Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt? Laura Regan, Kristoffer Polaha, Greg Germann. Directed by J. James Manera. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.
Like a libertarian version of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, Atlas Shrugged takes a beloved novel with a dedicated fan following and divides it into three movies, the third of which, Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt?, opens this week. Unlike The Hobbit, though, Ayn Rand’s political science-fiction novel doesn’t have a visionary filmmaker like Jackson behind its film adaptation; instead, each of the trilogy’s three installments has been helmed by a different director, and with an entirely different cast, to boot. It’s jarring to see the same characters show up in the immediate continuation of a story, only to suddenly be much older or younger, with only a passing physical resemblance to their former selves.
With a small budget raised partially on Kickstarter, Who Is John Galt? is both the cheapest-looking and most narratively deficient film in the series, a rather pathetic end to a project undertaken with more ambition than talent. The movie picks up where the previous installment left off, as railroad tycoon Dagny Taggart (Laura Regan, taking over for Samantha Mathis, who took over for Taylor Schilling) has crash-landed her private plane in the secluded community known as Galt’s Gulch. There, John Galt himself (Kristoffer Polaha) has gathered the greatest minds in America, all opting out of a society that is headed down the doomed road to socialism.
As before, the producers have managed to hire a number of solid mid-level character actors (this time including Stephen Tobolowsky, Greg Germann and The Closer’s Tony Denison), but haven’t given them real characters to play. Everyone in this movie is a mouthpiece for Rand’s political views, especially Galt himself, who delivers her thesis in a lengthy speech during the movie’s third act. In addition, the filmmakers gloss over a number of important plot developments via stilted, exposition-heavy narration, as if they just didn’t have enough money to shoot all the scenes. A good half hour shorter than the previous movies in the series, Who Is John Galt? ends abruptly and anticlimactically, fulfilling its function of flattering the worldview of Rand’s fans and followers while completely failing as a piece of narrative cinema.