Posts Tagged ‘Atlas Shrugged’


“Who is John Galt?” Asked. Answered.

January 25, 2014

lreganSo finally some of the cast of “Atlas Shrugged, Part III” has been announced. The previous two installments had completely different casts, and this final chapter is no different.

This time around Dagny Taggart will be played by Laura Regan (above), who is, if anything, less known that the previous two actresses who played her. I liked Taylor Schilling from Part I a lot, Samantha Mathis not so much.

And Hank Rearden will be played by, of all people…

rmorrowYep. “Northern Exposure” Rob Morrow. This guy is about as unlikely a Hank Rearden as I can imagine. He’s a well-known actor, but either Grant Bowler (Part I) or Jason Beghe (Part II) would be better. (Beghe is currently starring in a new network tv show, “Chicago PD.”)

Francisco d’Anconia, who should be a couple of years older than Dagny, will be played by experienced character actor Joaquim de Almeida. He’s almost twenty years too old, but a good actor. I liked him in “Clear and Present Danger.” He’s been in a million things before.

But the big question is: who will be playing John Galt?

This guy:

kpolahaI didn’t recognize him either. His name is Kristoffer Polaha, known for shows like “Ringer” and “Made In Jersey.” He has the look, and he is, in real life, the same age as the new Dagny. But he and Francisco and Ragnar Danneskjold were supposed to be about the same age, attending Patrick Henry University together. That part of the storyline will probably be downplayed in this film.

I liked other two films pretty well…I preferred the casting of the first one better, and the script of the second one.

The film should be out before the November 2014 elections. I look forward to how they finish it out. The book ends fairly depressingly, I cannot see how the film could end in another way. It’s a cautionary tale, after all. Too bad that generally, only those who already know that will watch it.




“Atlas Shrugged – Part II: The Strike”

October 13, 2012

I think in most cases, if you like Ayn Rand’s book, or even found it thought-provoking, you will like the movie. If not – especially if you respond in great horror to Rand’s ideals – you will hate it.

This cast was, by and large, at least as good as the Part I cast, except for Dagny. Samantha Mathis is no match for Taylor Schilling, sorry. Oh, and Rebecca Wisocky was a far better Lillian Rearden in Part 1.

Jason Beghe was a fine, growly Hank Rearden. I can’t think of a TV part where I’ve liked Paul McCrane, so he is a fine Wesley Mouch – even though the name seemed to fit Michael Learner better.

I think the plot modifications and updating to fit the present day worked very well. I know it must have been difficult to edit down all those great monologues, like Francisco’s at the wedding and Hank’s at the hearing. $ 40 per gallon gasoline would have seemed ridiculous a few years ago, but today it just seems prophetic. The most chilling visual to me is any of the scenes of the streets of New York. There are so very few cars on the streets that are normally jammed with traffic, yet it is midday – the first time I didn’t even notice it. When I did, it scared the bejeezus out of me.

The main threads are there – the increasing desperation of the government as the economy goes down the toilet, the opportunistic nature of Mouch and his friends (remember Rahm’s “never let a crisis go to waste”?). Of course, every decision made by the government is exactly the opposite of what should be done…in a black-and-white world like that of the film it is much easier to see the folly of the government’s directives than it is in our daily lives.

Dagny is more and more driven by trying to discover the secret of Galt’s motor and torn apart by trying to save the country singlehanded. As more and more of the men who actually keep the world going disappear she is pushed practically to her breaking point…and she escapes. Her escape is very short-lived, however, and she is compelled to come back to save the railroad once again. For those of you who have not read the book or seen the movie, yet, I won’t spoil any more of it for you.

If you have read the book, and enjoyed it, and saw how it is a cautionary tale for today, then by all means go see the film and take your friends. The really “extreme” – to use a term bandied about too much nowadays – ideas of Rand are not promoted in the film. There isn’t much in here to argue with unless you are an extremely close-minded liberal. Even conservatives of a religious bent can’t argue with the film as much as with the book. Rand promotes the idea that organized religion is almost as bad as government – she refers to religious folks as “mystics” throughout the book. None of that is present in the film. The film really promotes enlightened self-interest over “social justice,” equating required sacrifice for the good of all as a form of slavery.

The Dagny/Hank Rearden romance is downplayed somewhat in the film. It’s used as a plot point as required by the book’s plot, but it doesn’t become overwhelming. In the book the romance is based on mutual respect and an attraction forged by their shared beliefs and passions. This is not a romance that develops between “oil and water” types of people. The only thing that holds them apart is Hank’s marriage, loveless though it may be.

