Al Gore and His Climate Change PowerPoint Return in An Inconvenient Sequel
Al Gore returns with his Climate Change PowerPoint presentation in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, this new documentary picking up where the Earth currently sits in its global environmental crisis ten years after its predecessor An Inconvenient Truth won two Academy Awards (Best Documentary Feature, Best Original Song). This time, the former Vice-President of the United States takes things outside the classroom, hitting the streets of Miami, heading out to melting Arctic ice fields, makes friends with Republicans in Texas and assists the U.S. delegation during the Paris Climate Conference in December of 2015. Through it all his message remains the same: the planet we call home is in crisis, and if we keep acting ineffectually about the only thing we’ll be doing is slitting our collective throats.
Science is science; I’d love it if we could all agree about that. As such, Climate Change is real. It’s happening. Every day. In every corner of the world. Storms are getting worse. Arctic ice sheets are collapsing into the oceans at an alarming rate. Extreme temperature fluctuations are occurring in every city in every country on the planet. All of this is true and it isn’t changing anytime soon, the economic powers that be too beholden to their current bottom line than they are in helping ensure Earth’s future generations have a livable, breathable world they’ll be able to call home.
Be that as it may, and as much as I love and adore An Inconvenient Truth, I’m not entirely certain this follow-up is anywhere near as successful as that first film was. Gore’s message still resonates, but for every powerful moment or example of incontestable scientific fact there’s also one where the point of all this gets diluted as it focuses on the former politician-turned-activist and not the story he is eager to tell. There are times where directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s film becomes something more akin to hagiographic fawning than it does a journalistic exercise in putting politicians and corporate power brokers on notice. It feels like it wants to transform Gore into a modern day environmental superhero, the sequences shot during the Paris Climate Conference particularly annoying for a number of reasons having nothing to do with the historic significance of the accord signed by 158 countries in the final days of 2015.
But when the movie works it does so magnificently, especially when it calls back to the more controversial aspects of its predecessor and shows in no uncertain terms just how quickly some of those dire predictions are coming to pass. Watching Gore take no joy in being proven right when he made that claim that the 9/11 Monument could find itself drowning in flood water due in large part to global oceanic rise is like a punch in the gut, while watching him wade through waters cascading over his knees on streets of Miami Beach due to the same affliction is equally unsettling. There’s also a bravura moment of hope and compromise late in the picture as the 2000 Democratic Presidential candidate heads to the single most Republican town and county in all of Texas and discovers common ground exists between him and the politicians pulling the strings. It’s a lovely sequence, and just thinking about it again now helps me believe moments like this are still achievable as long as we all, Republican and Democrat alike, put feelings of distrust aside and chose instead to work towards a mutually beneficial common goal.
What else is there to say? As positive as much of what is said here might be, the fact is we know where the film has to end, our current President doing more in the past six months to damage the environment and stifle the fight against Climate Change (including pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement in June of this year) than anyone in recent memory. But the central argument remains strong, Gore, Cohen and Shenk going all out to give their thesis additional weight and even more impactful meaning as they lay out the current situation piece by piece. I just wish the movie spent more time focusing on that then it does deifying the former Vice-President, because if it could have eased up a little on that front it’s likely I’d proclaim An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power essential. As it is, I still feel watching it is edifying and valuable, just not so much so to warrant anything more than a matinee ticket.
Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)