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The Empty, Confusing World of Atlas Shrugged Part 2

I mentioned a few of the things that bothered me about Atlas Shrugged: Part 1. But let's see what happened to Part 2.

The movie opens with a plane chase...

...involving a woman I don't know who's as emotionally invested as Kristen Stewart.

The dramatic music didn't mesh at all with this woman's vacant, mildly disinterested flying. The audience has no idea who she is, who she's chasing, or why. And the filmmakers give us no hints as to why we should care. Starting a film with a meaningless sequence like this doesn't help us want to watch your film. We can hope that you'll let us know what's going on at some point, but the bad acting/directing and mismatched editing/music does not invite us to sit back and relax.

A few more confusing scenes limp by before I realized that this sequel has a completely new cast. I had to stop the movie to verify that...

...this couple was supposed to be...

...this couple. I can't imagine how confusing this film was for people seeing it in a theater. Did they all pull out their smart phones to figure out what was going on?

If you're going to change cast members on your audience, at least let them laugh at you, a la The Matrix:

I'm the Oracle

As the film continued to forcefully drag me through the muck of bad film making, I tried to figure out just what was so painful about this experience. The sound quality was fine. The shots were okay. The acting was flat, but not horrible (overall). Even the editing--while a little laggy--wasn't outright bad. The feeling had been breathing down my neck for a few moments before it spun me around and poked me in the eye. The main characters wander through the lobby of a building while people generally mill around. One of the extras walks into frame and stops to watch the screen.

Plot Points Delivered via the News

She was the problem. Not her personally. But what she embodied. The film was full of extras milling around to "fill the frame" and give the picture "life." But there was no life there. They never had anywhere to go, or a reason to be there. They were just taking up space. It reminded me of the painful scene in The Musketeer where the guys with torches just ran in circles in the background.

Musketeer Torch Loop (it's even worse if you watch the whole scene)

The problem is that this kind of stuff is filler. It happens when the director makes the poor decision to use background actors as part of the visual element of the film. Your extras should be part of your world, not part of the scenery. Again and again throughout Atlas: Part 2, background characters were told to walk through the frame at this moment. Why? We don't know. They don't know. And the director, most assuredly, didn't know.

Do not use extras as props.

If you want your film to have a larger world, you need to work with the people on set to fill it out. So, ultimately, due to poor directing, Atlas Shrugged continues to be a tiny world about global economic issues, where extras are conspicuously tossed in the background to try to fill this gaping hole. Like the producers and looters of the Ayn Rand world, the director has forgotten that extras are not moochers... they are the necessary cogs in the machine of film to make the fictitious world go around.

Perhaps it's time to pick up a copy of Brave New World or Metropolis again.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I think you've kind of missed the point, yes there is a complete cast change which is distracting however I happen to like Samantha Mathis and Taylor Schilling in these roles as well as Bowler and Beghe, the casting fits the roles well as does the story. This isn't supposed to be Thor or Enders game, two Movies which had BIG budgets and horrifically pointless plots - its Ayn Rand and the story fits the times.

In regards to extras You said:

..."They never had anywhere to go, or a reason to be there. They were just taking up space."

...which was kind of the point because everyone in the Movie is unemployed - hell everyone period these days.

This Movie rings true with me in so many ways, governments oppressing their people, failing economies and a few people who shun fame, fortune and opportunity to do the right thing. Yes the constant "who is John Grant" is as annoying to me as it is to Mathis's character but like the opening plane sequence it makes its point - for the budget I think its a great Movie and one of my favourites. We need more Movies like this, that focus on more than just t*ts and a*s and tripe about the evils of bad men and impossible heroes with idiotic purpose.