Friday, August 16, 2013

Atlas Shrugged, Part II

I watched Atlas Shrugged, Part II yesterday.  Atlas Shrugged, Part II is the second of a three-part series of movies that are based on Atlas Shrugged, a novel that was written by the philosopher Ayn Rand in the 1950's.  To read my review of the first movie, see here

In my opinion, Atlas Shrugged, Part II is a much better movie than Atlas Shrugged, Part I.  I'll go even further: I actually enjoyed watching Atlas Shrugged, Part II.  I have three reasons for this:

First of all, one of the early scenes in the movie has Robert Picardo in it.  That was a huge plus for me, since I am a Star Trek: Voyager fan, and the Emergency Medical Hologram whom Robert Picardo played is one of my favorite characters on the series (not that it's easy to choose from the characters, since I like most of them). 

Second, I found the music to be powerful.  It was especially effective during Hank Rearden's trial scene, as the audience in the courtroom applauded his speech before the judges about his right to do with his own invention (Rearden metal) what he wished.  The music was also powerful at the end of the movie, when a shadowy figure reached out his hand to Dagny Taggart and identified himself as John Galt.  John Galt is the subject of the famous "Who is John Galt?" line that people in the novel ask whenever they don't know the answer to a question.  He has also invented a motor that would not require the use of gasoline, and he is the mysterious figure who has been inviting the self-made industrialists and talented of the world to a secluded spot where they can be free to create and produce, apart from intrusive government regulation.

Third, I liked the actors more in the second movie than I did in the first.  The second movie used a different cast of actors.  In the first movie, the characters struck me as rather cold and mechanical, whereas they came across to me as much more authentic and human in the second movie.  I also admired their integrity.  I could tell from the interviews on Youtube with the actors in the second movie that some of them made a decent effort to empathize with their characters.  Perhaps that is why they acted as well as they did.  (At least I thought that they did well----I know that there are plenty of reviewers out there who are calling their performances wooden.)

As far as my reaction to Rand's philosophy goes, I'm all for inventors and producers being able to profit from the fruit of their imagination and hard work.  But why does that have to be deemed inconsistent with a high regard for the common good, which is what Rand seems to suggest?  Hank Rearden in his trial, after all, although he said that profiting from his invention was his primary motive, also appealed to the good to the public that his metal provided: jobs, revenue, etc.  I could not find that particular line in the book, but the book as a whole is largely about the ill-societal effects from the government cracking down on free-market capitalism.  Obviously, the common good was important to Ayn Rand, on some level, whether she admitted that or not.  Moreover, in the movie, Hank Rearden submits to the government when it blackmails him by threatening to reveal his affair with Dagny Taggart, a famous capitalist in her own right.  Was Hank Rearden being altruistic in that case----taking the fall to protect Dagny?  I thought that Randian philosophy abhorred altruism!  (Perhaps its point is that voluntary altruism is okay----I don't know.)

While I think that the movie could have done a better job explaining the ideology of the villains (how exactly they were saying that their policies and regulations would enhance the public good), I am sympathetic to the movie's message about the evils of crony capitalism.  I suppose that I myself, on some level, tolerate corporate welfare and the government picking winners and losers in my support for Obamacare and green energy policies (assuming that the government is picking winners and losers in those cases), but I do have problems with the government favoring the influential and enacting policies that restrict competition.  The thing is, I feel that I have to pick from the options that are presented to me.  If the choice is between Obamacare and nothing at all (which I feel is the choice that is presented to me, whatever "plans" on health care the Republicans claim to have), then I choose Obamacare.  If my choice is between green energy jobs and simply cutting taxes on the rich and expecting for that money to magically trickle down to everyone else, then I choose the green energy jobs.

I'll stop here.  I will say that I have not read every Ayn Rand book that was ever written, so, objectivists, please be charitable to me in your comments.  I'm not telling you to be altruistic to me, but just to be kind!  I watched a documentary that said that Ayn Rand was against altruism, not benevolence. 

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