The Favorite Husband was recently away on an extended business trip. Smarter wimmens use this time to either get their PhDs in some way-smart field or celebrate their millionth customer to visit their multi-million dollar online business, or at least have a couple of torrid affairs to pass the time. Me, I buy food that’s bad for me and watch terrible, terrible movies. Food intended to fully celebrate Ayn Rand’s me-centric philosophy (critics tend to call it “selfishness” but it is more complex and nuanced than that) by not sharing it with others. And movies that, I’m pretty sure, would constitute spousal abuse should I make the Favorite Husband sit through them.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit I’ve already seen the first installment of ATLAS SHRUGGED. Twice. Uh-huh. I saw it the first time in shame-filled secret and it was, indeed, as dreadful as all the reviews warned me it was. Sooo dreadful that I almost didn’t watch ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK because the actress who plays the lead in it is Dagny Whats-Her-Name in ATLAS SHRUGGED 1. (I ultimately caved because I don’t think ANY actress could have saved the plodding albatross that was AS1’s script. Plus, while Hollywood itself likes to portray actors as spoiled children who will hold up a shooting schedule for DAYS if they are having creative conflicts with the director, the vast majority of actors are mere playthings who are paid to do whatever the director tells them and are just grateful for the paycheck. So I cannot blame the poor dear for feeding her family, or at least her goldfish.
So, why--I hear you asking--did I see it TWICE? Uh, because I am stupid. I think I have already established that very well through the Craptacular, but I reiterate it now in the hopes that others may learn from my example. AS1 was so dreadfully, dreadfully bad, I recovered from my private shame enough to blab about it to the Favorite Husband, marveling so at its putrescence that I piqued his interest enough to want to watch it himself. So I sat through it a second time, as penance for my loose lips. Every now and then, during a particularly badly-done scene I would turn to him, all starry-eyed with cackling glee, and say something like “Isn’t this just deliciously bad?” Whereupon he just gave me That Look That Indicates He Plans On Researching Divorce Lawyers Once This Movie Is Done and replied “No, it’s just BAD.”
So here goes watching it a THIRD time, although it’s been over a year since my Dreadful Mistake and much of it has been mercifully blocked out, as they say the pain of childbirth is. Accompanying my viewing this time will be a double-order of burnt ends from Bear’s Barbecue, since I will require SOMETHING pleasant to pass the time. And nothing quite says “selfish” (yes, I know, Ayn Rand herself is more complex and nuanced than that but I will continue to use the colloquial shorthand) like eating barbecue alone in sweat pants, until by the end of the movie you look like you have rolled in a vat of Kansas City Sweet.
So here goes. ATLAS SHRUGGED, Part One. The Beginning.
(PART II is HERE, in case this is NOT ENOUGH AYN RAND for you.)
:10: Okay, I DO like the Art Deco Atlas logo.
:15: “September 2, 2016”. Why, that’s going to be my birthday next year! We are off to a ROUSING start! I SO forgot about this!
:35: Music turns suddenly from vague notes to a downwardly dramatic swing, and we begin the montage to show us how absolutely dreadful the world has become in the next few years. Quick pans of slums, depressing headlines, people shaking their heads in dismay. Oh, no! Don’t they realize it’s my birthday? Maybe they will feel better if they do something for others--like buy me presents.
:54: The montage continues. Shortages of EVERYTHING. Funny, I always thought the action began in America, but the gas pump they show has a “no petrol” sign instead of “no gas”. And, amusingly, the hose lying on the ground is LEAKING PETROL. Or gas. Either way, that sign is LYING.
1:15: Ahh. Here is how they get around the fact that the books were all about railroads, whereas today hardly ANYONE uses trains. Except to take Amtrak into New York City now and then, though I still prefer driving. The lack of petrol/gas (probably because the idiots just let it LEAK all over the ground instead of putting it in their cars) has caused people to start using public transportation again, especially trains. Because, we all know, the infrastructure is ALL RIGHT THERE, PRISTINE and HARDLY USED. (sarcasm alert.) Anyway, that’s how they so cunningly got around the fact that ATLAS SHRUGGED is all about trains and not, say, AIRPLANES or SPACE SHIPS or FLYING CARS. I gotta admit, this explanation/updating works a whole lot better than the time I saw THE FOUNTAINHEAD, in which they pretty much stuck to the book and a newspaper had not one but TWO architecture columnists, and rogue ARCHITECTURE was actually causing RIOTS IN THE STREETS. But I digress. Back to the movie.
