Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power arrived at Images Cinema last week with uncanny timing – the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and the impending Jose and Katia have made the dangers of global warming exceedingly clear. It’s unfortunate, then, that An Inconvenient Sequel did not at all manage to convey the significance of climate change in a way that held a candle to Gore’s previous film, An Inconvenient Truth, in which he made a refreshing and thorough case for the existence of global warming.
Directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk reused strategies that made An Inconvenient Truth an instant classic – the combination of commanding statistics with anecdotes from Gore’s personal battle against climate change – but with clumsy execution. Forgoing the opportunity to examine the science behind renewable energy resources and how the world has handled climate crisis in the past decade, An Inconvenient Sequel focuses its attention on celebrating Gore as a hero of environmental rights.
Ten years after the original documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel reintroduces Gore to examine global progress against climate change and the future of environmental activism. Starting where An Inconvenient Truth left off, the film closely follows Gore in his mission to get world leaders invested in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Audience members patiently sat through many artless scenes in which Gore visited sites of natural disaster, endearingly navigated the Paris subway, made poor attempts at humor during his leadership training conferences, shook hands and spoke with various world leaders and put on disappointed expressions while watching his opponents oppose his efforts in the news. The most poignant moments were the ones uninterrupted by his voice, of which there were few.
Missing from the film were the statistics and hard science that made An Inconvenient Truth the formidable and groundbreaking documentary that it was. From the opening scene, aerial shots of melting glaciers layered over an audio track consisting of various individuals criticizing An Inconvenient Truth, the film established that its mission of empowering climate change activism was only as important as vindicating Gore. Opposition to Gore emphasized the price and fragility of solar technology, begging a counterargument that never materialized within the duration of the film.
The film also pitted Gore against Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who prioritized India’s economic and infrastructural development over the renewable energy resources that Gore proposed at the Paris Agreement. The United States, he argued, used fossil fuels for 150 years during the Industrial Revolution, so it was unfair to bar India from doing the same. Following Modi’s speech, An Inconvenient Sequel displayed video footage of heat waves in India , as if to accuse Modi of inducing it, but glossed over the real cost of renewable energy alternatives to India. After Modi reluctantly signed the Paris Agreement, the role of villain fell to President-elect Donald Trump, who served as the ultimate and undefeated antagonist to Gore and environmental rights.
Gore’s concluding assertion that the American people would “stand up for what’s right” rung hollow and vague. In another scene, Gore is seen shaking hands with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose backing of the Alberta oil sands pipeline was never mentioned in the film.
These very convenient omissions, along with the copious amount of time devoted to Gore’s personal life, undermined the audience’s faith in the film. In An Inconvenient Truth, Gore was an underdog of sorts; in its reprisal he was as dubious as the politicians and “corporate big shots” he sought to criticize.
Al Gore emphasizes the imminent threat of climate change and highlights its dangers through film. Photo courtesy of lighthousecinema.com.