After middling returns for the first movie, it's surprising that this second installment even exists. For that fact alone, the makers deserve some measure of praise for sticking to their guns and continuing what most would view as a fool's quest. The film seems to exist as a real-world demonstration of author Ayn Rand's theory of objectivism, with the creators steadfastly believing in and fulfilling their vision with no regard for financial gain or public perception. If only they had the skills to accompany that vision. With TV veteran John Putch in the director's chair, the end results are inevitably more akin to a Lifetime movie than a life-changing experience.
Directly following the events of Part One, the global economy is now on the brink of collapse as most of the world's most brilliant minds continue to mysteriously disappear. Where are they going? Nobody seems to know, nor do the remaining business titans understand why they haven't been included in the mass exodus. The US government has begun implementing draconian measures intended to level the corporate playing field, outlawing patents and demanding that companies share trade secrets for the greater good of mankind. The film's creators unfortunately throw in some one-percenter-esque street protests to beat us over the head about the striking parallel to real-world economics.
Meanwhile, our plucky heroine Dagny Taggart, head of Taggart Transcontinental Railroads, has discovered an innovative motor that has the potential to solve the world's mushrooming energy crisis, but with the world's brain trust rapidly checking out she's left with only one hope to uncover the secrets of its incomplete design. The motor serves as a metaphor for the economy as a whole, with it sputtering along in fits and starts but constantly at risk of grinding to a permanent halt if its brainy overseer disappears. Dagny has to balance her responsibilities to her failing railroad, her miracle motor, and the men in her life as she gets closer to the truth about the missing geniuses. That's right, closer, but not all the way. This film is only the middle act of the story, and once again we're left with the principal question unanswered at the end: Who is John Galt? Seriously, are we ever going to see him in good light? For now, we'll just have to wait until the concluding Part 3 if it ever gets made.
In a surprising departure from the first film, all major roles have been recast. The cast is now headlined by Samantha Mathis as Dagny, with substantial support from Jason Beghe as steel magnate Henry Rearden and Esai Morales as copper king Francisco d'Anconia. Mathis brings more depth than her predecessor to the role of Dagny and comes off as mostly believable. Beghe and Morales just hit their marks, although they do capable work with the heavily condensed Randian soliloquies that serve to espouse her theories. Yes, this is a film of Big Ideas, unfortunately it's ultimately only preaching to the choir of Rand fans who enjoy them, while failing to develop its own credibility as independently compelling entertainment.
The project is saddled with extensive below-average green screen backgrounds and effects such as planes and trains that immediately take viewers out of the film. It's an understandable choice for budgetary considerations, but does the film no favors in believability. Shot selections and camera work continue the subpar TV feel, and ensure that there's little to gain by Blu-ray presentation. Bonus features include an assortment of deleted scenes best left on the cutting room floor, a brief behind-the-scenes featurette on the efforts required to film a stunt-heavy sequence, along with an extended segment of FOX News star Sean Hannity's newsroom scene in the film.