2:00: The montage continues. I’m already bored. But wait--they’ve just mentioned the Pirate Dagmar Hammarskolld, or whatever his name was. Wasn’t he on the Kon-Tiki? Remember that name, I vaguely recall. I think he turns out to be that playboy fellow? Or somehow connected? I don’t know. How long will this educational montage continue?
2:10: Looks like there is excitement afoot! A rail is loose and it looks like a train will crash! The engineer SCREAMS in fear! Quick! Cut to something far less exciting!
2:15: Ahh. A dark man walking on a rainy street. That’s more like it. For a second I was afraid something thrilling might happen. Instead we have dark, rainy calm. Soothing music. More rain. Neon lights.
2:28: Cut to a cliché of some sort of boring talking heads news show. They’ve made it marginally more bearable by panning the monitors in the control room instead of watching the show, and the faces of everyone watching the monitors. Yeah, no one’s ever done THAT shot before. Dagny’s brother--I think it is?--is one of the guests. As I recall he’s a total weasel weenie, but the movie will probably allow his character to naturally grow and develop and bloom like a flower in a masterful fashion as befits the cinematic arts. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
2:41: Rain guy walks into a diner where the talk show is playing on the TV. Dagny’s brother says stuff while looking like a smug Doogie Howser. Masterful fashion my ass; spoiler alert--clearly he’s a jerk, since apparently we must cater to the lowest common denominator here, which means everyone is going to be walking around with neon signs saying Helpful Things like “JERK” “MOOCHER” and “GLORIOUS ALL HAIL CHOSEN-ONE PRODUCER”. Some guy comes into the diner dressed like a crop duster. When the waitress asks if he has any money--he does look kinda derelict--he responds with “Who’s John Galt?” Ooooh. Can I just say, I *DO* remember now they TOTALLY BEAT THE WHOLE JOHN GALT THING TO DEATH in this movie. It was annoying enough in the books, but somehow they’ve made it even LAMER. Lamer than people rioting about architecture.
Back to the talk show, the sole purpose of which is to introduce the various political themes that the movie will flog us with for the next hour and a half, as well as to establish just what a jerk Dagny’s brother James is, since even neon signage has its limits. The nation is in crisis. James Taggart is an incompetent boob who inherited the railroad from his father and is now running it into the ground, much to some-other-guy-on-the-show’s mild inconvenience, having to switch lines and all.
4:37: The first rich tycoon is poached by the shadowy rainy man. Or it’s all a metaphor for a homosexual pickup. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, only I’m pretending I am not familiar with the story and things are Shrouded in Mystery. But the poached guy goes missing. He is revealed to be a BANKER. Because of all the professions in which a person’s hard work results in practical gains for himself and society, uh, banking is, uh, right up there with, uh, I don’t know. Somewhere below farming, as far as being productive and actually producing something of substance instead of merely shuffling papers around and entangling one with bureaucracy like a Kraken, but certainly above, say, politicians.
5:00: Title sequence. Although I guess it’s not really a sequence when it just flashes the words “ATLAS SHRUGGED” on the screen for five seconds.
5:05: Piper (although with darker hair; I am pretty badly face blind so it took a while for me to see it was her) takes FOREVER to answer her phone. She appears to have slept on the couch for some reason, and now she’s all disheveled and hung-over-looking. Ahh, lifestyles of the rich and famous! The caller has her turn on the TV, where we FINALLY hear about the train accident. Because it’s much more exciting (not to mention cheaper) to watch the growing concern on her face as she watches TV than to actually watch the crash. Piper--oh, sorry, Dagny--runs to the office. Or, rather, walks, and takes the subway. And doesn’t bother conducting business on her cell phone, but just walks among the hoi polloi. La ti dah. You’d think if there was a terrible crash and your office was in crisis you’d run and/or take a car in to work, but maybe that’s why I don’t run a giant railroading concern.
6:44: Meanwhile, actually AT the office, people who HAVEN’T woke up hung over on their couch are working. At least, her brother James and his way-too-intelligent assistant/underling are working. James’s job appears the easier of the two; he just petulantly contradicts the underling with brief, monosyllabic protests while the underling carefully and patiently lays out the entire detailed conflict for us, the clueless audience, to follow. I want to call him Basil Exposition, but I guess his name is Eddie. Eddie’s TL;DR: their railroad is up the creek. James says no, and threatens Eddie’s job. Clearly Eddie is intelligent, competent, handsome and calm, while James is an entitled asshole resting on his father’s and grandfather’s laurels as railroad-business-runners.
