Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Cinema File #115: "Atlas Shrugged Part 2" Review

[Warning: This is not actually a review of the film Atlas Shrugged Part 2. It started out that way, but then just sort of devolved into a rambling screed against Ayn Rand's philosophy in general. If you just want to know what I think of the actual movie, skip to the last paragraph where I reference it directly. Otherwise, enjoy my bile in text form.]

Everybody knows corporations are fucking evil, right?

I mean, I don't have to even mention why the philosophy behind Altas Shrugged is completely intellectually bankrupt, do I? I would hope that I can simply bypass this point as something blatantly obvious, but you never know. I remember standing in a theater after a showing of Dinesh D'Souza's "documentary" 2016: Obama's America, a movie I saw out of morbid curiosity and at the insistence of a snarky liberal friend, and hearing the audience of true believers applaud uproariously. To think that so many people could exist mentally and emotionally in such a vastly different world than the one in which facts and evidence hold sway would astonish me if it weren't so frightening, and frighteningly common place. Luckily, I wasn't able to go to a theater to watch Atlas Shrugged Part 2, the low budget sequel to the most ironic box office failure in history, but I wonder if even the most hardcore Randians could bring themselves to applaud this tripe.

I know I don't have to point out the irony of a movie series that's one big love letter to the free market bombing so thoroughly that its ensuing trilogy struggles for financing. Its an observation that's made in pretty much every article about these movies since the first one premiered, and while its become a cliche, it is one that I as a staunch opponent of the film's ridiculous ideology still gladly revel in. And I get it. Really I do. I understand why a class of wealthy Americans with more money than they will ever need made on the backs of people making just enough to survive (on top of the money they earned so diligently through inheritance) might need a philosophical justification for their lifestyle, if only to sleep comfortably at night on their piles and piles of money. I get the desire to devise a virtue of selfishness, because its so much easier than just, you know, not being fucking selfish. What I don't get is why these same people insist that everyone else go along with their justification.

Why do the owners of the world's economy, those who are never accountable to anything or anyone because they've effectively bought and sold all legal bodies that may stand in their way, need any sort of validation? We're talking about the people who invented and fully embody the phrase "Too Big To Fail." Why do they need to turn government into the boogeyman after they've already made it their bitch? Why do they need the poor and middle class to not simply accept their never ending, generational state as an exploited caste, but emphatically believe in its rightness as a matter of principle? Is it just spite? A perverse need to add insult to injury? Is it a self esteem thing, the oligarch's equivalent of a man with a small penis buying a hot rod? I just don't understand it. If my choices are living off the grid on a dirt farm eating beats I grew myself, or feeding the beast that enslaves me to its massive many mouthed corporate whims, I'll happily accept comfortable subjugation if only because its better than the alternative, but you don't need to rub it in my face with this shit.

The story of Atlas Shrugged, which I won't bother to encapsulate in any detail as I normally do, because it really is that worthless, falls into a common polemical trap, in that it presents a world so unbelievable that its greater themes and message only come off as completely ridiculous. To accept the premise of Altas Shrugged and thus be open to its point of view, you must believe that there are government officials, in fact, essentially all government officials, who simply live to stifle individual progress for the sake of evil, like a freaking Power Rangers villain. You must be able to wrap your head around the idea that phrases like "For the Public Good" are as inherently despicable as "Heil Hitler" or "Resistance is Futile," not mind you because the concept of the public good has been subverted by Orwellian doublespeak, but because the actual insistence that its good to help others and raise all boats is something to be against.

On top of all of this, you must sympathize with that most beleaguered, tortured of souls, the billionaire corporate titan. Oh what a hard and thankless life they lead, these captains of industry whose single minded devotion to their own fortunes just so happens to have the byproduct of providing goods and services to people who need them, in many cases solely because that need was created by a society and culture bought and sold by the very interests supplying for said need at a hefty mark up. How Christ-like in their commitment to their fellow man, in so far as it benefits them financially more so than feeding their fellow men into machines to make them into soylent green. And curse that dastardly government that thinks these saintly  CEOs might have to give anything back to the country that allowed them to prosper so, because of course no one allowed them to, because they all did it themselves, using only the privately owned interstate highways and only the most boot strappiest of government subsidies.

And then they go on strike! Can you imagine if the Mitt Romneys of the world all decided to leave us to our own devices? If all the corporations and wealthy elites went away, who would be there to fuck us in our ass every day until we die? If BP were to go on strike, who would protect the oil wells in the Gulf? Or what if the entire oil industry packed it in? Then where would we get our rationales to make deals with oppressive regimes and fight oil wars in foreign countries that incite terrorist attacks on our citizens? And if the private mercenary forces we hire to fight those wars skip town, who would rape all those women to incite even further violence? If all the corporations stop doing their job of taking our money, our taxes might go up slightly, and we might even have to rely on a government made inefficient by corporate backed small government politicians we elected to make government inefficient because we loved their "I hate government" platform. I mean, I had kind of a long-ish line at the Post Office the other day, so if I extrapolate that to all things not controlled by soulless profit seeking conglomerates, a world Gone Galt would be nothing short of the apocalypse times something I can't even count, 'cause all I have is this lousy public education and these flimsy government issued pocket calculators!

Okay, yeah, sorry. Back to the movie itself. For the record, this adaptation of the book upon which I lay all of my criticisms is as faithful as I can remember from the time I read the source material in highschool, which is to say, its just as stupid and inarticulate in making its point. Its not a particularly badly made movie, especially in terms of most straight to DVD fare I watch, and if you are rich enough or self hating enough to agree with the film's philosophy, you'll probably get enough out of it to justify the expense and time. Its just such a pointless exercise in propaganda that anyone not in the choir being preached to has no reason to bother with it, and anyone in that choir should feel that they are being condescended to. And I don't normally say this, but fuck that choir. This is like making a grand, epic, heart wrenching movie about all those brave and noble souls who fought to keep slavery legal. This passionate screed for the absolute wrong thing to be proud of might work somewhat better in print, where its easier to ignore some of the more outrageous stuff just by turning the page, but in film, it collapses under the weight of its own dickishness.

For any film series to get slapped hard in the balls by the invisible hand of the market, there is none more deserving than Atlas Shrugged.

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