‘Atlas Shrugged Part III’ Movie Review: The value of a gift–a scribble and a diamond

I have received many gifts from people over the years that were expensive, and well crafted.  However, some of the best gifts I have received came from children whose minds were just coming into their own and what they gave me was a scribble on a piece of paper that to them looked like a da Vinci painting.  To me it looked like scribbles but I saw within their gift all the hopes and dreams of their thoughts which have more meaning personally than a Rolex watch, or a new Mercedes car.  Society the world over may look at such scribbles and think them inferior to the diamonds, and other luxury items, but not me.  I’d rather have the childlike scribbles of ambition and innocence than the refinement of cultural creations.  And that is exactly how I felt walking out of the new film Atlas Shrugged Part III: Who is John Galt.   The film itself was far from technically perfect—the filmmakers themselves without the polished background of the greater Hollywood community are like children coming of age—but even their shortcomings garner superiority when compared to the standard product coming from the vast ocean of entertainment culture.  I’d rather see two or three movies per year like Atlas Shrugged Part III than twenty polished blockbusters lacking a heart and soul.

The third film in a series of three Who Is John Galt was a movie about values.  Based on the treasured novel Atlas Shrugged, it did a good job of Cliff-Noting through the most important topics of the American classic.  The famous John Galt speech from the novel to the movie was greatly condensed and enormously effective.  The sections of the movie containing the speech along with the scene between John Galt and Mr. Thompson was powerful.  Just a few weeks prior to the release of Who Is John Galt, I watched Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and can declare that there was nothing in that great movie about the last days of the Lincoln presidency that eclipsed the value of John Galt being offered all the power of the world by Mr. Thompson and Galt laughing in his face saying, “nobody should have that kind of power.”  For me, it was the most powerful scene in the movie—one I would pay again and again to see—just for that one scene.  There is within that exchange between Thompson and Galt the keys to most modern problems and Galt has the answer delivered with excessive minimalism.  The movie shines most during this moment.

Regarding Galt, Kristoffer Polaha played one of the most iconic literary creations wonderfully. There hasn’t been a better character of such swagger and confidence since many of the old Clint Eastwood movies.  Polaha was wonderful in the role and the movie could have excelled if it could have featured him more prominently—but there were a lot of characters and a limited time to get to the point of the movie.  So Polaha had to share a lot of screen time.   Of those other characters, they were as portrayed in Atlantis, the hidden world deep in the Colorado Mountains unlike any other characters in cinema.  Leading up to the movie the previews for upcoming releases featured two Reese Witherspoon films and a Bill Murray picture that were politically and ideologically 180 degrees in the opposite direction as Atlas.  In those films the characters in the Gulch would have been the villains.  In Atlas Shrugged those characters are the heroes.  It was clear that the target demographic for the typical Hollywood product had no idea who the viewer for Atlas Shrugged Part III would be because it was evident in the previews before the film.  Another television series was previewed at the Regal Cinemas called The Affair—as if the ideal of illicit romance was conducive to the message of Atlas Shrugged Part III—which of course it wasn’t.    One actress from The Affair declared during the preview—“We are all just trying to get by,” as opposed to the message of Atlas III by John Galt, “The world you desire can be won.  It exists…it is real…it is possible…it is yours.”  The philosophy of Atlas III is unlike anything being put out by Hollywood in any capacity—so for many people it is a very foreign concept.

My wife and I went to see Atlas III with our kids at the Regal in Mason, and didn’t expect much by way of a crowd.  We arrived about 25 minutes early to get a good seat.  I was a bit shocked to see that the only seats available for the 8:10 PM showing were high up in the stadium seating, which is not where I normally like to sit.  By the time the movie started, the theater was nearly full.  It was very close to a sellout, which was very encouraging.  Several times during the movie people cheered.  At the end of the film the audience clapped.  It had been a long time since I have seen that occur at the end of a movie.  So in spite of the parade of bad reviews and complaints about the technical aspects of the film, the audience I saw the picture with loved it—and were hungry for the message.  Most of the audience was above 40 years of age, and most were couples—(a man and a wife.)  However, dotted among the male and female heads of the audience were a few intelligent looking college students bright-eyed and excited—as if they were on the edge of a wave in thought.  There was rebellion in their eyes as if by coming to the movie, they were participating in a dirty little secret that the rest of society wish to conceal—and they’d be right.  Those same snickers came from young people who used to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1975 and routinely since attend the midnight showings which promotes homosexual relationships and transgender exploits.  The Rocky Horror film is a terrible monstrosity of a movie that is now considered mainstream.  Any critic of the quality of the Atlas films needs to think long and hard about talking low quality cinematography, editing, and acting but praising The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  They can’t have it both ways.  Refreshingly, Atlas Shrugged Part III did have a sex scene that was very PG.  As written in the novel, it could have been rated NC17, but under John Aglialoro’s production value, it was greatly scaled back to nearly a G rating.  The filmmakers wisely knew that their audience was conservative and did not want the uncomfortable distraction of gross sexual imposition which comes in droves at the Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings.  For today’s young people, Atlas Shrugged is the new rebellion—and that delights me to no end.  It’s about time!

I will see Atlas III many more times and will treasure it for it’s worth.  I see the Atlas films as difficult to make and attribute most of their technical challenges to pushing the philosophy of Objectivism up an extremely steep hill.  My experience tells me that the panic of Mr. Thompson at the end of the movie is true and that the few people flying away in the helicopter at the end was 100% accurate.  There are always only a few people who do everything and that is a terrifying message to the masses who hope and pray that Mr. Thompson’s view of the world can be true.  Atlas Shrugged Part III tells them that it isn’t—and it is in that utterance that the anger toward the film is shouted loudest.  Atlas III is a work and offering of love by filmmakers who are coming into their own with the best tools available to them, like children trying to prove to the adults of the entertainment world that they have something important to say too.  The adults look at their offerings and see a scribble which they laugh off and make fun of.  But for me, I’d rather have the scribble of the Atlas Shrugged film makers than the polished diamond of Hollywood with messages that are false and completely ignorant.  It is for that reason that going to see Atlas Shrugged Part III: Who is John Galt was more like a gift than an entertainment experience.  And it is one that I will proudly hang from my refrigerator like many of the fine art pieces that my kids have provided over the years on their progression toward expertise, to enjoy as a daily reminder of something that has value where others only see a scribble.

Rich Hoffman