7:50: Oooh, Dagny-Piper walks in and totally cuts James’ balls off. Eddie leaves so SHE can be the competent one in the room. She’s not afraid to ask the tough questions and make the tough decisions. She brings up Reardon Steel, the magical new substance that will re-rail their entire train line and save the company. James scoffs and brings up reports saying it won’t work, but he’s such a jerk you just KNOW she’s right. When she bests him intellectually he points out how cold and nasty and unfeeling she is. She’s like, pfft, yeah, right and leaves. Honestly, James will stop at NOTHING to show us how petty and evil he can be.
10:04: Boring train montage, I guess to show Dagny’s trip from NYC (I’m guessing?) to Philly, home of Hank Reardon and his Miracle Metal. Also, where my dad grew up. Not at Hank Reardon’s, but somewhere in Philly. More the slummy section, from what I gather from his childhood as a street urchin. But again, I digress. Philadelphia: It's Not For Sissies.
10:45: After an almost real-time montage of Dagny’s travels, we cut to what is apparently Hank Reardon’s office while he is watching railroad rails get made. It’s actually kinda cool. I vaguely wonder what railroad rail-making company let them film in their factory. Lots of molten metal and sparks. Since we were denied the train crash, this has been the most exciting shot in the whole movie thus far. I am attracted to it like a moth to a flame.
11:04: Hank’s interactions with his assistant quickly tells us he’s a rebel, a loner, a loose cannon who forges his own path while sneering contempt at his fellow steel manufacturers. Any time wasted on character development here takes away from the time that could be better spent on train montages.
11:45: Dagny is finally ushered in to his presence. He warns her the rails aren’t ready yet; she says she’s merely there to “discuss our deal”. Okay. So he’s making rails for her before the deal is finalized? Again, this is why I’m not a multi-million dollar business tycoon; I’d be finalizing deals BEFORE making stuff.
12:29: Dagny reminds Hank that they need each other. The goal is to have their entire line rerailed in 9 months. They are both astute bidness people who commiserate about having to deal with boobs like her brother, but, as Dagny points out, they are beneath her, so she doesn’t bother worrying about them. BAH! WORTHLESS CHIMPS! (Okay, I am paraphrasing a tad.) Evidently her whole train ride and all was so they could have this five minute meeting.
14:06: These titans of industry spend a lot of time walking places. You’d think the moneybags financing this picture could spring for a limo or two. (You don’t have to BUY them, folks: you can just RENT them, and make everyone THINK you’re rich. Infomercial scammers do that ALL the time! You don't honestly THINK those girls in bikinis actually WANT to hang out with that repulsive moron on a yacht, do you? Heavens no, everything is RENTED! Or, if you can't afford the rent, you just find a nice car in the street and take pictures of you standing next to it and/or make your actors PRETEND they own it. Hell, I think they once did a whole FRIENDS episode based on that, so it’s not like it’s rocket science. It was JOEY, for pete's sake. Then again, my paper napkin math suggests:
ATLAS SHRUGGED producers=LOSINGYOURSHIRTProducingSillyStuff.
At least that is my humble, unsourced observation, but I think if you bother to do the research (I’m too lazy; sorry) and crunch the actual numbers you’ll find I’m right.)
14:20: Hank goes to his lovely home, to find his obnoxious wife (right up there with James in the neon signage asshole department) entertaining her equally useless friends. I’m not kidding; they all have “I’m an asshole” signs hanging with chains from their necks just in case their behavior is too subtle for you. They tell him he works too hard, and she can barely contain her contempt for the gift he gives her (some truly ugly jewelry made out of his precious miracle metal. I mean, I’m no jewelry fanatic myself, but it looks worse than one of those magnet healing bracelets they sell on infomercials, plus it looks like it probably weighs around four pounds). Her guests opine that he is selfish for giving her such a gift--little do they know that selfishness is a VIRTUE!!! Plus, you just have to admit you JUST CAN'T WIN if the very act of handing someone a gift brands you as "selfish". The funny thing is, they go on and on about what a gauche thing he just did, and HE’S STANDING RIGHT THERE. As in, IN HIS OWN HOUSE. Who actually DOES that? I mean, REALLY? I mean, if I’m invited to a swanky dinner party over someone’s house, and the hosts exchange gifts, I’ll just say something bland, like, “oh, isn’t that nice.” I sure as HELL am not going to sit there and say crap like “a REAL man would have brought her DIAMONDS, and that metal bracelet is BUTT-UGLY.” But, okay, they have to establish that everyone here is an asshole leech or moocher or whatever the phrase is the Randians like to use. And they have to do it quickly, so they can spend more time on montages and not showing us train wrecks.
