Pieced together from Q&A in a thread at IMDB, by someone who saw an advance screening:
Bottom Line: Definitely better than the first. I and literally everyone I talked to and overheard agreed. It was better directed, has some decent comedy, and was even pretty suspenseful at times. But…
It’s still a TV movie. It still looks and feels extremely cheap. The acting is mediocre and “stage-like” with the exception of the new Rearden who was actually pretty damn good. Everything still feels clunky and disconnected like the writer was just trying to pack as many plot points from the book into the movie as much as possible. It gets especially bad when they try to do “big speeches” like Rearden’s trial and Fransisco’s Money Speech (even cringe worthy).
I didn’t like Samantha Mathis but others I spoke with disagreed. I don’t think she looked right for the part in the first place (age and beauty wise). I much preferred Schilling who I also thought was good in AS 1.
Morales doesn’t have much screen time but I thought he was very awkward with the “money speech” but competent aside from that.
The speeches were understandably highly condensed though as far as I could tell, much of it was verbatim or close paraphrasing. Basically they were turned into extended dialogues where the hero will say three or four sentences worth of clunky Rand dialogue (which works a lot better on paper) and then the villain will respond with an obvious looter one liner like, “But what about the public good!?” (which also sounds a lot better on paper). Then everyone just stands around staring, or in the case of Rearden’s speech, clapping.
The run time was a little under two hours. You are right about the movement and progression of the film. It seems like the director responded well to the common criticism of AS1 that it was too many slow board rooms and not enough plot progression.
I am predicting that they [reviewers] will be slightly more generous to Part II because it is a better movie and the critics will have lower expectations. The latter will probably be the bigger factor for audiences and critics alike. One of the producers (not Aglialoro) spoke before the screening and outright said, “we could never make the Atlas Shrugged movie you envisioned in your mind.” I think as long as people know they are walking into a TV movie, they can find something to enjoy.
“Does the story serve the politics, or vice versa?”
As with the book, the two are completely intertwined and inseparable. The movie has NO significant deviation from the book whatsoever aside from shortening the whole thing.
“how much enjoyment can somebody who doesn’t necessarily agree with Objectivism be likely to have watching the movie?”
As an Objectivist, I don’t think a non-Objectivist will get much out of the movie. For those who know little to nothing about Objectivism, it can be a clunky introduction to some basic political and ethical concepts, but for those who know the philosophy and reject it, I seriously doubt any minds will be changed.