Of course, all of that changes in Part III…after all, at the end of Part II, Dagny looks out of the wreckage of her plane and sees…John Galt.

Is it perfect? No. Does it do a good job of presenting the main points of the book? Yes. I hope a lot of those “undecided” voters see this movie. This could easily be the America of 2016, if we choose unwisely.


“Atlas Shrugs Part II” opens Friday!

October 10, 2012

With a new cast, the second installment of the “Atlas Shrugged” trilogy, based on the Ayn Rand novel, opens in theaters this Friday. It will be interesting how the whole “Galt’s motor” thing will be handled in the near-future setting of the movie series. (The book gives no particular date, but there is a lot of speculation that was to be set in the – at the time of the book’s publication – near future of the mid-1970s.) It will probably not be in theaters for a long time, so check it out right away. It’s important to see before the election. And if you haven’t purchased the first installment, it is available here and is on the Amazon video-on-demand service as well as  on Netflix.


Life Imitates Art

May 23, 2012

I just wrote a piece about how the themes in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged are being used by liberals, and particularly by the Obama campaign. It can be found at Keep Americans Free! I invite you to read it, and to read Atlas Shrugged.


ATK is going ahead with Liberty launch system

May 9, 2012

ATK, the builder of the Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters, formed a partnership last year with Astrium,  the European subsidiary of EADS (which builds Airbus aircraft)  that builds the Ariane 5 booster. They are modifying the second stage of the Ariane booster for integration with the 5-section version of the shuttle solid booster.

Today they announced their crewed vehicle, which will be built in Iuka, Mississippi. It will be built of composite materials. Systems integration – essentially putting the whole vehicle together – will be done at the Cape with the help of Lockheed-Martin. To start, the second stage will be built at the Astrium construction facilities in Europe, but the company indicated it will eventually build them in Florida.

The Liberty system was not selected for NASA assistance last year. That money went to SpaceX, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, and Boeing. Congress is fighting with NASA right now about continued funding. A Congressional committee wants to cut the next round to half the amount NASA asked for. The committee also wants NASA to fish or cut bait – to select fewer contractors. NASA officials argued that the competitive structure in place was producing better results because of the financial involvement of more firms and the technical experience they would bring.

Along with the four companies in CCDev2, the Liberty system is being developed independently but the company has signed an agreement with NASA so that they still can ultimately have NASA approval for the vehicle. Lockheed-Martin, principal contractor of the once-dead NASA Orion system, proceeded with design and construction of the Orion spacecraft while there was no funding. NASA has been able to provide some funding since.

The LockMart Orion, or “MPCV”

Boeing and Sierra Nevada have selected the ULA Atlas as the launch vehicle of choice for their crewed capsules.

Boeing CST-100 on an Atlas V. No Aerojet solids on this version; with the solids the acceleration is amazing!

Blue Origin has decided to go with  their own reusable launch vehicle for suborbital flights at first, then adding a second stage it for orbital flight with a capsule design based on NASA biconic-capsule research.

Blue Origin New Shepard system

I have to give Sierra Nevada credit. They are the only ones breaking from the “super-Apollo” capsule design. Their Dream Chaser is based on the 1990s NASA HL-20 lifting body research.

Sierra Nevada/SpaceDev Dream Chaser

The only change from the old Apollo-style capsule system is that only the LockMart vehicle has a “traditional” Apollo-style launch escape tower to pull the capsule off the rocket if something bad happened. The others are all working on some kind of integrated rocket engine system to launch the vehicle off the rocket. In the case of SpaceX, the rocket system on the Dragon is designed to be powerful enough to make landings on solid ground possible – or landings on Mars.

SpaceX Dragon capsule landing on Mars!

So there are a variety of systems not just “under development,” but actually “bending tin.” I would hope five years from now we will have three or four choices available for satellite launching, manned trips to the ISS, the Moon or a nearby asteroid, or for trips to the Bigelow space hotel.

Update: more information on the Liberty Launch System.


“Atlas Shrugged Part 2” – why so much gnashing of teeth?

November 25, 2011

The independent film of the first third of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” is out on DVD and Blu Ray in time for Christmas giving. It was a small-budget film, with a cast of lesser-known actors. I had some misgivings about it before it came out. I couldn’t see how it could be set in the near future and work, seeing as how the book was published in the 1950s and was set “approximately” in the 1970s.