16:06: Hank finally tires of their verbal abuse and leaves the room, only to be followed by one of the guests--clearly another weasel--who hits him up for money to “help” the underprivileged.
17:17: Hank is hit up by Weasel No. 2. He informs Hank that nobody likes him. (Possibly because he’s a rebel, a loner, a loose cannon who forges his own path while sneering contempt at his fellow steel manufacturers.) Being liked, according to Weasel the Second, is THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS. (I think Marge Simpson said that once to Lisa, and then later apologized for giving her bad advice, but oops, there I go again, idly referring to something that is actually capitalistically successful entertainment. My bad.) Oh, and by the way, you don’t really know who’s loyal anymore. Oh, and who is John Galt? WHY, THERE’S THAT NAME AGAIN!
18:56: Cut to James in some swanky restaurant, whining about Dagny and conspiring, with Weasel the second and a couple of other crusty movers and shakers, to BRING DOWN REARDON STEEL and pass patently ludicrous legislation that pretty much establishes that everyone except Hank and Dagny are idiots. Total, complete, utter idiots. Lazy people like me really enjoy the spoon-feeding, guys. Thank you EVER so much.
20:40: Enter Francisco somebody or other. He’s the playboy I was talking about, who MIGHT end up being the Dread Pirate Ragnar? I forget. He and Dagny have some sort of history, too. I think he ends up being a Good Guy, but pretends to be a Bad Guy to avert suspicion? I forget. Anyway, while Playboy yucks it up with several girls oohing and ahhing off of each arm (again, we know now they can be rented), the Bidnessmen talk about how he’s a slacker who somehow makes money, so they’re all invested in his stuff. Oh, yeah, I think he takes all of them for a ride? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Right now the Bidnessmen are all muttering and gossiping about him, because they are all jerks who are probably just jealous because Playboy’s getting laid while they are stuck hanging out with James, who is seriously a world-class jerk among jerks. I mean, even when your fellow jerks don’t want to hang out with you--instead of quietly admiring your jerkiness--THAT, my friends, is the ultimate in weaselly Jerky McJerkson.
21:58: Dagny is in the office being competent. James stops by to further establish his incompetence by pretty much saying one should run a railroad solely to serve the poor and destitute (code words for “brown people in Mexico”). He leaves and is replaced by Mousy Guy, who wants to quit. Clearly Mousy Guy is competent, for Dagny wants to keep him despite his mousiness. “Whatever you’re offered, I’ll DOUBLE IT!” “Name your price! WRITE YOUR OWN TICKET!” (I don’t know what this guy did for a living, working in the main offices of a railroad, but I’m thinking no matter WHAT he’s doing, there’s probably an upper limit to what his job is actually worth.) After back and forth about why he’s leaving, he leans forward and whispers, “Who is John Galt?”
Okay, that’s the third time in the first twenty-five minutes. I’m officially sick of it.
24:55: Hank finishes having desultory sex with his bitch wife. (Just in case you think she might have SOME redeeming qualities, her response is, “All done, then?” like he just fixed the toaster. Really, it reminded me of an old, old Steve Martin bit, back when he did standup, asking a woman “Are you through, yet?”) He gets up and goes back to work while she scoffs. Dagny calls him in the middle of the night to complain about her good employee quitting on her. She repeats that all he would say when questioned was “Who is John Galt?” (Fourth time!) They remind each other that THEY are the cool kids and everyone else in the movie are idiots. THIS is the pillow talk poor Hank wanted, instead of “All done, then?”
26:57: Another executive is poached. This time Rainy Guy tells the fellow that he knows where there’s a place where individual achievement is celebrated, and no idiots are allowed in. Hooray! Luckily for my sanity he does NOT ask “WIJG”, since if he had it would only be a minute or so after the LAST one.
