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Review – An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

By  · Published on January 20th, 2017

Sundance 2017

A Rather Inconvenient Sequel

The follow-up to the 2006 Oscar winner fails to engage in a fully realized discourse on climate change.

Al Gore is drenched in sweat minutes after taking the stage to present his latest PowerPoint presentation on climate change. With the fervor of a Bruce Springsteen concert, Gore is angry, passionate, and working his ass off. Like Springsteen, Gore is giving it his all to a packed crowd soaking up his every word. Here’s where the Springsteen comparison faults: take a random friend to one of his concerts and they’ll be converted after a single song. Will any denier of climate change listen to one of Gore’s presentations? Will they even watch this film when it is released next summer? Probably not.

In the 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth, director Davis Guggenheim followed former vice president Al Gore on his lecture tour. Equipped with his many charts, Gore preached the dangers of climate change and what citizens and politicians could do to slow its effects. The quasi-concert doc not only won two Oscars, but was also fundamental in raising climate change awareness and promoting change. Eleven years later, and where are we now? The Obama administration is over, and our new president continues to dismiss climate change as a myth. The general tone in the opening minutes of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power seems to suggest that we’re kind of fucked.

The sequel seeks to catch up its audience right away. It opens with a series of sound bites of important politicians (including Donald Trump) dismissing climate change or explaining why it is not a priority. Rather than presenting these sound bites in matter that welcomes discussion, they are simply used to spotlight the sightlessness of our leaders. At this moment, directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk lose the sympathies of the unconverted whom may be giving the film a chance. The evidence is clear of course. Anyone refusing to acknowledge the dangers of climate change is completely blind, moronic perhaps, but for this film to be effective it must draw the attention of the unconverted.

Before the Sequel finds its optimistic final act only after informing us that we’re mostly doomed. Since the 2006 film, climate change has brought the world its hottest years, helped to increase the spread of the Zika virus, and caused massive flooding in Miami and the Phillipines. As Gore, clad in two foot tall rain boots that are too short, wads through the flooded streets of Miami. After being informed that there is little to be done to prevent future flooding, he explains that the rising water levels will soon take over not only Miami, but also the southern part of Manhattan and the south pacific islands. So is there any hope for humanity before it sinks into the ocean?

The film finally starts to get moving when it introduces the rapid embrace of solar panel technology. In the hour it takes it get here, Gore lectures, sentimentally stares out at vast landscapes, and takes a self-important moment to acknowledge his presence in Paris during last years terror attacks. Much of this amounts to nothing more than one “I told you so” after another. It is all unnecessary filler that is – dare I say it – inconvenient.

Alas, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power presents viewers with one of the long-lasting conflicts of reviewing documentary cinema. Yes, spreading awareness of climate change is imperative. Yes, Al Gore is an incredible and passionate speaker, but unfortunately one cannot overlook that the film lacks focus and fails to provide the viewer with the essential conversations the subject matter invites. There are two moments in the film in which Gore goes to speak with climate change deniers, but these conversations are merely introduced, rather than fully realized. Perhaps the most important of these moments comes on November 10, 2016. Gore briskly walks into Trump Tower to meet with the president elect. The elevator doors open, Gore walks in, the scene ends. Without a fully realized discourse on climate change, the film fails to impact the urgency that the subject matter demands.

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Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films.