Is Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ Any Good? Here’s What The Reviews Say
In 2006, director Davis Guggenheim and Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” drew praise and won awards for how it framed climate change as an accessible, urgent issue. At the same time, it made Gore a more prominent target for climate change deniers.
“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power” (in theaters July 28th) is a follow-up from directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (“Audrie and Daisy”) that checks in on Gore and the world a decade later. Does it renew our concerns or is it a rehash? Here’s what the reviews say:
It Trades In PowerPoints For More Immediate Examples
If An Inconvenient Truth felt like a high school lecture/power point presentation, and I’m not stretching it a bit here considering it’s one of the most watched films in high schools nationwide, this sequel is more in the style of cinema verite and has Gore in a rather passionate and angry mood throughout its 100 minute running time.
The footage of natural disasters from the last few years offer much more immediate, compelling evidence than charts and graphics — which is to say, rather perversely, that Gore’s awareness campaign benefits from some of his fears being realized. And footage of the Paris Climate Summit of 2015 actually provides some genuine human and political drama to a project whose aims are chiefly educational.
If the first doc was built around the famous power point presentation that he’d been giving in the wake of his presidential defeat, this one seems to be built around a new one he’s been giving, as he travels the world addressing thousands of climate leadership trainees — activists who have gone on to lead major organizations and train tens of thousands of others. The former vice president actually seems more optimistic this time around.
There’s A Surplus Of Stories Jammed In The Film
As in the original film, we see Gore delivering lectures on climate change that are filled with appalling facts about our global fate. In fact, there is so much to be learned, so much to show us, that directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk seem a little overwhelmed. (They also made the excellent enviro-doc “The Island President,” which shared many thematic parallels with this film but was unburdened by such high-profile pressure.)
At its best, An Inconvenient Sequel foregrounds the physical evidence of a serious shift in the global climate. In Greenland, Gore and a scientist walk over a melting ice cap, examining the massive schisms which will sooner or later cause entire shelves to crack and melt. The first film’s controversial prediction of a drowned New York City is invoked again by way of Hurricane Sandy, and it’s noted that 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have come since 2001.
One of the film’s most engaging moments comes during a visit to Georgetown, Texas, a city that has gone 90% renewable and will soon be the biggest city in the country to go 100%. The mayor is a conservative Republican, and he informs Gore that “this is the reddest city in the reddest county in Texas.” But renewable energy saves the man’s constituents money, and, as he puts it, “it’s just common sense that the less stuff you put in the air, the better.” Could it be that there are other officials out there with such common sense? Al Gore appears to be more hopeful on this point than many of the rest of us.
It Focuses More On Gore — Which Doesn’t Quite Work
From the very beginning, the cause is framed as being personal. Sobering footage of ruined glaciers and landscapes are accompanied by soundbites where people criticize Gore and his passion. Questions of whether this movie is actually about Gore or his cause nag the entire movie, even though you know the project thinks it’s doing a noble job with the latter.
There is no doubt that Gore has a life-altering passion; he just doesn’t possess the personality required to express it cinematically. And that’s perfectly fine: all an activist truly has to do is act, which he does relentlessly. But meanwhile, the movie’s other subject — the planet he’s trying to save — is pushed to the side every time his travails take center stage.
Gore notes that “If I said there weren’t times where this felt like a personal failure on my part, I’d be lying,” and his intention is sincere even if the documentary isn’t always completely sure how best to illustrate it.