27:41: FINALLY, a shot of an actual limo. Figures James is using it. He’s SUCH a tool. One of his conspirators he is gloating to on the phone tells him “You are thinking like a politician!” like it’s supposed to be a compliment. Really, can you think of ANY normal situation where that could POSSIBLY be construed as a compliment? So it just figures idiot James takes it as one.
28:10: Uh-oh. Those people in Mexico are causing problems by nationalizing everything, so all the investments brokered by Swanky Playboy Francisco are now worthless. Competent Eddie explains it to James using tiny words. At an emergency board meeting James shamelessly takes credit for everything Dagny did to save the company. Gosh, it’s almost like James has NO REDEEMING QUALITIES WHATSOEVER.
29:53: Competent Eddie is now reporting to Dagny, about the last guy who was poached, who never showed up for work in Colorado. (I tell ya, these poached people might be oh-so-competent, but the whole two-week’s-notice thing appears to be TOTALLY LOST on them. Mousy Guy tendered his resignation “effective immediately”, while THIS poached guy just never bothered showing up for work anymore. If I were a boss, I WOULD NOT LIKE THAT, which again might explain why I do not run a giant national concern.) Anyway, Competent Eddie quotes from the guy’s goodbye note: WIJG? AAAAGGGHH! That makes FIVE. Dagny also finds out Hankie-boy is in town. A meeting is arranged.
30:34: Dagny confronts James. He tells her everything’s cool. Ya know, I am the last person to be taken in by political actions sugar-coated with cutesy names and all, but James deserves EXTRA ridicule for calling his new bill/law “The Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule”. I’m not sure how the actors can say it with a straight face, but maybe that’s why I’m not an actor in addition to not being a politician or the head of a giant corporation. Anyway, James also drops the factoid that yes, indeed, Francisco and Dagny were once an item. I THOUGHT I remembered that.
31:17: Dagny goes into her office to find this guy, Ellis Wyatt, has crashed there. You can tell he’s one of THOSE people because he has his feet up like he owns the place. He was one of the guys bitching out James on the talk show at the very beginning of the movie for having to switch railroads, so anyone who thinks James is an incompetent turd will probably be okay in our book. Anyway, thanks to this Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog crap, he is now FORCED to use their railroad for his business--okay, he ships stuff, apparently--and he is none too happy about it. Dagny tries to charm him with her competence, but he’s not buying it.
33:10: (Okay, I must say the bumper shots of train yards and trains running to mark a scene change are getting kinda old.)
Dagny and Hank meet to discuss sources for train engines. Apparently Hank knows more about this than Dagny. He’s a man, after all, and men know all about that engine stuff. And even though they just started business fairly recently, Dagny’s been invited to Hank’s anniversary party, put on by his useless wife. The talk then turns to all the competent people disappearing, and Hank makes a joke that her useless brother James will run the world after all the competent people leave. They enjoy a warm chuckle about that. Dagny runs, because she’s two-timing him with Old Flame Playboy Francisco.
35:00: Another swanky restaurant. (At least now Dagny is using limos like a REAL rich person.) Dagny walks up and starts abusing Francisco right away. He’s cool about it, though. He points out the obvious--that James and his political cronies are Not Good People and hence probably deserve getting ripped off. Dagny wonders whatever happened to the man she once loved. His reply: WIJG! SIX!!! That’s working out to someone saying “Who is John Galt?” once every SIX MINUTES. Yep, this is going to be a LONG MOVIE. Dagny’s all like, “Hey! I’VE HEARD THAT QUESTION BEFORE!!!!”
36:53: Hank and Useless Wife are going to their anniversary party. I believe when she was planning it in her earlier scene she said it was “three months from now”. So if you start doing business with Hank Reardon you can expect to get invitations to his anniversary party even if you just met the guy and NEVER met his wife. Dagny sees Useless Wife’s ugly metal bracelet (Q: Why is she even WEARING it?) and immediately gets the Significance of the Gift. It is a TIRESOME PARTY, as you can imagine. But everyone is there. Even Francisco is there! Useless Wife stuffs her useless mouth with cake. Francisco introduces himself to Hank and privately points out that Hank is the only useful person in the room and he is carrying everyone else. Hank says “They’re a bunch of desperate, miserable children trying to stay alive.” Yay, Hank! Francisco points out that Hank needs to work on his PR skills, and that there’s a battle going on. Hank: “A battle? I don’t fight the disarmed.” Yay, Hank! Francisco makes a few more enigmatic statements--I keep waiting for WIJG but mercifully he stops short of that--and makes his exit.