She made it all work, and we can still read it today and understand that it was written when the Communist threat of the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc countries was very, very real. Translating that to today, or a few years from now, was a dicey proposition.

Somehow they made it convincing enough. I found it internally consistent and easier to follow if I didn’t constantly try to compare it to the book. The Rand’s magnum opus was over a thousand pages and even six hours of film – three movies – will not be a thorough rendering of the book.

That doesn’t mean it can’t convey the main themes Rand presented in the book. So far, I think it’s doing so and doing so in an entertaining way. It’s been hammered by the critics, of course. They are primarily not the audience for a film such as this, anyway. In fact, I would hope that it makes the smarter ones damn mad. Any “progressives” who have some intelligence should feel very uneasy with the things said in this movie. I thought the writer and director focused it correctly to make sure Rand’s theme came out unambiguously.

There has been a lot of talk on the comment sections of the sites for both Part 1 and Part 2, and others, about how the film was poorly marketed, poorly this and poorly that. Not true! It was marketed and placed in theaters independently. It was probably the only way to get it into theaters. There was a lot of talk about how it didn’t make enough money in the theaters. Hasn’t anyone every heard of DVD sales?

A lot of smaller films have very limited release in theaters, and then go quickly to DVD. The DVDs sell over a longer period of time, sometimes by word of mouth more than anything. Eventually the money comes in and everybody gets what they need.

I guess the producers have been thinking of putting some “name” actors in Part 2 to give it more marquee value. There are a lot of Hollywood actors who wouldn’t have anything to do with this film, of course, because it is completely at odds with their politics. The idea that that people won’t see these films unless there is an Angelina Jolie in it is, in my view, flawed.

I thought the cast did what the cast should have done in Part 1 – they became the characters. I didn’t think of the actress playing Dagny as Taylor Schilling, but as Dagny. Rebecca Wisocky (I had to look her name up) was particularly good as Lillian Rearden. Even Grant Bowler, as Hank Rearden, was really pretty good – although I still think he is too short!

Too many “name” actors can’t be “character” actors – Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, even Liam Neeson just can’t (or couldn’t) change enough. This movie is about the ideas, played out by specific characters who typified particular things. That shouldn’t be clouded by “Oh, wow, Liam Neeson was so good as Liam Neeson.”

If you’ve not seen it, get the DVD. Or on Blu-Ray. In any case, right about now, this is the perfect book and film for all Americans to read and see.


Woz reflects on Steve Jobs and Apple

October 10, 2011

From Bloomberg, Steve Wozniak’s interview when Steve Jobs stepped down from his position at Apple. Sorry I can’t stream it…Bloomberg uses the ooyala player, which requires a javascript script to run, and WP won’t let me do that. It’s worth jumping over to the page. Woz has some great insight into Jobs, the success of Apple, and capitalism in general. He believes that Jobs wanted most of all to have a successful company that made money. He even theorizes that one of the books he thinks Jobs read was Atlas Shrugged!

But don’t forget what Jobs said to John Sculley when he was trying to lure him to come to Apple from PepsiCo: “Do you want to sell sugar water to kids, or come with me and change the world?”


Atlas isn’t shrugging; he’s moved out of town…

June 23, 2011

Monty Perelin has a piece in The American Thinker that is pretty disappointing, and yet if you have been looking at any of the economic and business indicators over the last couple of years it won’t be surprising.

The premise of the piece is this: In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s producers move to Galt’s Gulch when the government makes business conditions impossible for them. They have no place else to go, because in Rand’s world every other country is socialist.

In our world, that’s not true. There are lots of socialist countries, but there are others that are becoming more and more favorable to business, especially to entrepreneurs. Perelin specifically mentions Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Monte Carlo, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands.

Now personally I’m not crazy about living in Hong Kong or Singapore. “I’ve never been to Belize.” (“Ocean’s Eleven” reference.) I was just in the Bahamas, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I would expect I’d feel the same about the other islands and Central American countries. Australia and New Zealand, now, maybe that would be different, especially if I had a lot of money I was trying to keep and a business I was trying to keep going – and I knew that the US government was going to punitively tax and regulate my business to death.

The point is: lots of folks probably will be willing to move if the stakes are that high. And there is nothing I can see in our economic future here in the US that would make it possible for me to convince one of these businessmen to stay.

