In 2014, the Atlas Shrugged trilogy came to a close with Atlas Shrugged Part III: Who Is John Galt? As you can probably guess from the title, this is the movie that finally revealed the elusive character of John Galt.
Unfortunately, after all the time spent discussing the character over the past two movies, there’s really no way that the actual John Galt could possibly live up to all the hype. John Galt, the man who stopped the motor of the world and who is the world’s greatest living engineer, turns out to be a sensitive lumberjack type who has founded his own scenic village in Galt’s Gulch. He’s manly and handsome and chivalrous and he’s a bit dull. Kristoffer Polaha, who plays the character, is a perfectly pleasant and likable actor but there’s nothing about his screen presence or his performance that suggests that he’s the man who has figured out how to save civilization from the regulatory state. As a character, Galt works best as a literary creation, someone who the reader can imagine for themselves. When seen on screen, he’s a bit of a letdown.
Taking over the role from Taylor Schilling and Samantha Mathis, Laura Regan plays Dagny Taggart as an overworked businesswoman who really needs a vacation. (Of the three actresses who played the character, only Mathis was credible as the dynamic Dagny of Ayn Rand’s original novel.) Having crashed her plane in the mountains at the end of the second film, Dagny is nursed back to health by John Galt and the inhabitants of Galt’s Gulch. Dagny is shocked to discover that most of her old friends are now living in Galt’s Gulch. As they explain, they’re on strike and they’re no longer going to serve a government that is looking to control and ultimately destroy them. Unfortunately, the film presents Galt’s Gulch as being a bit of a dull place, one that is not even livened up the presence of pirate Ragnar Danneskold (Eric Allan Kramer). It’s the type of place where Dagny can visit the local farmer’s market and recuperate in a taste-fully decorated bed and breakfast, all while falling in love with her hunky host. If the first two Atlas Shrugged films now feel somewhat prophetic, the third one feels like a Libertarian-themed Hallmark movie.
Atlas Shrugged: Part III feels a bit rushed. Apparently, no one from the cast and crew of either the first or the second film returned to work on Atlas Shrugged: Part III and it feels quite a bit different from the previous two films. Whatever one may think of the way the first two films presented the effects of government regulation, they were effective because they specifically showed the consequences. The audience actually saw two trains collide due to incompetent management. The audience saw the government showing up and forcefully taking over Rearden Metal. The third film relies on a narrator, one who tells us what happened instead of letting us see it with our own eyes. We hear about a bridge collapsing but we don’t see it. We hear about union thugs forcefully taking over a factory but we don’t see them. We hear about out-of-control government bureaucrats but, as opposed to the first two films, we don’t really get to spend much time with them and, when we do, they’re far more cartoonish in their villainy than they were in the first two films. John Galt does get to deliver his speech to the world but it’s in a truncated form and the film’s decision to then cut to Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Ron Paul all praising the speech on television not only goes against the film’s depiction of a country where public dissent is suppressed but it also reminds the audience that the film’s outlook has more in common with Fox News than Ayn Rand.
As previously mentioned, the third film has a totally different cast from the first two films. Greg Germann is enjoyably over-the-top as the unhinged James Taggart but, otherwise, the new cast fails to make much of an impression, with some of them only showing up for a few brief seconds before disappearing from the story. Rob Morrow plays Hank Rearden but is only seen for less than a minute. By sidelining one of the book’s most important characters, Atlas Shrugged: Part III also drops the whole storyline about Hank’s affair with Dagny. While I guess that makes it easier for the film to then have Dagny and John Galt hook up, it still feels a bit unfair to the people who actually watched the entire trilogy.
Considering that both Parts I and II have improved with the passage of time, Part III is a rather disappointing ending for the trilogy. Upon watching, John Galt would probably be disappointed but not surprised.
Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 4/24/23 — 4/30/23 | Through the Shattered Lens
Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 5/1/23 — 5/7/23 | Through the Shattered Lens