43:47: Dagny negotiates to take the bracelet off of Useless Wife’s hands. Even Hank can’t believe she’s that obvious.
44:56: The Reardons are back home. (Can you say “I’m pretty sure all thoughts of anniversary boffing are totally off the table”? I knew that you could.)
45:29: Establishing shots of mountains. Colorado. More montage explaining how the track is being rebuilt. I was going to say, “At least it’s not trains” but once they started on about the track it turned into trains again.
46:20: Useless James in a limo with Dagny, going to a swanky party/dinner/ speech. James drops the bomb that Dagny is going to have to defend Reardon Steel against the various steel experts who have opposed it. Like, five minutes before they’re going to show up. Just in case you haven’t been paying attention, the guy’s a total dick. Dagny wisely bails on him.
47:19: Another educational expository montage. Apparently a visual medium like film is not a very good way to convey, say, a TRAIN CRASH, but the optimal way to show you how train track is laid.
47:36: The evil guvmint regulators try to get Hank to stop making his business so gosh-danged productive until the losers can catch up. Which, ya know, is how ALL business should be run, according to the idiot noncreative weasels who’s biggest claim to fame is called “anti-dog-eat-dog” instead of something short and catchy, like “The Taggart Turd”. Hank denies them, of course--he’s a loner, a rebel, a--you get the picture. If not, I’m sure there will be umpteen more reminders before this movie is done. The government weasel calls Hank “selfish” when he refuses. Hank tries to get him to say whether or not Reardon’s Miracle Metal is any good or not. The LYING HYPOCRITE SCUMBAG wants to buy the rights to RMM, but won’t say one way or another, except to point out that, either way, it is a DANGER TO THE PUBLIC. (You know--like ROGUE ARCHITECTURE.)
49:57: Okay, the government weasel works for something called the State Science Institute, which immediately reminded me of a Bette Davis movie called DARK VICTORY. In it, the Bette Davis character is terminally ill, but so gosh-darned charming her doctor falls in love with her, marries her, and vows to find the cure. They move to some rural farmhouse, I think in Vermont, and her doctor-husband proceeds to “do science” to find said cure. Bette Davis does her part by making sammiches and busting into the lab with a plateful of food and asking how “the science” is getting on. Naturally, this is all TOTALLY SERIOUS and not at all the lark I am making it out to be. Anyway, since Reardon wouldn’t sell his metal for gajillions of dollars, the State Science Institute CONDEMNS it at a Public Threat, similar to architecture. All of this is revealed in, yes, a montage.
50:15: Dagny is feeling the heat, and waltzes into the State Science Institute to confront them. She does not bring sammiches. She is told that the State Science Institute relies on public funding, so they must lie about their findings because that is what scientists do when their funding is threatened. (Or they lie to please their funding overlords, depending on which conspiracy theory you hold at the moment.) Okay, so Science Guy fills in some blanks. He once had THREE BRILLIANT STUDENTS. One became Old Flame Playboy Francisco. One became the Dread Pirate Ragnar. The third VANISHED. You’d think this wasn’t such big news, since big-time CEOs have been vanishing RIGHT AND LEFT, but there ya go. Dagny doesn’t bother to find out the third student’s name.
52:52: I’ll give you three guesses what happens here. Hint: it begins with “M” and ends with “ontage”.
53:12: Dagny is out inspecting the new rails being installed in the montage, because that’s what railroad executives do. I forget she has some sort of engineering degree. So does my father, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s qualified to inspect railroad lines. But anyway, who shows up but crusty mean Wyatt. Only he’s not crusty and mean anymore, but grateful that Dagny is so gosh-darned competent. Dagny’s cool with it and all, and tries not to gloat in front of him. Oh, and Hank’s there, too, offering to replace a bridge. Which is apparently code for “What CHOO doin’?” Dagny doesn’t take the bait. Yet. (C’mon, you KNOW it’s coming.)
55:12: Back in New York, Competent Eddie/Basil Exposition is chock full of bad news. Another brilliant employee has quit, the stock is in the crapper, blah blah blah. Dagny says to save the business, she will abandon it. (Tres dramatique!)