Let’s say that we elect a “moderate” Republican to replace Obama in 2012. There is nothing in the statements I’ve heard from the candidates so far – except for Herman Cain – that makes me think any of them would push for radically better business conditions. That’s the problem with a Huntsman, or a Romney, even. They are still too entrenched in the old-school way of running the government. Tweak some policy here, adjust some legislation there – but don’t make any sweeping changes that might upset the status quo.

How do we stop the bleeding of businesses and entrepreneurs? I agree with the article that we have to make those sweeping changes. It’s just going to be such an uphill battle getting a Herman Cain or other pro-business candidate through the primary process successfully, when the system is set up to give us a John McCain. Once we get that far, I think the general election would be much easier, actually.


My review of “Atlas Shrugged – Part 1”

May 1, 2011

I finally had the opportunity to see the film yesterday, two weeks after it opened. I actually bought tickets online twice, and was ultimately unable to go both times; I consider those tickets a contribution to the cause!

First: I am not a Randian Objectivist. If you don’t know what that is, it would be enlightening to find out. There are elements of Rand’s objectivist theories that I agree with, and some I do not; I consider myself conservative politically, leaning toward libertarian, though not as far as going to “Capital-L” Libertarianism. That’s not to say I won’t get there eventually, however.

Second, I’ve read Atlas Shrugged three times, and listed to the audiobook twice. I’ve studied sections of the book in greater detail, and mentioned parts of it here on the blog in the past. I’m not a Rand scholar, but I’ve been acquainted with the book for over five years and I think I have a pretty good idea what it contains. I like a great many of the philosophical points Rand brings up in the novel, but I do not agree with all of it.

Still, as you know if you have read my previous posts about the film, I had concerns about setting it in our near future, about doing it on a very limited budget, and with a very limited shooting time frame. Some of those concerns were, in my opinion, justified in the final result; but I was very pleased with the amount of Rand’s story and philosophy that made it to the screen.

Some of what is here includes spoilers for those who have not read the book or seen the film. Proceed at your own risk. There are no surprises in the book or film so great that finding out about them earlier would destroy your appreciation of it, however.

I’ve broken my review down into sections, and the teacher in me thought I should give grades. Some people hate that. My apologies to those folks. Here goes:

Casting: A-

I understand from interviews I have read that most of the actors worked for minimums because they believed in the project and wanted to see it made. That’s wonderful, and I don’t believe a lack of a “name” actor made a difference here. We didn’t need to see Angelina Jolie play Angelina Jolie, we needed to see Dagny Taggart. John Wayne always was John Wayne, Clint Eastwood was Clint Eastwood; films were written to fit their personas, not the other way around. That’s why the Tom Clancy films starring Harrison Ford didn’t ring true to the books…Harrison Ford was playing Harrison Ford, not Jack Ryan.

Taylor Schilling was as good a pick for Dagny Taggart as I could imagine. She could bring off tough without being bitchy. She had a very difficult job. About a quarter of the book, or more, is inside the heads of the characters, especially Dagny’s, and there is no opportunity in the film for 250 pages of backstory and thought process. By virtue of her personality Dagny doesn’t talk out her feelings much, so it is difficult to communicate those to the audience. I felt Schilling brought it across at least without mixed messages, which was what I feared.

The casting of Rebecca Wisocky as Lillian Rearden was genius. She is Lillian, and I can’t wait to see how her evil, self-serving schemes are carried out in Parts 2 and 3. Similarly, Graham Beckel was delightful as Ellis Wyatt. From what I’ve seen of him, I’ll be he would have done it for free; he’s a staunch conservative and would do it just to aggravate his big brother, liberal nutjob Bob Beckel.

Michael O’Keefe as Hugh Akston is too young, but his part so far is small. He will be much more important later. I hope he can pull it off. Edi Gathegi plays Eddie Willers tougher than Eddie was in Rand’s book, but the backstory of he and Dagny being childhood friends is of course lost in the film, and Eddie’s character can take on a somewhat different and necessary role of gadfly to Jim Taggart. Matthew Marsden as Jim Taggart is not crazed enough, but hopefully he will be, soon…his destruction is one of those things most awaited by readers of the book.

Grant Bowler as Henry Rearden: he’s too short, he’s too young, but he’s fine other than that. He tends to deliver important lines too quickly and without enough emphasis. I don’t know if that was him or the director (Paul Johannson, who also is the semi-invisible John Gault). He plays unyielding well, though, and should be excellent should the trial scene be included in Part 2.

