An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power updates viewers on the man-made climate change crisis since the last catastrophe. No, I don’t mean the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passing the symbolic 400 parts per million threshold, which means humans are now officially living in an environment that we haven’t evolved to survive yet. I’m talking about An Inconvenient Truth, the 2006 documentary about former Vice President Al Gore’s activism that reinvigorated environmentalist movements but accidentally turned the end of the human race into one of the most partisan issues ever.
The sequel starts off by exploring reactions to its predecessor, namely the liberal leaders inspired to enroll in Gore’s prestigious environmental activism workshop and conservative leaders inspired to look at the overwhelming scientific evidence that industrialized human activity has dangerous effects on our planet and simply scoff, “Pffft, sounds like hippy liberal shit.” Unlike the first film, An Inconvenient Sequel isn’t focused as much on a slideshow presentation (although there are plenty of neat slides) and takes a more “on the road” approach documenting Gore’s global activism.
On a purely technical level, An Inconvenient Sequel is one of the most finely produced documentaries I’ve ever seen. The cinematography of melting glaciers is always stunning, the infographics are always interesting, complicated science is always explained very understandably and the scope always feels epic. If there even is such a thing as a “big budget” documentary, then this film must surely be one. There’s some excellent craftsmanship by filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk on display.
On a storytelling level, the documentary breaks down pretty quickly. It suffers from the same problem as the first film: it never quite figures out whether it’s a documentary about the problem of man-made climate change or more specifically about Gore’s activism to combat man-made climate change. Too often, Gore’s presence distracts from science that’s much more interesting than him. It even gets a bit awkward when the film includes gratuitous shots of strangers fawning over Gore wherever he goes, including a paparazzi crying, “I wish you were my president.” Whatever you already think of Gore, the film itself presents him as a bore and not a savior.
I was also a bit turned off by the film’s particular method of reaching across the aisle. It focuses on man-made climate change causing unprecedented droughts in the Middle East that’s exacerbated military conflicts in the region. It’s as if to say to conservatives, “Hey, you know all those terrorists you’re so scared of? Well, fighting climate change is actually the best way to destroy them.” Maybe Gore thinks that if all the scientific evidence in the world won’t convince conservatives to take action against global warming, appealing to their racist inclinations will?
I really hope we don’t need “An Inconvenient Threequel” because if hatred can’t even get conservatives to care about man-made climate change, I truly don’t know what will.
Grade = B