56:07: Train shots lead to Dagny confronting idiot brother James, who is playing with TOY TRAINS. Just in case you forget how useless he is. Dagny announces she is leaving Taggart, and taking the new train line with her. That way she will have her OWN company and put her own life on the line, literally. She’s going to call it--get this!-the “John Galt Line”. And despite her utter contempt for Washington, she is not above asking--nay, DEMANDING--her brother use his “political cronies” to fast track all her permits and whatnot through. Oh, and if he tries to double-cross her--c’mon, you just KNOW he’s gonna--“I will destroy you.” James seems momentarily cowed.
58:27: Whoo hoo! Dagny tries to go to Old Flame Playboy Francisco for a loan! “I thought you of all people would understand!” (This after her dumping a glass of water in his face at the start of their last meeting.) He’s gonna deny her, but when he hears the name of the new line he’s all like “Woah!” Still won’t give her the money, though. Next comes a montage of various banking people denying her any credit. Things look bleak.
1:00:26: She gets a call. It’s Crusty old Ellis Wyatt! He agrees to finance her! She goes to Hank and demands a buttload of miracle metal. Hanks agrees to help finance it as well. He also shows her pictures of a new miracle engine somewhere out in Wisconsin. Then Hank gets the phone call--one of the ludicrous laws have just passed, saying no one can own more than one company. Dagny is all like, “What about my bridge?” (Which of course looks selfish to the untrained eye, but it is more complex and nuanced than that. But despite all the complexity and nuance, I'm pretty sure if she were at a funeral, she’d be complaining to the grieving family about how the dead person owed her money.)
1:02:29: Hank signs away all his other companies to the awaiting weasel brigade. It’s done in--you guessed it again!--a montage. Which morphs into a montage about making things out of steel, and then morphs again into the mountains of Colorado with the train tracks. Which then leads to... Dagny in New York. Because that’s how montages work.
1:04:12: Dagny is announcing the first trains to run on the new line. Only to be threatened by a union representative saying they won’t allow engineers to run a train on untested track. Dagny rips him a new one, and he weasels like there’s no tomorrow. Since he’s a total weasel and she’s competent, she wins, though he totally gives her a Tony Soprano look as he leaves.
1:05:53: The first ride on the new line! Dagny is swarmed by reporters, and FINALLY one of them asks, “Who is John Galt?” SEVEN!!! And it’s BEEN A WHILE, hasn’t it? I had to look back a whole HALF HOUR before finding my last reference to The Question. Yay! Followed by a montage of various characters waiting for a train crash. I’m sorry to disappoint everyone, but apparently CGI-ing a train crash is NOT IN THE BUDGET. Followed by a montage of the train riding on the rails, trying to manufacture suspense by counting up the MPH. Smooth as silk, of course. And then the Big Reveal of the gosh-it’s-so-ugly bridge Hankie-Boy has made for them. Because, of course, someone who knows metallurgy also knows how to design way-ugly suspension bridges. Ahh, so they DO have at least SOME money for CGI. I was beginning to worry.
1:05:55: Much to every weasel’s dismay, all the news reports say the coyote-ugly bridge held up PERFECTLY despite warnings from experts. Because that’s how science works, bitches! A one-time success PROVES the bridge is TOTALLY SAFE!!! We are treated to a montage of weasels all glowering at their respective televisions.
1:10:38: Ellis Wyatt--who has turned from crusty cantankerous old guy to party animal--has a sumptuous banquet prepared for Dagny and Hank. All by themselves. Just the three of them. There is a montage of them eating and gloating to show you how happy they are. They make plans for the future, but at least Wyatt is quick to notice that he’s a third wheel and he awkwardly excuses himself. Thus follows one of the most memorable things I remember from watching this before: Hank and Dagny, going up to bed. Hank says something like, “I have a wife, and a family, and a company. But right now all I want to do is kiss you.” To which Dagny replies, “What’s stopping you?” They CUT the scene before he repeats “I just SAID--I have a wife, and a family...”
1:13:14: Oh, yuck. They’ve totally doing it. Via MONTAGE. A montage of yuck.
1:14:33: Down below, Wyatt is searching desperately for his noise-canceling headphones when there is a knock at the door. It’s the SHADOWY RAINY GUY who’s been disappearing all the good workers from society.