Here’s the big miss: Jsu Garcia as Francisco D’Anconia. He could be fine. He has absolutely no accent, which is unfortunate; a bit would give his character some depth. Again, without the Eddie-Dagny-Francisco teenage years backstory, we do not see Francisco as a good person, just as this silly playboy. The book makes it clear this was a remarkable transformation and descent for him, and we see none of that development. How could he have played it to bring that out? I’m not sure, but the scene he has with Rearden at the anniversary party should have given the director the opportunity to make the change in him more obvious, to show that the playboy is a shell persona. Otherwise, Henry has no reason to be interested in him at all. I don’t think it’s the actor, though it may be.

Script: B

Could I have done better? Hell, no! Still, a few things bothered me. No mention of Eddie, Francisco and Dagny knowing each other when they were growing up I feel made it difficult to show the characters’ changes. The only thing Roger Ebert ever said that I agreed with was that you have to care about the characters, no matter what the film. This movie has to cover so much ground, and give us so much, that character development is very hard to pull off. I think in the long run it’s going to happen, but it’s tough to see right now.

Galt’s motor: I agree it’s important, but the hand-waving of the science is even worse here than in Rand’s novel. It might as well have been cold fusion. And the term they were hunting for was zero-point energy, I think, which is generated by the Casimir effect. The terms kept changing. That’s not what’s most important yet, anyway. Don’t dig a hole for yourselves with goofy syfy channel talk, guys!

Orrin Boyle’s character is never really explained. That will make those who never read the book scratch their heads.

Galt contacts Midas Mulligan on September 2, 2016, at the beginning of the movie. Yet in the book he and Galt are co-founders of the Gulch. Hmmm.

Production: B+

Gorgeous interior sets of the places where the rich live. Depressing street scenes, as required. Pretty decent CGI on the John Galt Line sequence, and the bridge was truly excellent! The laying of the track of the JGL was a nice touch, showing how it was updating old, worn-out track. The stock footage used for some exterior shots was incongruous. The communter train shown in one shot was a Chicago Metra train, with the name digitally erased. It was too easily identified, though.

The Wyatt Junction Bridge

The exterior of Rearden Steel was a CGI matte painting of what looked like a 1940s steel mill. The interior of the offices, and the interior shown behind the office windows, was state-of-the-art. Huh?

Camera work was generally excellent, Taylor Schilling is pretty dang photogenic, so she was easy to shoot, I would expect. The film was shot digitally and edited that way, but it doesn’t look cheap or thrown together. It has far better production values than a cable channel miniseries.

The Wyatt Oil fire sequence was cleverly shot to make maximum use of minimum extras. Good job there.

When Rearden and Dagny enter the 20th Century Motors factory, Rearden is recounting why the factory closed. It’s difficult to hear because it is too soft and he speaks too quickly. Please fix that for the DVD – it’s such an important point!

Music: C

I admit, I’m prejudiced. I wanted this to be EPIC! I wanted Halley’s Fifth Concerto! Apparently Halley is not in the film at all, which is too bad…it was his music that gave Dagny the first clue something was going on behind the disappearances. The music was mundane. It didn’t detract from the film, but it didn’t help it much, either. Elia Cmiral is probably best-known for scoring “Ronin,” but most of his other work has been small-scale film. I suppose he worked for less money. Perhaps he too believed in the project, and in that case I salute him, However, his music was pretty forgettable. Luckily, there was no underscore under most of the dialog and so rather than taking it in a wrong direction, the score was neutral.

Overall, I liked the film very much. I think it was a very ambitious effort, and I applaud all those who worked so hard to bring it to completion. I hope they can complete the other two sections of the story, so those who never read the book can know what it is about…and why it is just as important today as it was in the 1950s.

Dagny Taggart and Henry Rearden


Henry Rearden’s speech from his trial

April 13, 2011

I don’t know who the narrator is for these excerpts from “Atlas Shrugged,” but the creator of the videos references the Blackstone Audiobook. That one is done by Scott Brick and this is NOT Scott Brick, who  does, in my opinion, just a fair job of performing the book. This narrator does an excellent job with this excerpt. Listen carefully. While Rand is criticized often for being wordy, this speech is very clear. Segments like this are why the book took Rand most of a decade to write.