but through the course of the story learns how wrong she was under the patient tutelage of Batman. The audience experienced the story through the eyes of Catwoman and at the end of the film discovered that Catwoman and Batman were equals—so the audience was able to get what they paid their money for. Catwoman made Batman relatable to the mass audience. That is why Dark Knight Rises made over $1 billion dollars at the worldwide box-office in spite of the bad reviews. Lucky for Dark Night Rises the comic book media did not abandon the film on release, so it had financial success. But in Atlas Shrugged Part II, there is no such character like a Catwoman. The closest is Jim Taggert’s wife, and her fate is not a good one, as discussed. So the audience gets hit over the head when they have to compare their lives to the heroes of Atlas Shrugged. Very, very, very……………………………………….VERY few people can relate to Hank Reardon who isn’t even the hero of the story. In the eyes of the protagonist Dagny, Hank had one major, glaring flaw–he cared enough about her to not allow her to be blackmailed when her brother, his wife and the federal government found out about their affair and wanted to exploit it to gain access to the patents on his metal. Hank to save Dagny the pain of public humiliation finally gave up his fight. Instead of running to Hank to comfort him in his darkest hour and show sympathy to the “man of steel” in thanks for defending her honor Dagny ran off to find John Galt—a man who has never compromised, who has never yielded, who has never lost—who is a genius, an expert tactician, a master of design and is perfect in every form. Hank asked to see her in a moment of weakness when his whole world fell down around him, but she did not come. And he did not cry about it. He simply picked himself up and moved on. That is not the Hollywood formula—so nobody in Entertainment knows how to deal with it. They can only criticize it because of their lack of comprehension.
The success of Atlas Shrugged Part II unfortunately cannot be measured by box office numbers because the film was not made for the masses. It was made for the 100 people in the WCTP War Room who showed up on a Friday night to watch Atlas on movie night with freshly made free popcorn and drinks for an audience who understands the plight of Dagny and John Galt. For intellectual stimulation the audience wished to have an evening away from the Lillian Reardon’s of the world if just for a few hours and be around like-minded patrons. Under that measure of success, at the conclusion of Atlas Shrugged Part II there were claps of approval and questions about the fate of the third installment, which suddenly had very urgent demands for the release date. I told people who asked me that the plan for Atlas Shrugged Part III was for July 4th 2014. For now, I am grateful that such a film exists for those smart enough to comprehend it, and clean enough in their thoughts to grapple with the themes. If the producers had not worked hard to produce the film, and place themselves at great financial risk, this Friday night experience would have never happened. The filmmakers like the fictional composer Richard Halley from the story know that the merit of Atlas Shrugged Part II cannot be understood by the mass public. Halley when he received a standing ovation during his musical performance in the movie as the concert pianist simply disappeared off the stage without explanation. Halley in the third film will continue to write and perform music but not for a mass audience who cannot understand or appreciate his music. Instead he moved to Galt’s Gulch—Atlantis with John Galt and the rest of the heroes of Atlas to let society crumble away into nothing as they preserve humanity from the parasites of civilization.
My advice to the producers of Atlas Shrugged Part III would be to forget the mass release to theaters in the next go around, but to perhaps have a premier in a few theaters, but to otherwise release the film to people like Ann Becker of the Cincinnati Tea Party and let the audience be much more targeted on the next go around with direct DVD sales. Even the Walt Disney Company engages in direct to DVD releases, and that should probably be the future of the third film from a financial stand point. Because like Richard Halley in Atlas Shrugged, only the people in Atlantis will understand and appreciate his music the way he intended it. So to, out of 100,000 people in West Chester, there are probably only around 1000 who will understand the message behind Atlas Shrugged. The rest are simply like Lillian Reardon and Jim Taggert who will do everything in their power to keep the lessons of Atlas from their minds so they can continue to practice mental evasion and parasitic looting of other people’s wealth. On movie night for the West Chester Tea Party Atlantis was at 5430 West Chester Road, and we enjoyed the performance.
To the critics who will without question read this and be insulted at just the mention of Ayn Rand or Atlas Shrugged and will treat it like Holy Water being thrown on a demon possessing an innocent soul, if you don’t know the story, watch the videos above and you’ll understand that there is a lot more to Atlas Shrugged than just a pro-capitalism message. I have seen 5 times in my life alone what happened to the fictional 20th Century Motor Company in the film for many of the same exact reasons. And let me say…………..I understand John Galt as well as I understand the skin on the back of my own hand. There is more truth in Atlas Shrugged as a novel than 8 years of most college courses. And the movies only make the information more accessible to a wider audience. So take advantage of the ease for which the producers have provided a vast treasure for the minds of the many, even if they can’t quite get their thoughts around it. It’s worth trying. You can find the DVD by CLICKING HERE.