1:15:13: Oh, hey, it’s sunrise! In a MONTAGE. No roosters crowing, but you can hear crickets before the music swells too loud. Dagny is out in the garden as Hank appears, casually asking “Where’s Wyatt?” You know, their host. Wyatt has left them a thank-you note, which strikes me as kinda odd seeing how it’s HIS HOUSE, but okay. Hank announces his plans to bop over to Wisconsin to see about that secret new miracle engine. Because, you know, Wisconsin is so close to Colorado.
1:16:22: Their THOUSAND MILE DRIVE is done via montage, with an over-narration of them discussing why the miracle engine company failed. In short, it was because they paid everyone equally, instead of by measuring their actual productivity. Dagny laughs “What is it about these stupid altruistic urges? What’s wrong with people today?” Pfft!
1:16:45: They arrive at the abandoned factory and almost immediately walk in and find top secret plans about the Miracle Engine. (Luckily for them the local kids didn’t use the abandoned warehouse as a party place and trash the place, which is what invariably happens in MY neck of the woods. That's why none of them run huge multinational conglomerates.) They marvel, wondering why they just LEFT all this stuff here. Poof! Here’s all the plans! This new engine could change the world!
1:19:40: Montage, trying to track down the previous owners of the property. One shot is a lady offering exposition while leading a horse. ON THE WRONG SIDE. You always handle horses on their LEFT. The lady leading the horse sounded vaguely familiar; I realized I had just seen her in THE JACK AND TRIUMPH SHOW. (Yes, I have ATROCIOUS viewing habits. Hasn’t this been made amply clear already?)
1:22:00: The finding-the-engine-creator montage is rudely interrupted by Competent Eddie, who brings us up to speed on all the terrible legislation being passed specifically targeting their businesses. Because, ummm, Dagny, you've got a railroad to run, remember? She dumps it in her brother’s lap, and he runs off in a tantrum.
1:22:52: Dagny finds the diner where one of the engine geniuses is now working. He doesn’t answer any questions for a bit--DRAMATIC TENSION!!!--but he DOES tell her the conspiracy she is chasing is SO MUCH BIGGER than she EVER imagined. It’s like a bad X-FILES scene. I was never a fan of the X-FILES, so if you ask me I’d recall EVERY X-FILES scene was pretty bad, but the Favorite Husband was a fan and I’ve sat through one or two episodes against my will. Now that I’ve seen ATLAS SHRUGGED I now offer my heartfelt apologies to X-FILES fans; I have misjudged your show; there are indeed things FAR WORSE than anything Mulder and Scully ever came up with. Dagny says she’ll find the maker of that engine, and he replies with a vague threat: “Oh, don’t worry--he’ll find YOU.”
1:24:05: When Dagny enters the diner a SHADOWY MAN IN A HAT AND COAT is eating at the counter. Oooh. She sits down and orders coffee, but the news comes on that the Wyatt oil fields/refinery/whatever are ablaze, so she hot foots it to Wyatt’s house. I don’t know where she was in the thousand miles between Colorado and Wyoming, but the fires are still burning when she arrived at his house. Which, apparently in keeping with all rich people, is situated right next to the oil fields. As she drives, her driving montage is interspersed with announcements of even more ludicrous laws. Dgny arrives at Wyatt’s house and busts right through the fire lines--totally ignoring the authority saying “Hey, lady, you can’t go in there; it's on FIRE!” and it is revealed that Wyatt was poached by John Galt himself, describing a utopian vision of a place where people can do whatever the hell they want without sissy government authorities telling them they can’t go in places just because they’re on fire.
1:28:35: Dagny stands in front of the burning oil fields--again, right in the backyard of this way-swanky house; yes, that’s just where *I* would want to live if I were a gazillionaire, overseeing the stark beauty of my, uh, oil fields--and screams “NO!!!” At first I thought the cheap bastards would not spring for a composite shot of fields afire and just keep it on the shot of her crying while some minimum-wage stagehand flickers an orange light in her face, but the final dramatic shot DOES show her standing in front of a refinery fire. At the guy’s house. She drops to her knees as the camera fades to black and a voiceover by Wyatt announces he is ON STRIKE.
I have mused before on my theory that ATLAS SHRUGGED is essentially fundamentalism for the non-religious, much as my Favorite Younger Sister tells me politics are merely sporting events for people who think they are too superior to enjoy actual sports. It's got everything a good fire-n-brimstone religion has: chosen people--LITERALLY chosen!--being raptured away to heaven while the stupid are left wailing and gnashing their teeth. Much as you are left now, awaiting PART II....